When serving as a leader, being human is important. Leaders are not directing and guiding machines. Peter F. Drucker said, "Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people,’ that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations."
To pull the best out of people, you sometimes have topush them out of their comfort zone. This is not always the popular thing to do, even though it is the right thing to do. Charisma does not usually have that effect.
- In Jim Collins book, Good to Great, he analyzed 1,435 good companies. Of that, only 11 corporations qualified as great. In those 11 companies, he highlighted the CEO. In all of the 11 the great enterprises, the CEO was a level 5 leader. Level 5 leaders were not charismatic. They were, however, very effective. When they left the organization, their successor continued building a great organization. In the good companies that had charismatic leaders, the company had a void when the CEO left and floundered. Furthermore, Peter Drucker said the charismatic leader is a US phenomenon. He did not find them in other businesses around the world. And he said they were less effective leaders.
- While it is easy to say military leadership is command and control, it is also an example of strong and effective leadership. In the military, the leader has to fulfill the mission through others. Because there is so much at stake, including the lives of people, charisma doesn’t serve as empowerment. It is the same in companies that have a lot at stake. Because there is so much at stake, military leadership is taken seriously, even if you don’t like the leader. Being a charismatic leader in the military could get your people killed.
- Whether done intentionally or by accident, charismatic leaders have a focus on being liked. They may also have an attitude of ‘it’s all about me’. This does not imply non-charismatic leaders are mean or are out to cause discomfort. The best leaders can be unreasonable SOBs. They ask people to accomplish things that, at first, seem impossible. That can be uncomfortable. At the same time, it creates professional and personal growth, not to mention revenue growth. To accomplish that, it cannot be about the leader. It is about employees and customers. Steve Jobs is an example of a CEO who asked employees to build technology that seemed crazy at first. And customers loved the final product.
- When a leader is charismatic, you may not know if he or she is giving you all the facts. This can create resentment amongst staff and management when tough decisions have to be made like cuts or divestitures. When Jack Welch was CEO of GE, he said every business unit had to be ranked number 1 or 2 in its respective industry. If not, you would be sold off. He also fired the lowest 5% of performers. These tactics gave him the name ‘Neutron Jack’. While some may not have liked his style, without question, you could count on him to be straight with you. The charismatic leader, on the other hand, might have a difficult time making such tough decisions after building affinity and popularity. If he or she does make the tough call, trust could be diminished.
While charisma is not a bad thing, from research, it is not the most effective style. Being liked can be a distraction from building a thriving enterprise. At the same time, I am not asserting that a ‘kick ass take names’ demeanor is an effective leadership style. There has to be a high level of focus on building a great culture with human beings and asking people to perform their job better than they would know how to do on their own. Otherwise, you may only be prince charming. By now, I’m sure everyone knows prince charming is just a fairy tale.
What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.