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Why We Need Charismatic Leaders Now, More than Ever

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Leaders today need charisma in order to inspire and motivate teams during times of uncertainty and unprecedented change. Kevin Murray shares five soft skills leaders need to develop to be a charismatic leader.

We have never needed charismatic leaders in our businesses more than we do now.

At a time of great crisis, with an unprecedented global pandemic in full flow, we need leaders who can give us hope, keep us focused, keep us working together and keep us connected.

We are all facing unprecedented pressure to change our personal lives and habits, yet still perform at work; to become simultaneously more cost-effective and more innovative, while dealing with huge levels of uncertainty and complexity. Managers will have to put themselves between the chaos of this crisis and their people.

To do so effectively, will require managers to ensure they are skilled in the five key traits of charisma.

In my research for Charismatic Leadership, I have found that there are many kinds of charisma, many different definitions of charisma, and many different ways that each of us can display charisma. And that’s part of the problem. For many of us, charisma seems somehow unattainable – gifted to a few lucky people who have it naturally in abundance.

Not so. I believe charisma lies within all of us – and all we need to do to be more charismatic and influential is to understand and learn the skills that will make us far more inspiring.

My research says that charismatic people have five traits that make them charismatic:

  1. Authenticity

Managers with authentic personalities will be able to build the levels of trust that are essential to good teamwork and collaboration. Without teamwork and collaboration, there can be little successful change, nor innovation. Without innovation, companies will quickly fall behind their competitors, especially when facing challenges that they have never faced before.

Authentic managers live by a strong moral code, and ensure they “do the right thing”, even when this may not be the most economically sensible thing to do.

To be able to exhibit authentic behaviours, you need to learn how to:

  • deliver honesty and integrity, consistently, so people believe you will do the right thing.
  • have and live a personal set of values, that make it clear who you really are to people, and how your values guide your decision-making.
  • be visibly committed, so people can see from your behaviours what is important, not just rely on your words.
  • be self-aware, so you can feel how people react to you and what you say.
  • have humility, so you can recognise and learn from mistakes quickly.
  1. Personal Power

Managers with the right personal power can infuse their teams with positivity and confidence and are oriented to action. They are problem-solvers able to call on the diverse skills and viewpoints of their team members to create the best solutions, at speed.

To work on your personal power, you need to pay attention to the following behaviours:

  • displaying a leadership mindset, always going to the sound of gunfire to take responsibility, accountability and action.
  • being positive and optimistic, to infuse others with the same positivity and hopefulness;
being energetic and passionate, to create a willingness to act.
  • being assertive, but always respectful.
  • looking and sounding the part.
  1. Warmth

Those with an affective presence - with warmth and an engaging personality - can create a sense of worth and belonging at a time of huge uncertainty. Most importantly, they also make employees feel safe at a time of enormous disruption.

Having a sense of worth is one of the most important needs of employees and drives high levels of discretionary effort.

To develop warmth and have an affective presence, leaders need to be:

  • more charming and engaging, showing they care about others.
  • better, more attentive and empathetic listeners.
  • more respectful.
  • more appreciative, praising and encouraging people to super perform.
  • more inclusive, to ensure everybody is involved and engaged.
  1. Drive

Managers who convey their case in a compelling way, can connect their teams to it and keep their employees relentlessly focused on customers are thereby focused on rapid and continuous change.

To align people to a cause, leaders need to learn how to:

  • develop and articulate a compelling cause or purpose, and constantly drive the effort required to achieve it.
  • bring customer orientation into every team meeting and decision, so that those decisions benefit customers.
  • align everyone’s goals to a common vision.
  • deliver autonomy by liberating people to act within a framework.
  • develop a deep-rooted culture of continuous improvement.
  1. Persuasiveness

Managers with the charismatic skill of persuasiveness can not only connect people to the cause, but their communication skills enable the conversations that drive new ideas and keep essential relationships in good order. Agility and adaptability - absolute prerequisites for these times - will follow.

To be more persuasive, leaders need to learn how to:

  • understand their audiences better, especially how they are feeling, and what most concerns them.
  • facilitate conversations and encourage debate on difficult issues.
  • take a stand with a powerful point of view that passionately explains your position.
  • tell good stories that ram home important messages.
  • be a good speaker on stage or on camera.

The time has come for all managers to understand that these soft skills of charisma will determine their ability to deal with these current challenges, and, ultimately, success in business, more so than the technical skills that probably got them into a leadership position in the first place. (Research conducted with Fortune 500 CEOs by the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation found that 75 per cent of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25 per cent on technical knowledge.)

In an era of unprecedented disruption and change, we’ve never needed charismatic leaders more.