People don’t make a star out of you. Opportunities make a star out of you.
That’s the most important aspect of maturing into a leader that others look up to.
Just look around and you’ll find tons of individuals with oodles of talent and promise clueless on how to progress to the next step in their careers: Of stepping into a leadership position.
So many people who possess most of the skills and qualities they need to make it big in their chosen professions are often debilitated by a perceived lack of ‘guidance’.
Having a ‘mentor’ is perceived these days as somewhat of a necessity in progressing to a leadership position within the same organization or otherwise.
“But how will I come to learn the intricacies of my job as a leader if I don’t have someone to ‘mentor’ me or ‘guide’ me until I have found my feet in my new role?” complained a friend of mine recently who is a Software Architect seeking to move higher in the product division in her company but finding it difficult to do so.
The idea that you need someone to teach you how to be a leader so you can then find the confidence to take up a leadership position is flawed at best.
While we don’t endorse the idea that leaders are born not made, we also find the idea that leadership is something you need a manual, guide, book our course to understand, preposterous.
Why is that?
It’s because some of the most charismatic leaders that history has produced have been individuals who were not even expected to become leaders. They were ‘wildcards’ that burst on the scene and lead with a definitive sense of ‘purpose’ that was infectious and intimidating at the same time.
Granted. These individuals have an X factor that is hard to ‘spot’ or recognize by others unless they possess the same trait.
However, what we need to learn from their style of leadership is the right attitude to command respect and discipline once you assume that post even if by accident.
You know what the magic ingredient is?
The magic ingredient that launches you into the hall of fame of leadership irrespective of whether you received the right mentoring, coaching or guidance?
Now ‘charisma’ is something that cannot be taught. That I certainly believe in.
It’s because much of one’s ‘charisma’ is derived from a unique signature of execution style that varies from person to person.
‘Charisma’ can however be ‘developed’ by tapping into the innate talents one does possess and shamelessly upholding ones authentic style even in the face of great criticism.
Here are 5 ways that this article seeks to share with you the secrets to becoming a charismatic leader:
#1 Charismatic leaders are highly dependable
Charismatic leaders aren’t always firmly in ‘official’ leadership positions. However, by virtue of their innate talents at problem solving, they are often the de facto leaders when it comes to mitigating crises and solving conflicts.
Charismatic leaders inspire the perceived halo of being special by always keeping the best interests of the organization as priority when taking action.
They are not hungry for recognition because they are very secure about what they bring to the table.
They don’t care about immediate gratification or compensation because they have sufficient confidence in their abilities to create better opportunities for themselves.
These are the kind of people who as part of a team, will help others do what they do better so that the team’s performance can improve. Their expertise and eagerness to share comes from a deep knowledge of their chosen field and a devotion towards their craft. These individuals are often eternal students.
Ultimately this trait is recognized and sought out by immediate and allied team members who seek to learn from and grow with these people.
Elon Musk is probably one of the best examples of a ‘hands on’ charismatic leader. He isn’t shy of sleeping in the factory when things are tight. He isn’t shy of being the fall guy when having to take tough decisions in a new business strategy. He is looked up to for solutions and answers that others in the team aren’t talented enough to find sometimes.
#2 Charismatic leaders are good communicators.
‘Communication’ is often thought of as speaking or writing skills.
While that may be true, the true ‘gauge’ of good communication has more to do with the content that is being communicated.
In this sense, you may be a German native in an Australian team but you are still the best communicator in that team because you strive to bridge knowledge gaps in the processes.
For example a charismatic software engineer would be one who tries their best to maintain extensive documentations and commenting in their code so that others working on it can learn from it and grow.
Charismatic leaders are very transparent and seek to maintain that transparency as much as possible to ensure members don’t feel ‘left out’ in the dark.
The egotistical need that many manipulative leaders possess of ‘withholding information’ to maintain control and project an illusion of power actually stands challenged by such individuals.
This is why they are so good at inspiring trust in their teammates.
Why? Well ask yourself who would you rather follow/ count on in times of crises.. a person who hides important things from you or a person who is open about what they know and don’t know?
