Many people would readily accept that introverted individuals face significant challenges as business leaders. However, research shows that people on the other end of the spectrum, those who are gregarious and charismatic, may also struggle.
A study recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that examined performance reviews and personality traits of hundreds of business leaders found that too much charisma can actually hold individuals back from success. At the same time, however, some degree of charisma is necessary for climbing the social ladder.
In the end, the researchers concluded that the most successful leaders have a moderate amount of charisma. Read on for more information about the relationship between charisma and business leadership:
What Exactly is Charisma?
The definition of charisma can be rather nebulous. At the most basic level, a charismatic individual is someone who can relate to other people on a deep, emotional level. Typically, these individuals are very eloquent. Because of the influence that charismatic leaders have over their followers, they are able to inspire others to do better and achieve more.
Often, charismatic individuals focus more on their personal views, passions, and moral compasses to motivate others instead of relying on business processes. Charismatic leaders possess a certain amount of charm. They use this personality trait, rather than external authority, to build their followings – even if they happen to have power.
Some charismatic leaders with footholds in history include Martin Luther King Jr., the famed civil right leader known for his eloquent speeches and strong beliefs. A passionate, eloquent, and educated speaker, he launched one of the largest movements in the history of the United States. Another charismatic leader was Mother Teresa, who similarly built a large following due to her devout persona and her unwavering commitment to what she believed to be right.
Some charismatic business leaders have become household names, including Jack Welch, the youngest CEO in the history of General Electric. Welch was known for developing personal relationships with his workers through personal attention and informal conversations that led to a personal sense of value and pride in the company.
More recently, Steve Jobs emerged as a paradigm for charisma. Like the others on this list, Jobs had a passion that seemed almost infectious. He inspired his workers to think outside the box and ushered in a new era of global respect for Apple products.
What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Charisma?
Most people think of charisma favorably. After all, recalling charismatic leaders brings up names like those mentioned above – Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and Mother Theresa. Indeed, charisma has a number of clear advantages. Charismatic individuals can bring people together and unite them to work toward a single goal. This ability can help harness the power of collaboration in service of a larger mission.
In addition, charismatic leaders often have a clear idea of what has and has not worked in the past, which can enable them to lead people in a common direction. Companies organized around a charismatic leader tend be more cohesive since they have a shared vision.
At the same time, charisma can have somewhat of a negative reputation. For example, some people see charismatic leaders as arrogant. Individuals with charisma may be seen as stubborn or not as risk-adverse as they should be. Also, since charismatic leaders can rally employees, companies can start to feel lost if that person leaves or retires.
According to the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, charismatic individuals may lack follow-through. The study found that these individuals sometimes ideate more than they actual execute a plan. Vision is great, but leaders must have the ability to put that vision into action.
Can Charisma be Developed by Business Leaders?
While charisma can have its drawbacks, it remains a powerful tool for leaders who need to rally or inspire employees. However, is it possible to develop charisma? A common adage says that people either have charisma or they don’t. According to Olivia Fox Cabane, this is untrue. She is the author of The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism. How, then can leaders work on becoming more charismatic?
The simplest answer is to make people feel heard and respected. Charismatic individuals can make other people feel like they matter. These individuals achieve this through active listening, thoughtful pauses, and presence. Too often, individuals allow their minds to wander, even while engaged in conversation with others. Charismatic individuals focus their attention completely on a conversation and stay in the moment, which makes companions feel respected and heard.
In addition, charismatic individuals effectively utilize “microexpressions.” This is important because people recognize incongruences between main expressions and microexpressions. The difference can make someone appear disingenuous.
Charismatic people keep their microexpressions consistent with their main expressions by thinking positive thoughts while conversing with others. This helps ensure that they have a genuine expression throughout a conversation, enabling the speaker to convey the warmth and kindness that makes people feel safe.