Charisma: It’s Not About You

 By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to lead more authentically. Reading time: 2:34

     It’s not about you. Rick Warren’s opening sentence in his best selling book The Purpose Driven Life, is an apt description of charisma.

    Charisma-Header-2 Charisma is not about how vivacious you are.

     Charisma is not about how good looking you are.

     Charisma is not about how funny you are.

     And charisma is not about how pumped up you are.

     Instead, charisma is all about how vivacious you make others feel.

     Charisma is all about how good you make others look around you.  Charisma is all about how much you pump others up when you are around them.

     Charisma is not the force of your being but how you reinforce the being of others.

      Charisma is not how well you sing your song. Charisma is how well you sync to get along. Consistently. Predictably.

      In fact, Google’s employees provide their managers feedback in formal surveys twice  a year (on 12-18 factors) and it turns out the most critical trait of a leader –at least seen through their followers–is predictability.

      It’s better to be a little bit boring than to be a bit overbearing.  It’s not how you can win OVER people. It’s how you can win PEOPLE over.

     “Being charismatic means making others feel comfortable, at ease and good about themselves,” observers author Olivia Fox Cabane in her book The Charisma Myth.

     How do you generate charisma if you don’t look like a Movie Star or aren’t as glib as a Talk Show host and you don’t wear the latest designer clothes?

     Relax. Be yourself. Be real. Smile.

     Hone your eye contact to express interest in others. Lean in when you listen to someone. And realize that your eloquence springs from the integrity of your heart and soul more than from your tone of voice or command of language. As statesman Daniel Webster observed:

      “True eloquence does not consist in speech. Words and phrases may be marshaled in every way
but they cannot compass (achieve) it.

     It must consist in the man (or woman), in the subject and
in the occasion. It comes if at all like the out-breaking of a fountain from earth or the bursting forth
of volcanic fires with spontaneous, original native force.”

      Marilyn-Monroe-marilyn-monroe-14138267-2560-1583Research shows that charisma “is the result of specific non-verbal behaviors not an inherent or magical personal quality,” writes Cabana in her book The Charisma Myth. “One of the most interesting research findings is that you can be a very charismatic introvert.”

    Just ask Marilyn Monroe.

    By all accounts, Norma Jean was an introvert who could sit anonymously on a crowded train, but one she reached her destination, she could turn on her charm. Notice how the only two letters separating the word Charisma and Charm is “is”or i and s.

     The old notion of charisma as some kind of pixie dust a leader spreads all over a room in a negotiating session or making major decisions is too dated for today’s dynamic world.

      Charisma, once thought the province of the chosen few, is now available to all who embrace issues and people with  a sense of integrity and selflessness that directs energy toward others and their well-being.

    That’s why even introverts can unleash their charisma when they turn the spotlight around onto the audience and you pay more attention to them. You make them make them feel valued and validated.

President Ronald Reagan

President Ronald Reagan

       Consider President Ronald Reagan who was “essentially a loner, but when he was around a camera and audience, he would light up, his juices flowing, eager to talk,” observed author David Gergen in his book Eyewitness To Power.

     Charisma stems from one’s spontaneity –from the impulse  of our best self–vs. impulsiveness from our sick self.

     Jim Collins’ research team which defined “Level 5 Leadership” revealed that most great business leaders, who provided exceptional long term results for their company, did not have the traditional definition of charisma of the bright smile and even brighter personality.

      In fact the data demonstrated that charisma should be viewed as a liability and a thing to be overcome if you have it.

     That’s because the Hollywood flavor of charisma with its encompassing spotlights, canned laughter and applause-on-demand show-boating enables a leader to more easily convince others to do wrong things. For the uncharismatic leader, he will need to win the argument based on its merits.

    Management guru Jim Collins writing in his personal blog, argues “the charismatic-leader model has to die.”

    He contends a charismatic leader “is not an asset; it’s a liability companies have to recover from.”

     A company’s long-term health requires a leader who can infuse the company with its own sense of purpose instead of his or hers, Collins argues.

     Management expert Rosabeth Moss Kanter, writing in the Harvard Business Review, agrees. She says invariably it’s the over-the-top charismatic extroverted leader who gets into trouble either personally or gets the organization into difficulty. Charm can harm.

    “So while there is a natural and historical attraction to the charismatic leaders who can inspire others with an emotional vision and connect with charm, the long-term impact in terms of relationships and execution becomes questionable,” Kanter asserts.

   And no wonder. It’s not about you.

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