By definition, entrepreneurs must be transformational
leaders or our organizations will soon hit the brakes when it comes
to fast growth.
The Charismatic Leadership Style
Charisma is one of the most important yet least understood attribute of transformational leadership. Those who have it can work "miracles."
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“The difference between can and cannot are only three letters. Three letters that determine your life's direction.” — Ramez Sasson
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“Riches, mediocrity and poverty begin in the mind.” — Ramez Sasson
"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description of hard-core pornography; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it." — Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter
As the above quote illustrates, charisma has an element of the undefinable—something experienced or felt. But we can also define it as a set of characteristics.
What is Charisma?
House (1976) came up with a theory of how certain leaders project charisma. There are six of these important characteristics.
1. Project an Image of Competence
Impression management is easy for many leaders since they surround themselves with ministers of propaganda and press agents, experts in publicity and spin.
2. Appeal to hidden aspirations, fears or needs of the followers
Charismatics can appeal to emotions. Some emotions are much more easy to appeal to than others. It is unfortunately a fact of life that those with charisma can arouse either negative emotions or positive ones. A well crafted speech can do both.
It takes little skill to make people afraid, for fear is one of the most basic emotions. For example, a leader can use a terrorist incident to rally people to action.
It's much harder to create a positive emotional appeal. For example, you can create hope as was done in the 2008 campaign of Barrack Obama.
The image was a widely distributed version of Shepard Fairey's Obama poster, featuring the word "hope." Other versions used the words "change" and "progress."
Image by: Shepard Fairey
3. When you have Charisma, you can Set High Expectations
"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." — John F. Kennedy, former American President
Charismatic individuals are good at setting expectations. It turns out that this one element has a huge impact on individuals—both positively and negatively.
4. Leader Role Modeling
In some respects, those with charisma are surrounded by people who act like children, complex children, but still children. People will look to your behavior to determine what's acceptable. They hang on every word. They watch every action. They look into your eyes for hints on how your thoughts will go and they watch your face to read intentions.
Modeling can be rather simple. For example, Pepsi CEO Donald Kendall would never miss a chance to hoist a Pepsi in public, and he expects his employees to behave the same way. — Louis, Arthur (1981). The Tycoons. New York: Simon and Shuster page 76
A more subtle aspect of this role modeling would be a psychological mechanism known as Identification.
5. Arousal of Motivation
They are able to manipulate people's emotions. An example of this is Adolft Hitle,r who was known for tirades of rage that were difficult to resist.
6. Persuasive speaker
I am firmly convinced that the art of persuasive speaking is mostly dead. It dies when students learn how to imitate their boring professors. You know the ones who can put to sleep the insomniac. However, if one has the gift (a learned gift of course) one can accomplish a great deal.
In the 1970's John Debutt, a former CEO of AT&T snapped the company out of its slump, and he did it largely on the strength of his considerable charisma. He and tow other top executives went on the grand tour of the U.S., giving pep talks to thousands of Bell System managers. "We talked to people at mass meetings to give them confidence," he recalled, "and also to let them know what this new management team looked like, and what we sounded like." We let them ask anything they wanted to ask, and we'd answer them. Within a few years the Bell System had not only overcome its service problems, but had surpassed all previous records for trouble free service. Louis, Arthur (1981). The Tycoons. New York: Simon and Shuster page 96 7.
"I may be wrong, but I'm never in doubt."
The leadership experts cannot seem to agree what traits are associated with leadership. However, one trait making it into most everyone list is self-confidence.
House, R. J.(1976). "A 1976 Theory of Charismatic Leadership." In J. G. Hunt and L. L. Larson. (beds.), Leadership: The Cutting Edge. Carbondale: Southern Illinois.
Bruce J. Avolio, Tracy C. Gibbons (1988) Developing Transformational Leaders: A Life Span Approach, in Charismatic Leadership: The Elusive Factor in Organizational Effectiveness by Jay A. Conger, Rabindra N. Kanuggo and Associates
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