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Posted: November 25, 2013

Best of CoBiz: Get the charisma advantage

Three steps to make it happen

Derek Murphy

JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa. You probably think the only thing they have in common is that they are all now deceased. Guess again.

When they were alive, each of them seemed to have some sort of aura to them, which many considered was the gift of charisma. In fact, the word charisma comes from Greek and means "divine gift of grace." Traditionally, charisma is viewed as an inherent quality, you either have it or you don't. But is this allure really just a reward to the chosen few?

Well, according to an article in Psychology Today, charisma is not in fact a magical or mysterious quality. While some seem to have a naturally charismatic personality, for the rest of us this trait can, in fact, be developed and trained. So, yes, if you are more like a Ben Stein than a Steve Jobs, there's still hope for you my friend.

You might be wondering how charisma can help you as a manager. I'll explain, but first a history lesson. Nearly a century ago, German sociologist Max Weber divided authority into three types: traditional, bureaucratic, and the charismatic. In his studies, Weber placed a particularly strong focus on charismatic leaders and stated those type of leaders inspire loyalty and devotion of their followers.

Think about the examples at the beginning of this column- all those leaders displayed a personal magnetism that helped draw people to them and made people want to work with them. And they continue to inspire us to this day.  As a manager, you have to motivate people to take action, and one way to accomplish this is to present your strategy in a compelling way in order to inspire others.

Even if you don't naturally possess a charismatic personality, there are small steps you can take to help maximize your success:

Increase your visibility.

Charismatic leaders tend to make themselves seen and heard. They make an effort to motivate people, whether by listening and responding to them, or by working alongside them. These leaders use enthusiasm to encourage people and get them moving toward important goals.
Think about ways you can leverage this strength throughout the organization, including coaching and being a role model for others. Keep the adage, "Actions speak louder than words" in mind. Actions should always be consistent with what you say you believe.

Learn to be persuasive.

Leaders with this characteristic present their strategy in a clear, easily understood manner. Try to negotiate through difficult situations and arrive at mutual agreements in a skillful way, and learn to negotiate and persuasively state your opinion. If that sounds easier said than done, take a class or workshop on mediation techniques to help you learn to negotiate win-win solutions to problems.

Push limits.

Magnetic leaders know what they want and how to get it in order to achieve goals. Using pressure to meet goals is an important tactical skill that should be used to communicate urgency, importance and accountability. But keep in mind that this skill, if over-used or over-relied upon, can be an inhibitor to effectiveness, so learn when it is appropriate to push the boundaries. Consider that each person responds to different types of motivators, and learn to tailor your strategy to the needs of your team members.

Remember that charisma helps build confidence. And if you're a confident leader, it will be passed on to your employees.

Derek Murphy is CEO of TBC, a global assessment company with over 4 decades of experience, specializing in 360s and survey customization. Our hosting platform, TruScore®, allows you to manage all of your talent management assessments in one central location. Request a demo to discover why some of the most recognized brands in the Fortune 1000 chose TBC.

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