We all know a person with effective leadership skills when we see one. They seem to radiate a certain magnetism that turns heads when they speak. They know how to command attention with not just their words but the cadence of their voice and even their body language. From celebrities to industrial and world leaders, charismatic people can draw anyone in.
For a long time, conventional wisdom held onto the belief that you were either born with charisma or you weren’t. Psychologists believe that charisma is a mix of nature and nurture. Yes, some people are simply hardwired with a more charismatic personality than others. The good news, though, is that you can learn to be more charismatic and develop such qualities if you want to become a leader.
Before we jump into those qualities, it would probably help to define what exactly charisma is.
What Is Charisma?
The word means “divine gift” in Greek. Charisma is steeped in a certain amount of mystery, but to really boil it down, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure.” (Admittedly, that doesn’t sound like something that can be learned, but let’s hold out hope.)
It’s easy to see how “a personal magic of leadership” could be so appealing for a leader and give them a cutting edge over the competition. Having that certain “It” factor might come more innately for some than others, but everyone with effective leadership skills have at least some of it, even if they learned it along the way.
Here are the qualities of a charismatic leader and why they’re so beneficial.
A psychology professor from the University of Queensland in Australia, William von Hippel, believes that adaptability is the number one trait that all effective leaders possess. “There are clearly many qualities that enable people to be socially successful, but the fact that what works in one situation often does not work in another suggests that behavioral flexibility may be the single most important attribute for social functioning,” said von Hippel.
There’s nothing charismatic about sulking when plans don’t work out exactly as expected. Instead, charismatic leaders find a way to make lemonade with the lemons they’ve been given. This adaptability was further broken down by von Hippel into several offshoots:
- Being quick-witted
- Knowing how to handle subtle changes
- Staying cool amid distraction
According to von Hippel, charismatic people may not always know the right answer to a tough question, but they have the ability to come up with alternative answers and choose what works best for the situation. They’re also in tune with what’s going on around them and can quickly modify their behavior to handle any conflicts. Among all of this, charismatic leaders are cool as cucumbers — or at least project that confidence — regardless of whatever distractions there may be.
Being adaptable allows them to close business deals and push ahead, even when things don’t go according to plan.
Trust is one of the most important things for leaders to establish with their teams. When a leader is confident and not afraid to take a bold stance, it allows others to relax a little bit and stand behind that leader because they trust them. Charismatic leaders exude confidence almost without falter.
When it’s a celebrity like Bono or Lady Gaga, they call this confidence swagger as it allows them to strut across the stage like they haven’t got a sliver of self-doubt in them. Their confidence can be felt throughout an entire arena. Showing confidence isn’t always easy, but it can certainly be learned and is paramount for success. Confident leaders will always be the ones who see the glass half-full, and this sort of optimism can be a powerful motivating tool for those they lead.
Charismatic leaders may respect the past, but they’re not going to be stuck in it. They have a mindset for innovation and are almost always looking for ways to improve things. It’s this sort of forward-thinking that made somebody like Martin Luther King Jr. such a charismatic leader. He had a clear vision that he was passionate about and knew how to communicate it (more on that in a second).
Charismatic leaders have clearly defined goals that they want to achieve. Combined with confidence, that can be incredibly intoxicating to other people. Next to adaptability, this may be the second most important quality of a charismatic leader, and how they go about sharing their vision often results in a strong emotional response from the listeners.
If the vision is the far off summit on the horizon, determination is the drive that keeps charismatic leaders pushing forward. If that vision is ever going to be achieved, then milestones will have to be accomplished along the way. Take Amazon’s vision of having a zero carbon footprint by 2040, for example. In order to make that happen, Jeff Bezos and his team need unwavering determination and hit certain goals at certain points in this timeline.
Determined leaders don’t give up when they hit roadblocks. Instead, they put their head down, adapt, and push forward. This drive to keep pushing ahead can trickle down and motivate their subordinates to work harder at accomplishing whatever the collective goal may be.
Check out this article about building strong thinking skills: How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership.
5. Great Communicator
There’s a reason why crowds will show up in droves to hear a politician speak: the most captivating politicians know how to communicate their vision effectively and clearly. Those with an especially charismatic personality often have strong beliefs and can be incredibly persuasive with both their words and body language. Simply put, they’re good storytellers.
Charismatic leaders draw listeners in with good posture, eye contact, and hand gestures to help connect their words to the audience. They articulate their words to help convey their vision and deliver their message with confidence, whether they’re speaking to an individual or an audience of 10,000 people.
Clear communication is key for the formulation of new goals and in gaining the trust of the people around them.
The economy is changing faster than ever, and you don’t have to look very far to realize how creativity and adaptability will drive the successes of tomorrow. So, what does it have to do with charisma?
Well, charismatic people tend to think outside the box and look for new ways of doing things. This, of course, ties into having a passion and vision. Not only do charismatic thinkers tend to be creative people, but they also challenge the status quo and take risks to turn those visions into reality. Aside from thinking outside the box, the best managers with effective leadership skills encourage others to tap into their own creativity and improve how they approach a situation.
A charismatic leader rises to meet the challenges they face and view problems as opportunities for innovation. To put into perspective just how important this is, a global survey of more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries found that creativity was the most sought-after attribute in a leader. When leaders show that their creative spirit, they come across as incredibly charismatic and inspire others to follow that creative lead as well.
The most charismatic leaders don’t just have a vision and know how to effectively communicate it — they know how to adapt to the sudden changes thrown their way and still be persuasive and motivating. The truth is, some people may be born with a little more natural charisma than others. Make no mistake about it, though, the traits of a charismatic leader can all be learned and developed.
More on Becoming an Effective Leader
- 15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success
- 14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have
- 5 Values of an Effective Leader
Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com
|||^||Psychology Today: Is Charisma a Gift—or Can It Be Trained?|
|||^||CNBC: The No. 1 trait highly charismatic people all share, according to science|
|||^||About Amazon: We are all in on The Climate Pledge: net zero carbon by 2040|
|||^||Center for Creative Leadership: Why Communication Is So Important for Leaders|
|||^||UTS Online: Master of Health Services Management (Online)|
|||^||IBM: IBM 2010 Global CEO Study: Creativity Selected as Most Crucial Factor for Future Success|