Wired for Success

How to fulfill your potential

Are We Seeing the End of Charismatic Leadership?

Charismatic leaders may be a liability

We may be reaching watershed in our attraction to charismatic leaders, at least the ones where style and charm without substance no longer have an appeal.

Tomas Charmoro-Premuzic, writing in the Harvard Business Review blog, contends “In the era of multimedia politics, leadership is commonly downgraded to just another form of entertainment and charisma is indispensable for keeping the audience engaged.” He goes on to describe the dark side of charismatic leadership, claiming it: Dilutes judgment; is addictive; disguises psychopaths; and fosters collective narcissism.

Samuel Bacharach, a professor of management at Cornell University’s Institute of Workplace Studies, argues charisma is not necessarily the litmas test of leadership. Rather he says, “leaders are defined by their actions and ability to execute.”

Elena Shesternina, writing an article titled “The End of a Charismatic Era,” in The World Economic Journal, contends “with government officials slowly being replaced by technocrats, it would appear that Europe’s era of charisma and charm is a thing of the past,” citing the examples of bureaucrats gaining power in France and Italy.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Management guru Jim Collins writing in his personal blog, argues “the charismatic-leader model has to die.” He contends a charismatic leader “is not an asset; it’s a liability companies have to recover from.” A company’s long-term health requires a leader who can infuse the company with its own sense of purpose instead of his or hers, Collins argues.

Management expert Rosabeth Moss Kanter, writing in the Harvard Business Review, regarding self-defeating behaviors that ruin companies and careers, argues many leaders fail because of greed and selfishness; a lack of emotional self-control; and a lack of integrity and ethics. These behaviors and characteristics are certainly found more commonly in charismatic and extraverted leaders than in introverted leaders.

In my work with CEOs and other senior leaders in organizations, I’ve found invariably it’s the over-the-top charismatic extroverted leader who gets into trouble either personally or gets the organization into difficulty. So while there is a natural and historical attraction to the charismatic leaders who can inspire others with an emotional vision and connect with charm, the long-term impact in terms of relationships and execution becomes questionable.

Ray Williams is the author of Breaking Bad Habits and The Leadership Edge.

more...

Subscribe to Wired for Success

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.