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5 Key Traits of a Charismatic Leadership

5 Key Traits of a Charismatic Leadership
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If you’ve ever been in a room with someone and found yourself wanting to be around the person more, to hear more of what the individual was saying, thinking or doing, chances are you have been in the company of someone with charisma.

If you analyze your experience working with different leaders, surely you can pinpoint at least one, possibly more, leaders who were charismatic.

You may not be able to describe charisma precisely, but you likely know it when you see it. Charisma is a compelling charm or inviting persona that can inspire the commitment and devotion of others. It is a mysterious attraction that is challenging to quantify but highly difficult to resist.

The premise of charismatic leadership is to tap into a leader’s charisma. Charismatic leadership is a leadership style that utilizes a leader’s authenticity, communications prowess and inspiration to pull out the best in others. While some leaders believe the key to getting their teams to perform is by offering consistent feedback or putting them through one training after another, charismatic leaders believe that they are the key to improved performance. They believe that people respond well to their example and inspiration. No one does this better than leaders with charisma.

Charismatic leaders are like magnets – they draw people to them and bring out the best of those around them. Charismatic leaders have an inviting personality, a depth of wisdom and a command of language that makes their communication like a mouth-watering appetizer: It leaves diners wanting more.

Charismatic leadership is a tool in a leader’s arsenal. For some people, it is naturally the first tool they reach for. Those leaders may be charismatic without effort, and they tend to find themselves relying on this resource often. Others may have the ability to rise to the occasion and showcase charismatic leadership, though it may not be their first instinct. For other executives, charismatic leadership takes effort and intention.

Enough with the suspense already: What are the key traits of charismatic leadership?

Here are 5 key identifiers you’ll find in charismatic leadership:

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1. Charismatic Leadership Is Uplifting

Charismatic leaders are uplifting. They can walk into a storm and spot the rainbow on the other side. They can sit amid chaos yet be completely assured that all will be well.

If a person is experiencing a whirlwind of emotions and engages with a charismatic leader, the individual will leave with a sense of calm. Charismatic leaders see the trouble, but they perceive opportunity. Their perspective is uplifting, and their optimism is contagious.

For instance, I was helping to manage a leadership transition at an organization that was planned yet stressful. The new leader inherited a new company and lots of unexpected challenges. There was tension throughout the senior staff, and that unease was palpable among the staff. Despite the challenges, the executive was filled with hope and communicated that hope consistently and persuasively. The minute the leader walked into the room and began to speak, staff members were able to see possibility.

2. Charismatic Leadership Is Marked by Communications Prowess

One of charismatic leaders’ most defining traits is oral communication. Charismatic leaders are gifted communicators. Their words are seasoned with grace, their message carefully tailored to the audience, and their selection of examples reflect a surgeon’s precision.

When I think of the charismatic leaders whom I’ve known in my lifetime, few are more defining than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II.

When I met Rev. Dr. Barber in spring 2016, I had already experienced my fair share of union protests and thought I knew everything I needed to know about organizing resistance movements; I’d already spent most of my life in the evangelical church, so I was quite familiar with meeting pastors and leaders who could rouse a sleeping audience to full-scale hysteria.

Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the leader I encountered. Rev. Dr. Barber had a theological perspective that welcomed all, not in a shallow “we shall all overcome” manner, but in a reflective manner. He was the first faith leader I had met who merged his faith with his religion. As a long-time communicator, I’d warn him that the place to deliver sermons was in the pulpit, not in front of editorial boards or in the presence of media. He talked about a moral fusion movement and about making decisions that reflected our deepest moral and constitutional values.

It’s been six years since that initial meeting, and his star has continued to rise. He’s published two books and will soon release a third. He has been recognized as a MacArthur Genius, and he’s a senior lecturer at Union Theological Seminary. He is invited to communities and into moral fights all over the world because of his vision, his work and his ability to relate to people from all walks of life.

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By all intents and purposes, he embodies charismatic leadership.

3. Charismatic Leadership Is Courageous

Charismatic leaders are courageous. They make decisions that could be unpopular in the present but are necessary and even respected in the future.

For instance, screenwriter Adele Lim recently stepped away from work on the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel due to a grotesque pay disparity. She was paid $100,000 for her work on the project while her white, male coworker was paid $800,000. This was a courageous yet difficult move.

First, many well-regarded and competent writers may never get the opportunity to write for a major series. Next, in disclosing the pay disparity, Lim not only turned down work, she acknowledged publicly what had to be privately painful; she was paid one-eighth of what her coworker was making.

