Wednesday, April 28, 2010

All it takes to be a charismatic leader

Most of the greatest leaders in history possessed a star quality that drew others to them. Churchill, Napoleon and Martin Luther King had a magnetism which is often easier to identify than to explain. The Greeks were the first to notice this. They named it ‘Kharisma’, which referred to a rare trait including extreme charm along with innate and powerfully-sophisticated communication and persuasive skills.

In our contemporary society, where people are buying brands and personalities, over products, charisma continues to be as important as it used to be during the early Greek era. Corporations, large and small, understand that success begins at an individual level.

They realise that charismatic leaders are the ones who are able to connect with subordinates and with customers at a deeper level, creating memorable experiences for them. They acknowledge that it is not just operational abilities, but charisma that would differentiate in the longer term.

So, what does it take to be a charismatic leader?

At a very peripheral level, charismatic leaders have three attributes, according to psychologist Richard Wiseman — they feel emotions themselves quite strongly, they induce them in others and they are impervious to the influences of other charismatic people. They are characterised by:

A Bold Viewpoint

Charismatic leaders almost always have a view of the future that will excite people and convert them to followers. They talk about bold and lofty visions and share a dream and direction that other people want to share and follow.

Persuasive Speaking

Charismatic leaders not only walk the talk, but they even talk the talk, meaning they embrace every opportunity to convince others towards their vision. They always make it a point to speak in such a way as to create trust and personal integrity.

Silent Message

Charismatic leaders, through every one of their actions, send out the right signals. They consciously act in ways that make others feel great in their presence. They let people know that they matter and that they enjoy being around them; through their upright posture, direct eye contact, genuine smile and firm handshake. They always make an effort to appear enthusiastic and passionate through their body language and articulate speech.

Strong Commitment

Charismatic leaders are always visible and will stand up to be counted rather than hide behind their troops. They make continued efforts to motivate and rally their followers, constantly doing the rounds, listening, soothing and enthusing. It is their unswerving commitment as much as anything else that keeps people going, particularly through the darker times when some may question whether the vision can ever be achieved.

(The author is a leadership expert from the LSE and the founder of LeadCap)

Article courtesy of Economic Times.

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