The following is an interview with Deiric McCann, co-author of Leadership Charisma. McCann explains how charisma affects leadership in the workplace, inspires good communication, and build a seamless workforce of dedicated employees.
Interviewer: In your opinion, from a marketing perspective, why is it so important that industry leaders are charismatic?
Deiric McCann: In our research (400,000 employees rating 40,000 leaders worldwide), more than 40 percent of what we- as employees, shareholders or readers- perceive as charisma is good communication. Think of any truly charismatic leader you know or have ever read– what do you remember? Their extraordinary communication ability (think ML King, JFK, Gandhi, Steve Jobs, etc.).
Yes, there are effective leaders who are poor communicators – the sad thing for those leaders who don’t take the time to improve their communication skills is that our research shows they could be 40 percent more effective.
We live in an ‘always on,’ ‘sound bite’ world, where a senior leader’s ability to deal with social media and the press at large is critical to maintaining a positive marketing image. Modern leaders should be continually honing their communication skills – and the approach outlined in Leadership Charisma will help leaders do just that.
Interviewer: Why is charisma one of the most important qualities of a leader?
Deiric McCann: Look at any organization enjoying spectacular success, and what do you find they all share in common, besides their products or technology (which is potentially duplicable)? THEIR PEOPLE. Spectacular success is built upon the ability of the leadership of an organization to engage the people who work for the organization – on a much higher level than their competitors can. High levels of employee engagement have been shown not only to contribute enormously to the organizational bottom line, but it’s also an almost unbeatable competitive advantage.
Interviewer: But, what has charisma to do with all that?
Deiric McCann: What’s often described in everyday situations as charisma is little more than surface charm and, as such, it has no relevance to a leader and the results they get. Sure, a charming approach doesn’t hurt, but once you scrape the surface and find that the charm is a very shallow layer over a person’s personality, it can become a liability instead of an asset.
Think of those many stories you’ve heard of people meeting their so-called charismatic movie star heroes, only to be disappointed that he or she just wasn’t the person they expected – they didn’t run as deep as they might have expected.
However, what we talk about as ‘leadership charisma’ in the book is something entirely different. We define leadership charisma as that particular blend of behaviours, all of which can be developed by a leader and enables them to:
“… create and maintain a work environment where people are emotionally and intellectually committed to the organization’s goals.
… instill in their people an energetic and positive attitude that inspires them to do their very best for the organization.
“… create a common sense of purpose, where people are more inclined to invest extra energy, and even some of their own time in their work.”
That is a living, breathing definition of the best sort of employee engagement – and it is achieved on a long-term basis only by leaders who have what we call ‘leadership charisma.’ That’s why we cite leadership charisma as such a critical quality in a leader.
Interviewer: Specifically, how does being charismatic lead to success? Is likeability a key factor? Ambition? Motivation?
Deiric McCann: Look at what we just said about the role of what we callleadership charisma in driving all-important employee engagement. If you can enage your people on this sort of level, then they will give their whole hearts and souls in the servcie of your shared vision – helping the organization achieve its results.
And ALL of the research says that this has a dramatic effect on results . In one of the biggest studies on the topic (involving more than 90,000 employees in organizations in 18 countries worldwide), companies with such highly-engaged employees achieve on average, 51 percent more operating income than similar organizations with disengaged people, and 39 percent more earnings per share than those with disengaged people.
We don’t have enough time to go into all of the factors that contribute to leadership charisma – for that you’ll have to buy the book (or download chapter 1 for free) – but while likeability is a positive factor, it is not as essential as some other factors. For example, our research shows that people are very motivated and engaged by leaders who:
- Have a clear and ambitious vision that they communicate clearly
- Take the time to demonstrate to their people what’s in it for them if they help the leader achieve that vision
- Are interested enough to know the concerns of their people, and make great efforts to help them deal with those concerns
- Help their people become the best they possibly can – both personally and in a career sense
…the key factor in leadership charisma is a genuine concern to see that one’s people get as much from the relationship with the organization, as does the leader, his board, and shareholders. Now that’s what genuinely motivates people!”
Interviewer: Can a negative leader tarnish a brand image? A company image?
Deiric McCann: Without a shadow of a doubt. As I said earlier, engaging people ultimately comes down to a genuine interest in helping them to achieve their goals and objectives (as they help the leader to achieve the organization’s goals and objectives).
The moment an employee senses that their leader is less interested in them and their objectives/welfare than the employee is in the organization’s obejctives, engagement begins to leak away. So, forget a negative leader, even a neutral leader can tarnish a brand image – by simply getting poorer results than those achieved by their peers in high-engagement organizations.
Of course, an actively negative leader will drive employees to become vocal outside of the workplace, and can have a really negative impact on the image. As soon as employees start ‘washing the organization’s dirty laundry’ in public, the brand image can decline quickly in a world where social media spreads any message overnight, particularly a negative message (somehow they spread more quickly), a brand image can go form hero to zero overnight.”
Interviewer: Do you have to be in an executive/leadership role to be a leader?
Deiric McCann: Absolutely not. Anyone who develops and works with the behaviors that drive leadership charisma will attract and motivate people to follow her/him, regardless of whether they have formal authority or not.
It is important that organizations be alert and ensure they remain open to identify and recruit such ‘charismatic leaders in the making’ – so they can put such individuals into leadership positions where they can develop as future leaders and engagers of employees.