When you ask people what
the most important qualities are for leadership, almost all will list charisma
at the top of their list. What is charisma and why is it important?
Max Weber (quoted in
Wikipedia) offers that it is the "exceptional sanctity, heroism, or
exemplary character of an individual person." I read this and think
of Hitler, Jim Jones, and others who lead for evil. So, I don't buy the
description as being the whole story.
To me, charismatic
leadership is the quality to appear bigger, better wiser, and more
compassionate than others - with the drive and energy that compels people to
Whether in politics,
war, or corporate governance, the qualities of leadership become important to
motive others to get on your team and do what you need and want them to
do. Without this quality, one needs to bribe, beg, bully, or pay heavily
in order to get the tasks completed.
The Los Angeles Times
(March 27, 2016) posted an article called "A dark side of charismatic
leaders" (Joyce E.A. Russell) in it they mention that some leaders
lead people down a path of self-destruction. And, of course that leads us
back to memories of Hitler and Jim Jones among others. So, there is
difference between ethical and unethical leaders.
I'd go so far as to
suggest that the evil leaders are megalomaniacs and think so highly of
themselves, they rarely if ever listen to the advice of others. The better
leaders - the good guys if you will - have positive goals and a willingness to
communicate with others and listen and learn from others.
Let's apply this to the
workplace - and of course make some generalizations.
Evil leaders have
personal goals that lead to their own aggrandizement - and often end up
destroying the organizations they build. The people they lead ultimately
become their victims. Positive charismatic leaders set goals that are for
the betterment of the organization as a whole. They encourage ideas from
others (no yes men for them) and are delighted at the growth and success of
those around them.
Steve Jobs, Larry
Ellison, Andy Grove, John Chambers, Mark Zuckerberg, and many others can be
described as charismatic leaders - some more self-serving than others. It
is the power of their leadership that led their respective companies to the
level of greatness we admire.
But, in some of these
organizations (and I'm not going to mention which ones) the preferred style of
management is by status and intimidation. People are forced to work
exceptionally long hours (even for Silicon Valley) and since they all work at
will, if they aren't available 24/7 they run the risk of being fired. It
is high salaries and status that keeps them in line.
As I am writing this, I
am thinking about the Prison guards and some of the inmates in the series Orange
is the New Black. If you've been watching it - and I've become
addicted - you'll remember that the Assistant Warden got so caught up in her
own power that she embezzled and denied the prisoners some basic comfort and
health care needs. Some of the guards became vicious, controlling bullies
because they had the power - and ruled by fear. A few of the inmates fell into
this category as well - ruling by intimidation and violence.
In today's workplace, we
rarely see this same level of managers who rule by threats of physical violence
- although in years past they still existed. Instead, the bully boss controls by
performance appraisals, promises of promotions, the better (or worse) projects
and of course salary increases and the ultimate threat - firing.
So unfortunately, as
much as I wish I could, I can't say that only positive charismatic leaders lead
to success. Some of the bad guys do too. Too bad.
We think of charismatic leadership to be
authoritarian in style - but that's not necessarily true. Some of our
great charismatic leaders led by what is called Participatory
Management. One, if not more of our American Presidents was known for
this style of leadership.
In Participatory Management, the leader
takes ultimate responsibility for the decisions - it is not a democracy - but
the leader encourages all executives, team players, stakeholders, etc., to
offer their ideas - to openly disagree with each other - and this type of
leader listens and learns and ultimately makes the decision him/herself.
The person of self-esteem is never afraid to
learn from others - indeed, delights in having others from whom to
learn. This is what ultimately creates an extraordinary leader.
Labels: Charismatic Leadership, leadership, management, Participatory Management