Charisma is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “compelling attractiveness or charm to inspire devotion in others”. Charisma also has extra connotations associated with it. It implies someone who is self-confident. It also implies someone whose personality demands attention and draws others towards them. Most importantly, charismatic people are associated with people skills and the ability to persuade and inspire others.
Conventional wisdom suggests that charismatic leaders make the best leaders. Their increased confidence and self-efficacy can make others perceive them as much more effective. But is this trait necessary for those in management? Is there such a thing as too much charisma? Let’s look at the reasons charisma may be essential in management, and let’s also look at why it may not be so.
When charisma can be useful
Charismatic leaders are great communicators. They are able to speak clearly and get their point across effectively. They also have the persuasiveness to be able to steer conversations that can drive new ideas. Their ability to arouse emotions in others can rally them to follow in unity.
Charisma is a great skill to use to boost morale in the workplace. As we already know, a positive work environment is able to increase worker productivity. It is a good skill to have when trying to instill motivation in others. The right words can make anyone feel special and useful which goes a long way to boost individual productivity and worker retention.
Teamwork is much easier to achieve when the leader of a team is charismatic. At the same time, charisma in management can have this effect on a wider scale. Charismatic people are well equipped to solve interpersonal problems. The ability to effectively intervene when personal problems overshadow work is great at improving productivity.
A recent study found that the worst performing European businesses had the least charismatic managers. So it holds that charisma is an essential part of management, right?
When charisma doesn’t help
The same study suggests that the most charismatic leaders are often not seen as the most effective leaders. Business-related behaviours, more than just interpersonal relationships, are what drive perceived effectiveness. These are not mutually exclusive, but it shows that charisma isn’t the pinnacle of management effectiveness.
In fact, sometimes too much of it can be seen as hubris rather than confidence. This definitely puts a damper on the relationship between employees and management. Furthermore, charismatic people tend to know exactly what to say to inspire others to do things. For some, this may come off as fake and deliberate instead of being authentic.
Charismatic leaders are also harder to oppose. This can be detrimental if the ideas they try to consolidate are not in the best course of action. Overhype can also cause greater stress and disappointment when charismatic persuasion and inspiration overtake actual ability and logistics.