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Can You Have Too Much Charisma?

During election season there is a lot of discussion about which candidates have the most charisma.  Dictionary.com defines charisma as a personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people. We often assume that the most charismatic leaders are also the best leaders but a Harvard Business Review study indicates that too much charisma may actually hinder a leader’s effectiveness.  When self-confidence becomes narcissism or persuasiveness turns into manipulative behavior, that isn’t effective leadership.

Here are some ways to demonstrate the right level of charisma:

  • Make a good first impression – you have less than a second to do so. The way you walk, dress, shake hands and make eye contact speak volumes before you ever open your mouth.
  • Focus on others – express genuine interest by asking questions and listening to the answers without thinking about what you’re going to say next.
  • Be appropriately passionate – talk with enthusiasm about what excites you and tell compelling stories.

How can you leverage charisma as one element of Executive Presence to be a more effective leader?

Expert to Leader

“He is a genius with 1000 helpers,” the CEO said, quoting the business classic Good to Great to describe one of her direct reports.  “He has to move from being a technical expert to a leader and focus on developing his people.”  This is a very common scenario in my coaching practice.

When a technical expert who has been rewarded for his knowledge and results is promoted to a leadership role, he can feel woefully unprepared.  That can lead to fear of failure and a tendency to fall back on what has served him well – being an expert who solves problems.  Except that even a genius can’t solve every problem and a leader’s job is to coach and empower others.

How do you do that? A recent Gartner survey concluded that the most effective style for developing high performers is a Connector.  Instead of being too hands-on or too hands-off, the Connector asks the right questions, provides tailored feedback and connects team members to others who can help them.

A technical expert is usually good at connecting dots.  If he can evolve into a leader who connects his people to the right developmental resources, he will no longer be a genius with 1000 helpers.

Honoring the Past

Have you heard (or made) any of these comments when a new leader is brought in to change things?

  • I’m excited!
  • I’ll wait and see how it goes…
  • That isn’t the way we do things here.

The people who are excited typically like change and can adapt easily.  Getting the “waiters” and the “naysayers” on board can be more challenging.  Some experts advise against trying to convert the naysayers but they may have institutional knowledge or customer relationships that are too valuable to lose.

The naysayers are often people who helped build the company or the department.  While they may acknowledge that things aren’t perfect, they are proud of their contributions.  Honoring the past and inviting their input can help them embrace change and move forward.

Managing Survivor Guilt

It’s common in the aftermath of a traumatic event to feel relieved that we’re safe and then to feel guilty for wanting life to return to normal.

To a lesser degree, people can also suffer from survivor guilt after their colleagues are laid off.  The confusion of feeling relieved while grieving can affect productivity, morale and trust.  Team leaders who acknowledge these feelings and ask for suggestions on how to handle increased workloads can help restore equilibrium.

I invite you to be aware of and accept feelings of loss and then to make a conscious decision to follow the Parisian example and carry on.

Read the Signs!

It is summer vacation time and parents occasionally have to find ways to entertain their kids that don’t involve electronics. Remember the classic game of finding the letters of the alphabet on road signs and billboards? You have to watch carefully to find those tough letters like “Q” and “Z”.

Driven, results oriented leaders sometimes miss a few signs on the way to their destination. One of the most frequent comments I hear when conducting 360 feedback interviews is, “he needs to do a better job of adjusting his style based on the situation.” Those signs might look like:

  1. High turnover on your team
  2. Difficulty getting your peers to support your ideas
  3. Your boss tuning you out or cutting you off

When you notice those signs, consider making these adjustments:

  1. Delegate more and micromanage less
  2. Take the time to build consensus
  3. Provide a high level summary and get into details only when asked

I invite you to try and identify one sign this week and figure out which direction you should go. It could make the trip a lot smoother!

 

The Devil is in the Details

When we hear “The devil is in the details,” we are reminded not to overlook something small that could have a big impact.  When I work with leaders who are detail oriented, they often struggle to let go.  That becomes even more difficult when their boss expects them to have the details at their fingertips.

How do you find the right balance?

  • Set an example – What kind of leader do you want to be?  A micromanager or a big picture thinker?
  • Weigh the risk – What is the worst that could happen if you said, “I can get that information for you.”
  • Push back appropriately – “Based on my assessment of the information provided by my team, I recommend the following…”

I invite you to stretch beyond your comfort zone and trust your team to handle the details, and then manage your boss’ expectations.  You might help him or her become a more effective leader in the process!