Executive Charisma: Is It Coachable?
Charismatic leaders are articulate and visionary. They use metaphor and anecdotes for highly impactful storytelling. They share powerful, funny stories to engage their audience. And they certainly do not shy away from sharing personal stories, knowing that this will help them establish an emotional connection with their followers.
Charismatic leaders are emotionally intelligent. They are sensitive to their environment and the needs of their followers. They appeal to the emotions of their audience. Their focus is not so much on what people say but rather on the emotions behind it. Since they are excellent at sensing the emotions of others, charismatic leaders are extremely good at finding the most adequate words that deeply resonate with their followers. They are also excellent at managing and expressing their own emotions.
One strategy that Ronald Riggio, Ph.D., a professor at Claremont McKenna College who has spent years researching the development of charisma, recommends is being more expressive with your face. Writing for Psychology Today, Riggio suggests leaders practice different expressions in a mirror and solicit feedback from others on how well they communicate their feelings.
Charismatic leaders speak about their passion and mission as drivers rather than focusing on business methods and processes. The personal vision of charismatic leaders has great influence over their audience. In the charismatic leadership style, emphasis is placed on working toward a greater good. Charismatic leaders will address details and daily operations at the right time, and they will immediately link it to the bigger vision, stressing the importance of a single puzzle piece in the whole. But, they will never try to lead people by a “how-to” talk. Charismatic leaders lead with a “why.”
Charismatic leaders are full of energy. When they show up, they show up in their full presence capacity. Their body posture, tone of voice, face mimic and gestures all send a united message. Their energy is contagious. Because they are able to step into their own power in this way, they empower others to do the same. Charismatic leaders leave people feeling more energized when they exit the room.
Personable and Vulnerable
Charismatic leaders understand that people bring their whole selves to work, so they are interested in finding out who their people are in their personal lives. What drives them? What do they currently have going on in their personal life? They will remember the names and stories of people and will get back to it at a later moment. At the same time, they will share their personal stories. In particular, they will not shy away from sharing personal stories that reveal their vulnerability—they know that this builds trust and creates a safe environment for their people to do the same.
High Standards and High Trust
Charismatic leaders set high standards for themselves and their people. When it comes to inspiring followers to perform up to those standards, they put absolute trust in their people and paint an appealing and positive vision for their followers to step into. Whenever their high-performance standards are not being met, they will address it in a transparent and positive manner focusing on the way forward. They can always clearly distinguish a person’s potential from any demonstrated performance and often see more in people than they see in themselves.
Charismatic leaders are often adept at using unconventional behaviors. They tend to be courageous, creative thinkers and less risk averse than average leaders. They can sometimes be unpredictable and even impulsive, which is a characteristic that needs to be carefully managed within an organization. Charismatic leaders feel completely at ease in their own skin and may have a unique choice of the words or even clothing they use to express themselves.
Looking at the non-exhaustive list above, it becomes quite clear that all of these elements can be trained and developed, which implies that charisma as such is “coachable.” Charismatic leaders are not only born, they can most definitely also be grown.