Are you a tad dull? It’s OK — you can still lead!

If you aren’t the most popular person at the cocktail party, don’t fret

Good news for those who have more stuff than fluff! “More is better” is a flawed assumption when it comes to charisma in leaders. Moderate amounts of charisma can benefit those in leadership, but at a certain point, too much charisma is a detriment to effectiveness.*

I’ve worked with and coached many leaders and have a bias for those who are engaging and able to inspire others to action. These skills are a function of innate personality for some. Others work hard to hone the specific attributes that make them more charismatic.

I’ve also seen and worked with effective executives who didn’t light up the room with their mere presence. Intelligence, compassion, self-awareness and control are more effective than bluster.

The study previously referenced identifies that charisma enhances effectiveness, but only to a point. And at that point, it’s negatively correlated with effectiveness.

If you already have your significant allocation of charisma, read another one of my blogs about how to lead and manage effectively. If, however, you’re more tofu than sizzling steak, take heart. You don’t need to become Steve Jobs to be effective. In fact, trying too hard is counterproductive.

Part of true charisma is having something to say that people respond to. Start there. A compelling vision and strategy give you rich ground to till to engage your people.

Effective leaders speak in metaphors and tell stories. Both are learnable. You can tap in to passion, and there are activities you can learn and rehearse to hold people’s attention more readily.

The bottom line is to work on showing enthusiasm, listening, speaking and writing, but don’t think you have to be the life of the party to be successful. A leader who can clearly articulate a direction and ensure effective execution will outshine the $5,000 empty suit over the long haul.


*  “The Double-Edged Sword of Leader Charisma: Understanding the Curvilinear Relationship Between Charismatic Personality and Leader Effectiveness.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2017.

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