The 5 behaviours of charismatic leaders

How to become more inspirational (without having a personality transplant).

by Kevin Murray
Last Updated: 20 Feb 2020

There are many kinds of charisma, many different definitions of it, and many different ways that each of us can display it. 

But whatever it is, for many of us, charisma seems somehow unattainable, gifted to a few lucky people who have it naturally in abundance.

Not so. I believe charisma lies within all of us – and all we need to do to be more charismatic and effective as leaders and managers is to understand and learn the skills that will make us more motivating.

My research says that charismatic leaders have five traits in common - a habitual pattern of behaviour, thought or emotion that is backed up by specific skills, leading to observable behaviours. 

So, charismatic leaders: 

Win the trust of followers

To do this they need a set of skills that will help them deliver authenticity. Leaders are only seen to be authentic if they have the skills to show who they are, as well as to be consistently transparent and principled, and thereby generate trust with and among their followers.  

Command attention and win respect

For this, they need the skills that will help them develop personal power. Leaders who possess personal power have the skills that enable them to be magnetic and more ‘followable’ as a leader. 

Engage with followers and make them feel valued members of the team

To do this they need to develop the skills that will give them warmth, and a more affective presence. Leaders with warmth have the skills to bring out the best in others by making people feel great about themselves. 

Impart a sense of direction and urgency

To do this they need to have the skills to articulate a compelling vision and sense of purpose that will arouse the passion to deliver it. Their drive comes from a relentless focus on continuous improvement to achieve the goals. Leaders with drive have the skills to articulate a compelling cause, and the skills to align everyone to their cause. 

Connect with followers and enthuse them with the will to succeed 

To do this, they need to develop their communication skills and become more persuasive. Leaders who are persuasive have the skills to hold high-quality conversations which transfer their passion for success to others. They also have the skills to encourage robust dialogue that powers innovation and progress.

It is a blend of these five traits that makes the difference. 

It is no good trying to become brilliant in only one of these areas. Managers who are strong in one of the skill sets, but weak in others, can actually be destructive as leaders. It is those leaders who are moderately good in all five who are most effective. 

Indeed, a recent study shows that exceptionally charismatic people are more likely to be bad leaders. Those with moderate levels of charisma, says the research, are more effective at managing an organisation. 

That’s good news for all of us – to be hugely more effective as a manager, we only need to be moderately better in each of the five charisma traits.

Kevin Murray is an author and speaker. His book Charismatic Leadership – the skills you can learn to motivate high performance in others is published by Kogan Page (£14.99)

Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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