Have you ever noticed that some people seem to be natural leaders and other struggle with it? We see it work all the time. Some managers have a team that jumps and does everything a step ahead of all the other teams. They are more dedicated and more productive. They are happy and productive. It turns out it’s not just a great team. It could have something to do with the charisma of the leader.
In this guide, we are going to explore charismatic leadership. You’ll learn what it is and why it’s important. You are also going to learn some simple and effective actions that you can take right now to further develop your charismatic leadership skills.
What is charismatic leadership?
A charismatic leader can also be called a magnetic leader. They are a leader who other people are drawn to. Just like a magnet is inexplicably drawn to metal, people are drawn to charismatic leaders for reasons they often don’t fully understand. However, the reasons become clear once you understand more about what makes these leaders special.
These are some of the common qualities that make a leader charismatic:
- Charismatic leaders have a strong vision that supports the values of their followers.
- Charismatic leaders are good at communicating with their audience. They tell relatable stories and catch people’s attention.
- Charismatic leaders are confident. They believe in themselves and don’t show doubt or fear.
- Charismatic leaders are optimistic. They envision their mission and believe they can make it happen.
- Charismatic leaders put others first. They not only lead, but also protect the people they lead.
- Most importantly, charismatic leaders build an emotional bond with their followers.
You’ve probably noticed that these are also some of the common qualities that make any great leader. So what makes a charismatic leader different? How do they do things different or better?
A charismatic leader vs A great leader
It’s not the skills themselves that is different.
It’s all in how they execute their leadership skills. It’s all about style, personality and presence.
There is an appeal to listening to a charismatic leader. They seem to know exactly what to say. People feel comfortable and at ease when they speak. Their words don’t make people more tense. People want to listen to what they say.
They seem to have a natural ability to take control of a room, or a meeting, or a situation. They are hopeful, optimistic and strong – and they project these qualities into the people they lead.
They keep people’s attention and thoughts on track. They can bring your brain back to the topic at hand when it gets scattered. Their words bring people together. In fact, followers of a charismatic leader seem to be stronger and smarter just by the presence of the leader.
Their confidence is contagious. People following them or working under them have more confidence because of them. They know he has their back. People are stronger when they know their leader has their back. They are stronger because a charismatic leader provides a shield of protection. A charismatic leader instills confidence that makes people strong. People feel good about doing things for them.
They never bully. They know how to balance their power. It’s never abused. They never ignore people they lead. They never belittle people, use passive aggressive behavior or make threats – even though they could. They wield their power with just the right balance. The way they use their power earns respect.
You may say “Wow!”
Yes, they have a wow factor. That wow factor is charisma. They have such a balanced personality and sense of style like a Hollywood movie super hero.
Is charisma something you’re born with?
A Hollywood movie hero might sound far fetched but it’s not. Think about Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon and George Clooney. They’re all real people who learned to play roles of somebody with cool style. You can learn how to be somebody with cool style. You can learn to be a charismatic leader too. You don’t need anything special, just the will to learn.
Sure, some people are born with charisma and they are naturally good at it, but anybody can develop the skills. Anybody.
Yes, you too can develop the skills of a charismatic leader even if you struggle to lead.
Developing the fundamental skills of a charismatic leader will help you manage your team at work. It will help you get more productivity out of your team. It will enable you to command the room during a meeting. Your employees will listen to what you say. People will be intrinsically motivated to help you out.
The first step to becoming a charismatic leader is to understand what’s going on inside our head.
Advantages and disadvantages of charismatic leadership
Why are we charmed and influenced by someone’s charisma? It turns out we are wired to be influenced by a charismatic leader.
There is psychology at work behind this leadership style. In the bestselling book Influence, Robert Cialdini describes six powerful techniques that are used to influence people everyday. Many charismatic leaders are using two of the six techniques all the time in everything they do — authority and liking.
Most leaders today are managers in a business setting. They lead teams at work or teams across different companies. If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, then you are leading teams that work for you. All leadership positions at work have some level of authority built-in. People listen to them because they are getting paid. Money is the ultimate tool to build authority.
As a leader, you need to have authority. It comes with the territory. If you aren’t in a leadership position, you need to work on getting there. It’s critical that you are elevated into that position. Presidents are elected, managers are hired or promoted. You can’t assert or fake your way to the top.
Even with established authority, you can still have problems with leadership if you aren’t doing more.
People are fond of you
A charismatic leader must have power and liking.
In Dr. Cialdini’s book, he describes how people will do things for people they like. He states,
“we most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like.”
Now the book talks a lot about how salesmen use influence to get you to buy, but it isn’t totally different from getting your team to support your project. A salesman is motivating you to buy a car, you’re motivating your team to do their best on your project.
The difference is in the approach. You don’t need a short-term bond like the salesman. Yes, it helps to have a similar interest. If you both like Baseball, it’s a nice common ground to have. It can help increase your likability.
But leadership goes deeper, people like you because they feel that you care about them and they trust you.
They like you because you smile and say hi to them when you pass them in the hallway. They like you because you make eye contact when you see them. They like you because you remember something personal about them – like they have 3 kids and their oldest son loves Baseball. And most importantly, they feel and trust that you will look out for them.
That is why people like a charismatic leader.
Now a warning: there is a fine line between friendship and liking that has to walk. Many people make the mistake of thinking that friendship and liking are the same thing. They’re not. People like Barack Obama, are the friends with them? Nope. People like them because of their charisma.
