Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Troubled by charisma, angst about heroics.

I am troubled by charisma. I have angst about leadership heroics.

I am talking about the expectation that there is a link between leadership and charisma and that heroics are a leadership requirement.

The trouble for me reemerged a few weeks ago when Jim Stroup at Managing Leadership described a television interview where a mandatory link between charisma and leadership was proposed by a university professor of psychology. Jim questioned the link in his post as did I in my comment to the post.

I do not believe that charisma is inextricably linked to leadership. To establish my position, I will cite the research and work of author Jim Collins in his bestseller,Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. I'd like to believe the the type of Level 5 leadership Collins proposes in Good to Great can and should be the leadership style to which we aspire. He describes the humility of Level 5 leaders who,
Acts with quiet, calm determination;
relies principally on inspired standards,
not inspiring charisma, to motivate.
Certainly, there is another camp to this debate. There are some who believe that charisma and even narcissism are important elements of the leadership mix. Tom Peters has publicly refuted the Jim Collins position (Here is the PowerPoint titled, Tom Peters Squares Off with Jim Collins. Or: The Case for ... Technicolor!). I respect of the work of Tom Peters tremendously and as another Best of 2008 Leadership Blog nominee, you will find nuggets of Tom Peters insight scattered throughout this blog. You can see why I am challenged by charisma.

In the midst of my recent debate, I was reminded of another post in the Lead Quietly archive which is inspired by another Best of 2008 Leadership Blog nominee, Rhett Laubach. In What do you mean by charisma? I also challenged the relationship of leadership and charisma. I wrote,
I find Laubach's insight on care-isma just perfect. He writes,
People naturally like to be around people who are pleasant, joyful and smiling. It is a natural response to a natural trait of influential people who are great at attracting others. Call it charisma if you want. I prefer to call it care-isma. It demonstrates you care about your attitude, you care about the influence you have on others, and you care about others.
This type of charisma, i.e. care-isma resolves the complexity for me. My less than super powers are quite adequate and I am happy to leave charisma to the actors, athletes, evangelists, and politicians. And the best news to me is that I can be myself. No other personas are required.
I recently revisited the Laubach's Personal Leadership Insight blog and picked up another simple nugget that resonates with me, "If you want more influence, have care-isma." Rhett, it's brilliant.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

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