[March 11, 2018] There’s a story about U.S. Army General George S. Patton from World War II that showed that he was a great example of a charismatic leader. Just after being assigned as the commander of the U.S. Third Army he traveled to his new headquarters with blaring sirens on the jeep and dressed immaculately in his self-styled highly adorned uniform. Soldiers just stared.
“Truly charismatic people, in my experience, don’t come along very often.” – Francesca Annis, English actress
There are many styles of leadership; one we associate with considerable success is the charismatic leader. It would be logical to take a close look at those leaders, uncommon as they are, with a keen eye toward finding what works best for them and, perhaps, emulate their approach to leadership with the understanding that it might also work for us. What follows are three traits of charismatic leaders. There are more but these are the key.
- Connect to people: If there were to be any trait to a charismatic leader that works, it is the ability to connect to people. Part of this is being empathetic. U.S. President Bill Clinton had this trait down better than any other politician in modern times. He was famous for saying, “I feel your pain.” Regardless of his sincerity, people believed he cared about them and thought of him as a great president.
- Self-confidence: An important trait is to have a strong sense of belief in one’s self that one can do whatever needs to be done to succeed. This helps others to believe just as strongly as the leader. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill exuded self-confidence and this was infectious across the nation during the darkest days of WWII; the key to that nation’s survival during the war.
- Inspirational: A charismatic leader has the ability to motivate people to work far beyond what they would have done normally. Inspiration is a combination of optimism, passion, and positive thinking that drives others to achieve things they would have never attempted otherwise.
I’ve read much of what the “experts” say on the topic of charismatic leadership and I find that academics focus more on the outcomes of the charismatic leader rather than the methods by which those outcomes are achieved. For those who want to know the “how” of effective leadership, looking at methods is a better bet. Studying core traits is the only sure bet to improve our skills.