Friendship can be dangerous
You must maintain your power and authority with your charisma, otherwise you will just become a nice friend or an agreeable coworker. That’s not what you’re after.
You are a leader. You must have and keep your authority. Likable doesn’t always mean charismatic. Charismatic is a constant balance of liking and power. Sorry, but you can’t be buddies. That’s not leadership.
You have to make friends with your equals and other leaders, and not with your team or your followers. That last line is so important I want to repeat it again: you need to make friends with other leaders and not those you lead.
You should always be approachable but not attainable. There should be a bit of suspense and mystery about you. You get that through strategic communication:
Say the right things but never say to much. Don’t engage in too much small talk. Get personal but don’t get too personal. Do way, way, more listening than talking when it comes to idle office chit-chat. Or better yet, step away from it. Don’t linger around gossip long. Politely step away from trivial matters. Do it with a smile, never judging.
That is the balance maintained by a truly charismatic leader.
You now have a good understanding of what a charismatic leader is and what their key behaviors are. The problem is, it’s still not always clear where to start. What are the actual things you can do to build your charisma and leadership skills?
4 simple steps to start becoming a charismatic leader
I have four simple habits that you can start developing right now:
1. Speak with purpose
There is a famous quote that goes like this:
“A wise man speaks because he has something to say. A fool speaks because he has to say something.”
Think before you speak. Don’t be vague. Be intentional about your communication. For example, don’t enter a meeting and ask:
“How’s it going guys? Thanks for coming. What do you guys think about the new website? Did you see the colors?”
Know your objective. Have the meeting planned. Ask a question that pulls the team in the direction of your objective:
“Who has seen the new website? Did you find the bright blue distracting? What other colors have you tried? Please show the team.”
Everything you say works for you or against you. There is no neutral ground in speech.
Get in the habit of thinking first and speaking with clarity and meaning.
2. Gauge the situation
The first thing you need to do is pay attention. Does your team look interested? Is there something bigger happening that is making them restless? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen leaders failing to lead simply because they didn’t pay attention.
Gauge your audience. This applies to a one-on-one conversation or a big meeting. The principal idea is the same for both. Watch people’s body language and look at their expressions. If they look bored or lost, you need to change something. Make them stand up, bring them up to the front and ask them to speak about what is on their mind. Ask people to take a 5 minute break. Do something to make a change when you are losing them.
Always address the elephant in the room. Sometimes there is bigger news that takes the spotlight. Even if you have a big idea that you are excited talk about, if your listeners aren’t present, then you’ll waste your time. I know it can be disappointing on your end, but you are a leader and this is about your team. You need to know when they have other needs that you need to address first. You must make sure they are in the mental state that is ready for your message.
For example, I remember a team meeting that happened the day after a layoff. Our manager didn’t even mention it. He carried on like nothing had happened. What did he say in that meeting? I have no idea, neither does anybody else. We were so worried about the layoff the previous day that we weren’t in a mental state to listen to him. Had he first addressed where we were – thinking about the layoff – he could have brought us around and held a productive meeting. He didn’t do that. He didn’t lead.
Know when to stop what you’re doing and address the big event, even if it’s awkward, it usually is. Embrace the awkward.
Get in the habit of addressing the elephant in the room because it will get people engaged in what you have to say.
3. Make time for people
As a leader, you are there for your people, not for yourself. Make people feel like they can stop by for a minute without feeling guilty or awkward. Never act like you’re “too big for the little people.” The little people are the reason you are there.
People shouldn’t be scared to disturb you. Some leaders or managers create a vibe of “Don’t disturb me. I’m too important.”
I worked for a guy like this. He would never have time for you. When he gave you the “privilege” of speaking with him, he was aloof and pretended you were disturbing him. Sometimes he would look away and scroll up and down in his email inbox, looking at messages that he already read for no reason other than to not give you his full attention. It was a stupid power play that didn’t work. He didn’t even know he had the reputation of being the office jerk who nobody wanted to work with. He was blinded by his own ego.
As a charismatic leader, you need to set a welcoming vibe. Make people feel comfortable approaching you with questions. How do you do this?
Keep your office door open. I realize that you may need to close it from time to time, but try to keep it open more than you keep it closed. If it’s closed more than a few hours a day, you need to change something.
Pay attention to how you react when people walk in. Avoid closed, pushing body language. Don’t fold your arms when they walk in. Don’t lean away. Don’t look at your computer or phone. Look a them, lean forward, welcome them in. And most importantly, smile and make eye contact.
Get in the habit of making people feel welcome.
4. Bookmark this page and read it again every month
I’ve packed a lot in here. More than just what I’ve outlined in these four steps. Each time you read it, you’ll find something you missed, forgot, or didn’t pick up on. Leadership is deep and complex. It’s a skill like learning to play a musical instrument — it takes time and practice, and you’ll need a lot of repetition before you get everything down.
Come back and read again.
Be the charismatic leader people look up to
By now you’ve realized that charismatic leadership is a powerful way to lead your team and employees. When you get the balance right, you’ll find that people pay more attention to you. You’ll find that you get more respect. Your team will be more productive. You won’t need to micromanage people. They’ll trust you more and in turn you’ll have more trust in them.
It’s a win-win leadership style when you care about people and maintain that balance of authority of liking.
Follow this guide to becoming a charismatic leader and you’ll become the leader they look up to.
Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com
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