Is charisma the magic potion for effective leadership?

Research proves that charismatic leaders outperform their peers. But is charisma something that can be taught, and how can organisations nurture charismatic leaders? Nikki Owen considers how this type of leadership can transform the workplace.

Authentic charisma is the outright winner in the arena of influencing skills. It is the one attribute that elevates a competent leader into the realms of extraordinary leadership.

Charismatic leaders and managers transform workforce attitudes and create the conditions for a collaborative, high performing culture.

In 2014, the CBI found that charismatic leaders outperform their non-charismatic peers by an average of 60%.

They have an ability to engage the hearts and minds of others. In the war for talent, great people want to work for great people. The authentic and charismatic leader attracts talent with an ease that causes people to feel spellbound by their energy.

Consequently, more organisations are waking up to the powerful link between authentic charisma and leadership effectiveness but struggle to introduce it as a leadership competency because it is abstract and difficult to define.

Defining charisma

The Oxford Dictionary describes charisma as 'a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others'.

Renowned German sociologist, Max Weber (Eisenstadt, 1968) described it as 'a virtue of which one is set apart from ordinary people'. Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Robert House determined that charisma is a set of behaviours.

With different interpretations of charisma it can be a challenge for organisations wanting to develop authentic charisma within leaders and managers at all levels across a business.

Building authentic charisma is not a 'one size fits all' approach and you can't develop it by working at a behavioural level. It is an authentic power that captivates the hearts and minds of others.

Authentic charisma is a potential that 'lives' within everyone. When leaders feel safe and secure within the context of their organisation they become more authentic. When they also feel conviction and passion for what they are doing their inner radiance shines, regardless of whether they are introverted or extroverted.

Adding layers

This may sound simplistic but life and work puts layers onto individuals, much like paint. Year after year more layers are added until the person no longer knows how to access their true authentic self.

Many leaders' and managers' actions are driven by fear and survival rather than by confidence and growth. Their performance can be sidelined by the expectations of diverse stakeholders to be safe, sensible and follow the conventional route.

The mantle of responsibility perceived by many leaders and managers may cause them to feel burdened instead of inspired.

This perception triggers a dramatic shift in their body. According to Cellular Biologist, Dr Bruce Lipton, the 70 trillion cells estimated to be present in the human body switch into an operating mechanism of survival - they effectively shut down, block and become cellular silos.

This response is projected into the behaviours of the leader whose actions are driven by fear and 'chokes' performance, overwhelms thinking and drains energy. This process affects the leader in one of two ways.

It either causes the leader to function as if they've been given an emotional anaesthetic - not a desirable state to create an engaged and motivated workforce. Or their emotions are heightened and triggered easily. They will respond in a way that is completely out of proportion to the current situation causing fear and nervousness amongst colleagues and employees.

Can charisma be taught?

For these reasons, authentic charisma cannot be taught using conventional leadership development processes but can be reawakened by new experiential sessions and sustained with online support. It is a potential within everyone that has in most leaders and managers become hidden or locked away.

Charisma requires two conditions for it to grow and flourish. When a leader is being authentic and they are operating from a mindset of growth rather than survival they ignite their unique light.

Charismatic leaders perceive themselves and others in a positive and empowering way and these perceptions expand energy.

Take a walk around an organisation where charismatic leaders have left an imprint and it feels energised and stimulating.

Every thought creates an energetic impulse and there is growing evidence that thoughts have the capacity to change physical matter.

Quantum physics deals with behaviour of the smallest things in the universe - subatomic particles. Thoughts are the exact same substance as the building blocks of the universe.

But what does this mean for organisations wanting to cultivate more charismatic leaders?

Charisma is only accessed when leaders hold perceptions that stimulate energy in themselves, their employees and their customers. Charismatic leaders are conduits for energy and high energy builds high performance, positivity, engagement and an innovative way of tackling problems. Authentic and charismatic leaders change organisations by changing their vision and the quality of the energy they exude.

Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens observed that a room full of clocks with pendulums will eventually swing in perfect synchronicity as they seek to align with the largest pendulum. Portuguese scientists have identified that this phenomenon occurs because of the pendulums transferred energy.

This explains why authentic and charismatic leadership holds the potential to align workforce attitudes and build such high levels of engagement.

The more authentic and positive the leader, the better able they become at building their energy to an extent that others around them will unconsciously and sometimes consciously feel.

As uncertainty and unpredictability continue to rage rampantly through global and local economies, these are challenging times when something very different is required from leaders.

Developing authentic charismatic leadership is a vital attribute for organisations wanting to deliver better results during turbulent times.