There is a certain sense of shame when an individual discusses pain. Lim bucked the shame and courageously stood her ground. I am confident that Asian women, and all women, will benefit from the stance she took.

Another example along these lines is Oscar-winning actress and comedian Mo’Nique. When Mo’Nique urged a boycott of Netflix in 2018, she did so for what she termed gender and race discrimination. She says she was offered $500,000 for a comedy special, while Netflix allegedly offered actress Amy Schumer $13 million.

For people who have never come close to making half a million dollars, I imagine hearing that an actress turned down $500,000 and then asked her followers to boycott the streaming company may have been a bit much. The Root reported:[1]

“For 24 months after the special premiered, Mo’Nique would not be able to crack any of the jokes she did in the Netflix special anywhere else, and when the 24 months were up – Netflix would have first dibs on those jokes, too. So basically, Netflix wanted her to take $500,000 to not be able to do what she is in the business of doing in the first place, and she was supposed to be OK with that?”

In a display of resolve and courage, Mo’Nique refused the offer. I can only imagine how difficult doing so may have been.

The truth is, when people talk about admirable values, courage always seems to be included in the list. One of the reasons this trait stands out is because it is difficult to consistently practice. Some people start out with the intention of being courageous and then succumb to the pressure of the public, their social media followers, friends, employer or others in positions of authority in their lives.

Charismatic leaders are courageous. They are bold, and they are willing to take principled positions, even to others’ chagrin.

4. Charismatic Leadership Is Original

Charismatic leaders are original. Rather than being a carbon copy of others, they break the mold. Because originality is so rare, it is refreshing when we see it.

Charismatic leaders’ originality often shines through because they are comfortable with who they are and believe that their natural self is their best self. They will not be convinced that they are not good enough, and their belief in themselves enables them to be original, which frees others to do the same. They have a unique way of communicating and an uncommon way of interpreting common occurrences.

5. Charismatic Leaders Are Likeable

I was speaking with a long-term political operative about why some candidates soar and others can barely get their feet off the ground. On paper, the candidates may be similar in terms of policy positions, background and accomplishments. Yet one of the candidates is incredibly popular, leaving audiences eating out of the individual’s hands, while the others struggle immensely to be noticed and taken seriously.

My friend told me that it comes down to likability. People want to elect someone whom they wish they could be like. They want to elect their role model or hero.

The same is true with charismatic leaders. Charismatic leaders are likeable: They reflect the aspirations of the people drawn to them. One incredibly important trait of charismatic leaders is likeability. At their core, they are likable.

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For extroverts, these individuals are the people you’d like to go get a drink with. For introverts, the charismatic leaders are those whom you’d like to hang with if you could get over your desire to be alone.

This feature is so important that I have seldom met many charismatic leaders who aren’t likeable. Likability is the hand and charisma is the glow: The two naturally accompany one another.

What’s More a Charismatic Leader Needs?

While charismatic leadership is admirable, it is one tool in a leader’s toolbox. A charismatic leader without vision, a talented team of professionals with differing skills sets or decisiveness will be unable to lead a team through the company’s various life stages.

Importantly, if charismatic leadership isn’t accompanied by a commitment to ethics and practical knowledge, it can be very dangerous. A charismatic leader who lacks integrity can destroy people, companies and communities. Think about some of the world’s deepest sins – genocide of native people, slavery, eugenics of black and Latinx women, the mass murder of Jewish people – that were enabled by people who may have been charismatic but also devoid of moral center.

Quite simply, it is irresponsible to practice charisma in isolation of integrity, ethics and a genuine concern for other people.

Final Thoughts

Anyone can practice charismatic leadership. Leadership styles are a lot like muscles. Each of us uses some muscles more than others, and the muscles we use tend to be stronger.

Leadership theory and implementation is the same way. Based on our history, personality and career training, some leaders have spent more time exercising authoritative leadership styles, which may come naturally. This doesn’t mean that a leader can’t change, but changing happens with awareness, practice and intention.

In pulling all of this together, charismatic leadership is powerful. It is admirable too. Most people can work to become a more charismatic leader but should do so while being mindful of the other elements of leadership that help them be a more effective and well-rounded leader.

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More Tips About Effective Leadership

Featured photo credit: Kobu Agency via unsplash.com

Reference

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Jennifer R. Farmer

An author and trainer specializes in helping socially-conscious entrepreneurs, celebrities and activists

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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