Lacking charisma? Don't worry, it comes with the job

Charisma may be something you get from your position, rather than what gets you there in the first place...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 27 Jul 2011
At least that’s according to research from Cambridge Judge Business School, which looked into charisma in the workplace - how the mysterious quality affects both the fortunes of a team and an individual’s centrality to it.

The received wisdom when it comes to charisma is that it’s a trait which helps land you in a role: beyond the common question of whether it can be acquired or whether it's innate, if you are able to create enough of an aura around yourself, perhaps by changing your message to suit enough different people on the way up, you’ll soon find yourself becoming more of a central player. Professor Martin Kilduff used the example of Jesus in describing this effect (although he did go on to cite the Bush presidency as an example of the ‘vision’-based model of charisma, so we’re not sure how well his charm radar is working).

Compared to the Bush approach – what Kilduff describes as ‘booming from a high place with your vision of the future, slamming the door and going back to dream up new great thoughts’ - the research found that becoming charismatic is often a ‘much more mundane process’: it’s largely a matter of boning up on your subject and becoming an expert, giving advice to people as well as being able to take it, treating people with consideration and making yourself available. When leaders interact with their subordinates, he says, they build social capital that has a positive effect on how they’re perceived.

So the advice, no matter how you got into your position, is to talk, not shout; to ask, not tell; and to point stuff out to people – and bingo! Soon you’ll have that messianic glow. And according to the other key finding of the research, charisma matters. The team’s study of several Indian and US organisations found that if you are seen as charismatic by your team you are more likely to lead one that’s high performing. At least you won’t have to come off like George Bush to do so.

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