Atal Behari Vajpayee is probably one of the best examples of a leader who lead from the front with his meticulous communication that often worked to bridge differences between polarizing opinions on the parliament. He was able to achieve a feat few are in their lifetime: Respect from rivals and followers alike.
#3 Charismatic leaders challenge the status quo
At the risk of sounding cliched, the famous quote that says “An expert hits a target in the bull’s eye and a genius hits a target others can’t see” holds true here.
Charismatic leaders usually have a great deal of knowledge about their chosen field and therefore a heightened sense of creative vision on what can be.
Since they always hold the welfare of the organization and the development of their field of work higher than anything else, they strive for constant improvement.
In this process they may sometimes be disliked by traditional forces within the organization however their confidence in their abilities allow them to take risks that others will shy away from.
Even if they find themselves facing opposition in the short term, it is not unanticipated. Charismatic leaders will often push for necessary changes for the better even if they anticipate major opposition in the short term.
Ultimately this is what leads to them inspiring massive loyalty.
Steve Jobs is the best example of a leader who stuck to a vision that was very disruptive and ambitious yet highly achievable. He lead with the idea of building a personal computer when nobody could even imagine the utility of having one. He stuck to the idea of not investing further in developing the Apple 2 but building a new platform (that later became the ‘Mac’), even though it lead to him being fired from his own company. Ultimately not having Jobs on board was invariably pushing Apple to failure and he was brought back on board by buying the company he created after leaving Apple.
#4 Charismatic leaders are thick skinned.
This is probably one trait that can be quite controversial.
It is however an important one.
Heard of the famous quote: “Lions do not concern themselves with the opinion of sheep”?
Yes that applies here.
Charismatic leaders usually aren’t the type of individuals one can be indifferent to. They are either are massively loved or equally abhorred.
That’s because they are fearless in the expression of their authenticity and always aware of the fact that things can change anytime.
Charismatic leaders are optimistic realists.
This is why they are able to anticipate key challenges before they show up in the physical reality but also back themselves to tackle problems that are unanticipated.
Such people motivate others as well in their team to develop their talents and problem solving skills. This helps the team or the organization become better but it also gives rise to many conflicting voices and dissent in the chosen approach to an issue.
However, with as deep an understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses, as charismatic leaders possess, they know where and how to tune out the noise and back their judgement on key matters.
Lady Diana, Princess of Wales is a great example of charismatic leadership that came from being firmly rooted in one’s authenticity. Diana earned mass fame, popularity and love owing primarily to her attitude of being herself even in the face of opposition, criticism and judgement. She broke a lot of traditional rules, conventions and barriers in the pursuit of building a deeper connection with the masses.
#5 Charismatic leaders never hog the limelight
The fact that charisma invariably always leads you back to the limelight is not a reflection on the individual’s need to seek the same.
Charismatic leaders prefer to let their work do the talking rather than going out and actively demanding credit or recognition.
They are proud of what they helped create and are constantly striving to do more and create more.
Charismatic leaders are very special because they continuously inspire leadership in their team members, peers and followers.
Even if they can often have their idiosyncrasies, charismatic leaders constantly demand more of themselves and their people and work on bridging that growth curve with a lot of work. They are often perfectionists who can see the flaws clearly but are optimistic on how to fix them with novel solutions.
When you work ceaselessly in this fashion, it can be quite humbling. Charismatic leaders are well aware that they could just as easily have been the one to accept responsibility for a failure and are therefore quick to be inclusive in success.
However the most interesting aspect of their ‘charismatic’ attitude is being pushed to embrace publicity and recognition by their teams and organizations who recognize them as one of the best among them.
They don’t dwell too much on current accomplishments as they are constantly focused on the development of the larger vision.
MS Dhoni is a living legend when it comes to showcasing how to take the backseat and allow the team to bask in the glory of success. He is one who stands out in this regard because as a leader he has probably enjoyed more success than any others in a any field. You never see him hogging the limelight or taking credit. Even though everyone knows he is the mind behind the successes, he enjoys being in the shadows.
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Jawaharlal Nehru, the first PM of India was once asked what would be his legacy once he’s gone? “Hopefully 400 million people capable of leading themselves” he answered.
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