"How Do You Become a Charismatic Leader?"

Note: Last week I wrote about creating a strong presence as a leader and the 15 ways you can do that. This week I am going to focus on the 3 elements of charismatic leadership. Enjoy! As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/.

Contrary to what most of us think when prompted to describe a charismatic leader, charisma does not require being a flaming extrovert or even being naturally outgoing as introverts can practice charisma too. Charisma requires practicing certain skills that make others feel intelligent, impressive and interesting. Anyone can add these skills to their behavior.

Use Social Signals to Create Presence
The three working parts of any speaking exchange with a person or a group of people require the verbal, vocal and visual elements of speaking: being aware of the words you use, the tone of your voice and your facial expressions.

  • Verbal Awareness is critical because words improve the range and depth of personal and professional experience with others. When words are imprecise, improper, disorganized, ambivalent or inadequate the other person does not feel drawn into the conversation. Suggestions for using verbal mindfulness are to:

    1. Keep language simple and short.

    2. Use creative repetition of new content.

    3. Appeal to the senses of others by letting words visualize ideas.

  • Vocal Awareness is understanding how sound (such as tone, pitch and volume) impacts words themselves. According to Aristotle, it is not sufficient to know what one ought to say—one must also know how to say it. Some suggestions for using vocal mindfulness are:

    1. Use energy to talk as it displays enthusiasm.

    2. Avoid dropping the ends of words or trailing off at the end of a sentence.

    3. Alter the volume of your voice to keep the audience attentive.

    4. Use silent pauses to balance the sounds of your words and give the audience a chance to reflect.

  • Visual Awareness is understanding the visual impression you reveal to the other person and whether or not they see it as aligned to the verbal and vocal part of your message. Some things to remember include:

    1. Stand tall but not stiff.

    2. Relax your facial muscles and match expressions to the message content.

    3. Use gestures that best match the words.

          4. Maintain eye contact but don’t hold anyone's gaze longer than 5 seconds.

Use Passion and Energy to Create Credibility
1. Take real, not fake risks. Many bosses--like many people--try to stand out in superficial ways. Maybe they wear loud clothing or pursue unusual interests or publicly support popular initiatives. They try to stand out--and they choose easy ways to do so.

Great leaders do it the hard way. They take unpopular stands, not because they hope to stand out, but because they want to do the right thing. They take unpopular steps. They're willing to step outside business-as-usual to make things better.

They take real risks not for the sake of risk but for the sake of the reward they believe is possible. And by their example, they inspire others to take a risk to achieve what they believe is possible.

Great leaders inspire their employees to achieve their dreams: by words, by actions, and most important, by example. And, they do it with great passion and energy!

2. See opportunity in instability and uncertainty. Unexpected problems, unforeseen roadblocks, major crises--most bosses horde supplies, lock the doors, and try to wait out the storm.

Great leaders see a crisis as an opportunity. They know it's extremely difficult to make major changes, even necessary ones, when things are going relatively smoothly. They know reorganizing an operations team is much easier when a major customer jumps ship. They know creating new sales channels is much easier when a major competitor enters the market.

Great leaders see instability and uncertainty not as a barrier but as an enabler. They reorganize, reshape, and re-engineer to reassure, motivate, and inspire--and in the process make the organization much stronger. And, they do it with great passion and energy!

3. Believe the unbelievable. Most bosses try to achieve the achievable; that's why most goals and targets are incremental rather than inconceivable. Great leaders expect more--from themselves and from others. Then they show us how to get there. And they bring us along for what turns out to be an unbelievable ride. And, they do it with great passion and energy!

4. Wear your emotions on your sleeves. Good bosses are professional. Great leaders are professional yet also openly human. They show sincere excitement when things go well. They show sincere appreciation for hard work and extra effort. They show sincere disappointment--not in others, but in themselves.

In short, great leaders are people, and they treat their employees like people, too. And, they do it with great passion and energy!

5. Save others from onrushing buses. Even good bosses sometimes throw employees under the bus. Great leaders never throw employees under the bus.

Great leaders see the bus coming and pull their employees out of the way, often without the employee's knowing until much, much later (if ever--because great leaders never seek to take credit).

When someone volunteers to take a bullet on our behalf they inspire incredible loyalty. And, they do it with great passion and energy!

6. Go there, do that, and still do that. Dues aren't paid (past tense); dues get paid each and every day. The true real measure of value is the tangible contribution a person makes on a daily basis.

That's why, no matter what they may have accomplished in the past, great leaders are never too good to roll up their sleeves, get dirty, and do the grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task ever too unskilled or boring. And, you guessed it; they do it with great passion and energy!

7. Lead by permission, not authority. Every boss has a title. That title gives them the authority to direct others, to make decisions, to organize and instruct and discipline. Great leaders don't lead because they have the authority to lead. They lead because their employees want them to lead. Their employees are motivated and inspired by the person, not the title.

Through their words and actions, they cause employees to feel they work with, not for, their leader. Many leaders don't even recognize there's a difference, but great leaders do. And, once again, they do it with great passion and energy!

8. Embrace a larger purpose. A good boss works to achieve company goals. A great leader works to achieve company goals and to serve a larger purpose: to advance the careers of employees, to make a real difference in the community, to rescue struggling employees, to instill a sense of pride and self-worth in others.

Great leaders embrace a larger purpose--and help their employees embrace a larger purpose--because they know business isn't just business. Business is personal.

You Must Have a Great Communication Strategy.....and Some Tools, too!
Charismatic leaders are those people who are able to get listeners to synchronize to their rhythm and reason through their use of language, timing, and repetition - communication techniques - that can be learned and practiced. Researchers claim that charismatic people are larger than life with broad gestures and grand imagery, using more than twice as many metaphors as found in typical conversations. Metaphors are important because they help understanding; the best metaphors create a visual image in the minds of the listener that has emotional content, as well as explanation to which the hearer can relate.

Nuts and Bolts of a Great Communication Strategy So, you have a great idea and it is going to have a real impact for the people that work with you. You are totally bought into it. How do you get the other people you care about - the endorsers, makers and deliverers of your ideas who will turn it into a product or service - to buy into it too?

   1. Why must we do this?. Tell your staff about the ‘Why?’ of your idea: which means you need to understand the Why? of it for yourself too.

   2. What does it look like after we implement this idea? Paint a picture with words of what the future will look like after you have implemented the new idea.

   3. What is my part in this plan? Remember that your staff are meeting to hear about your idea wondering, ‘What's in this for me?’ This is because each member of your staff will be trying to meet their need to feel secure about income, position, workload, travel etc. When you understand your staff’s fears, then you are empowered to talk about them. When you really address those fears for people, you unblock the obstacles they are placing in the way of moving forward.

   4. What's the plan to achieve this idea? Having set things in motion to turn your idea into reality, as a great leader you are asking your staff to help you to find the best way to make it work. You are asking each of them to bring their problem-solving creativity, based on their unique expertise, to the table.

Can I Do This?  Most everyone can learn the skills of how to be a charismatic leader. Learning how to speak, when to speak, and the way to speak is a matter of education, training, and practice. Eloquence is an asset, but not a necessity. It is much more important to be sincere and understandable. Professional speakers often pretend that they are speaking to a single person in their audience, being sure that every idea, every phrase has meaning and resonance with their audience of one. This skill comes with practice.

Must I Do This? Yes! As a foundation of charisma, the ability to communicate effectively is essential in all relationships, whether it is with your family, social, or professional.

Next week: Change Starts in the Middle