By Amelia Lafratta
An element of effective leadership consists of influencing, inspiring and connecting with others. This allows for high impact communication (remember? The second attribute of catalytic leaders) – which in turn, results in a workplace culture based on trust, productivity and engagement. Authentic charisma is the winner of influencing skills, it’s an attribute that elevates a competent leader to extraordinary leadership capabilities.
In 2014, the CBI found that charismatic leaders outperform their non-charismatic peers by an average of 60%. What is the missing ingredient that sets these two categories apart and makes leaders charismatic?
The answer is in how we define and describe charisma. The Oxford Dictionary reads: “a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”, however there are also other contrasting explanations of charisma. If it is so hard to describe, it must be even more challenging to incorporate in leadership development, because it can’t be pinpointed as a set of behaviours.
International expert, Nikki Owen, says that charismatic leaders have an ability to engage the hearts and minds of others, as if they were spellbound. This attraction leads to a great influencing power, which can be so compelling that it results into inspiration and action. Charismatic leaders are effective because they inspire action, increasing productivity and engagement.
Recent Netflix series, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, Blue Planet I & II and One Planet have inspired many to action. The documentaries demonstrate the passion of the narrator, backed up by incredibly powerful images and extremely compelling arguments on the effects that climate change is having on nature and wildlife. Since the release of the series, 53% of people report using less plastic and there has been a noticeable uplift in the awareness of the importance to protect biodiversity (the David Attenborough effect).
How can a few documentaries shift people’s behaviours so much? Of course, being educated in environmental issues is key, but the phenomenon has become more widespread than other sources of information on the matter. We could say that the narrator’s influence and the way the footage was presented were the sparks that lead the community to action. Attenborough’s true and authentic passion ignited his charisma and created the “Attenborough effect”.
When people talk about their passion, the energy around them changes and those who listen are enticed. Your passion lets your true light come through and your authentic self shines. Charisma is exactly this energy affecting others, the energy of your authenticity.
We can now understand why charisma cannot be described by a specific set of attributes or behaviours: authentic energy is characteristic to any one person and it shows up in a unique way in every person. A leader will never be charismatic if they try copying a charismatic leader’s behaviour, because they won’t be expressing who they truly are at their core. Their behaviours won’t be aligned with their authentic self.
Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens observed that in a room full of clocks with pendulums, the pendulums eventually synchronise their movement to that of the largest one. The energy is transferred to the other pendulums, aligning their movement. The same phenomenon happens with humans: the energy is transferred from one person to others in the same space. We can understand how important it is for a leader to build in themselves the sort of energy they look for in their team, as they have the potential to align the workforce attitudes and build high levels of engagement.
Charismatic leaders are able to stimulate their teams with authenticity and positive, empowering energy because they radiate who they are at their core. This enables others to see their leader without any protection walls, which establishes a sense of trust among the team, where people can be themselves in a safe environment.
It becomes clear that communication becomes significantly more effective when people are not afraid to speak up and say what they think, when they feel safe expressing how things really are and when they feel comfortable talking directly to their leader about any issues.
Being able to connect with your true inner core is challenging, it can involve confronting your fears and your insecurities, but it’s a journey that we can all strive to make. The results will be better efficiency, more productivity, less tension, more trust and better communication.