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Charismatic Leadership


What motivates people to work and to achieve? What circumstances create an environment in which some people achieve and others do not? Does motivation come from within or does it come from others - from leaders or managers? Can you motivate the un-motivated? Does it have to involve money? Why is it that some work teams achieve and others do not? Is it that the better work unit has better people? If this is so, then does that mean that the better work unit would succeed whether they were led or not? Is leadership the same as management or is leadership a part of management? Are managers and leaders the same?

When I was researching the subject of success in the middle eighties I proposed the question 'What makes this sales team perform better than that one'? I was met with 'The difference is the manager'. It should not have been a surprise. Yet for my own part, having been part of various working groups throughout a successful commercial career, I felt uncomfortable that my exertions might likewise be explained away to some researcher as being the result of some managerial intervention rather than my own skill. It begs the question - 'Does a team, whether successful or not, have a separate distinct motivational entity, or does a team owe its success to a manager?' Indeed, if a team of workers relies upon its success to the sum total of the individual driving forces within it, does it need managing at all? Clearly, the responses I got to the question 'What makes this team more successful than that team' left me in little doubt that senior managers believe success to be determined by successful managers - but then they would say that wouldn't they?

I have conducted research with a number of top performers operating in teams. These top performers exist in all teams and whilst representing only 10-15% of the working population, they are in many cases responsible for 60% to 80% of results. It appeared to me that the PARETO principle of the 80/20 split was not just merely a theoretical statistic but a valid reality. I found that in teams where around only 10-15% of that team was successful, and the rest were not, most of that 10-15% were unequivocal in their condemnation of the team leader. Top performers it would appear have little time for average performing managers, or indeed for average performing colleagues. What I also found was that these top performers represented to their lesser performing colleagues a focus, which I found, replicated in Charismatic Leaders, in that they displayed in the eyes of their peers a set of values and behaviours missing from their team leaders. Seemingly, people want leadership, and when it is missing, they bestow the qualities associated with good leaders on anyone close enough to wear the mantle.

In sport it is held that managers are responsible for the team's performance, and whether the other team has better players or not, there is an implicit expectation that a good manager will produce a good team. Despite the introduction of Premier Leagues in all types of sport, which bring with it vast sums of sponsorship and corresponding transfer fees and marketing opportunities, good managers are still believed to deliver 'David' style punches to 'Goliath' challenges. In many ways, it can appear a reasonable assumption that where certain professions rely upon physical exertion and face to face confrontation with others, elements such as belief, confidence, commitment, positive attitude, and the inspiration of a leader, can and do play an important part in the eventual results of the team. It is not unusual for business teams to also adopt these trait descriptors as being a requisite for achievement of business goals. Yet whether these traits are relevant or not, or how to measure them, or even to instil them, is open to considerable debate.

What is it that managers do that affect performance? When I explored the reasons that people gave for successful managers and what was the special quality that they possessed, the word 'Charisma' emerged time and time again. Successful managers, those who extract successful performance from others, it is said, have Charisma. Closer questioning of what Charisma is leads you nowhere. The sorts of responses I got were - 'Some people have just got it'; 'It's feeling you get about someone else'; 'I haven't got a clue but I know it when I see it'. Clearly there are those people whose behaviour is an inspiration to others.

There is a significant weight of evidence that point to the existence of Charismatic Leadership and its effect on followers. Margaret Thatcher had charisma, but John Major and latterly Ian Duncan Smith lacked it. It might be argued that Neil Kinnock had charisma - but failed, and perversely that Blair with less charisma succeeded. But then the opposition was different. On the other hand, insofar as Thatcher is concerned, it could be said that she did not have any charisma until appointed leader of the Conservative Party, after which, the fact that she was the first female Prime Minister, invested her with charisma. It's also important to remember that having charisma does not necessarily guarantee positive achievement. The sword of charisma can be wielded on behalf good and evil. It has a double edge. It is the dark side of charismatic influence that has probably been publicised most. Jack Kennedy was said to be charismatic, as was Churchill, but then so was Mussolini, and no doubt latterly Saddam Hussein. Charismatic qualities can be used for good and evil.

In 1932 Max Weber said that 'Charisma can only be 'awakened' and 'tested'; it cannot be 'learned' or 'taught'. However, more than 40 years later Robert House said 'It is entirely possible that charismatic leaders present themselves as highly confident and as having a strong conviction in the moral righteousness of their beliefs but do not indeed believe in either themselves or their beliefs. Some leaders may have charismatic effects because of their ability to act as though they have such confidence and convictions'.

This means that charismatic behaviours can be taught, which was proven by research undertaken in 1989. By 1992 I was able to identify those behaviours and have been able to develop them into training events for all those who dreamed of being charismatic, and for those who have it but cannot quantify it.

Frank Salisbury has spoken extensively on the subject of Charismatic Leadership over the last few years. Together with Vere Wynn-Jones (an expert in the field of PR and media) Frank runs courses and personal coaching in charismatic leadership. Frank is Managing Director of Business & Training Solutions Ltd based in Dun Laoghaire, and in the UK. He can be contacted via http://www.btsolutions.ie and at frank@btsolutions.ie; telephone 0044 (0) 1295 250247

Leadership is best defined by the quality of your thoughts, decisions and actions. It is also underpinned by the quality of the tools you use in your role. Be seen to bring true leadership to your organization and act with the authority that it brings to you.

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