So much has been written, so much research has been conducted on the topic, but no simple model of Charismatic Leadership has been developed in all those years. Until now. The reason why it hasn’t been done before is most probably the respect for that characteristic that is called the “Gift of Grace” – “Charisma”.
But if you can study it, you can unveil its mystery. And that is the case with Charisma, the most powerful force of change that exists in the human world.
Having worked with the principles of Charisma for more than 20 years, and seeing how much that “competence” is needed in leaders today, I thought the time has come to provide a simple model that could be followed by everybody who decides to lead in a charismatic way. Nota bene: it doesn’t take the effort out of the work, but it makes it at least feasible.
The 5-Finger-Model of Charismatic Leadership:
The following concept relies on research conducted by Sandy Pentland at the MIT (i.e. „We can measure Charisma“ and „To Signal is Human“) and the most extensive research on Charismatic Leadership by Jay A. Conger and Rabindra Kanungo, starting already in the late 90ies.
Charismatic Leadership consists of the following 5 elements :
- Being able to develop a vision: „The next big thing“
- Ability to inspire through communication
- Trust and expertise
- Stimulating extraordinary engagement in staff and follower
How do these elements build upon one another and what is their position in the 5-Finger-Model?
“Develop a Vision/ The Next Big Thing”: the FOREFINGER
This is the foundational element of Charismatic Leadership. Without the ability to look beyond the status quo, to see what will come, to feel what lingers yet unnoticed, no Charismatic Leadership is possible. The question is whether you are just working a brick or whether you are building a catherdral instead. Being a visionary comes easier to some and harder to others, but is its definitely a competence that can and must be developed.
“Inspiring through communication”: FOREFINGER plus MIDDLE FINGER
Only if you manage to seize your vision in words that inspire, it will gain momentum and become powerful. Your vision has to become the VICTORY – vision for everybody on the team. There is a lot to say about communication but if I would need to boil it down to the most important factors, there are only 4: Simple, Positive, Tangible, Fully Present.
“Trust & Expertise”: assigned to the LITTLE FINGER
What we mean here, is not the “certainty” of the one who knows everything. What we mean here is what Madleine Albright, legendary US Foreign Minister, called the “CONFIDENT” leader. “I prefer a confident leader over a certain leader.” A leader therefore, that feels so much trust in his/her own expertise and knowledge that he/she can let go of it and look around for new options.
Only if you are able to overcome your own boundaries of thinking and acting you can become a rolemodel in doing so and help people to jump over their own boundaries. In Charismatic Leaders, that “overcoming your own boundaris” has a touch of elegance and lightness. It even looks like fun.
Yes, also this is a competence one can develop. But it certainly needs courage.
“Empowerment”: symbolised by the THUMB turned upwards
The 4th element of Charismatic Leadership is the ability to empower the people you work with. And empowerment come with a feeling of self-efficacy. That is knowing that my actions count. Charismatic Leaders have the task to empower their people by showing their thumb of “I LIKE” as much as possible – in a concrete way as well as metaphorically speaking.
“Stimulating extraordinary engagement”: assigned to the RING FINGER
We close with the RING FINGER as the symbol of engagement. If you want people to “become engaged” with you, you need to show them that you are the one they want to “belong” to. It means being present, being a role model, being somebody they want to follow through all ups and downs.
Start Exercising with the following 5 Questions:
By the help of your 5 fingers you can exercise yourself daily in building your Charismatic Leadership Competence:
- FOREFINGER: Do you see what is possible? Do you see the bigger picture? (the cathedral instead of the brick?)
- FOREFINGER + MIDDLE FINGER: Are you communicating your vision as the “victory vision”, attractive enough to be followed?
- LITTLE FINGER: Are you so confident in your own expertise that you are able to let go of all certainty and find new paths?
- THUMB UP: Are you finding ways to empower your people, daily?
- RING FINGER: And when you look at yourself in the evening: are you the person you would want to become engaged with?
You are interested to develop your own Charismatic Leadership Competence OR the Charismatic Leadership Potential in your team? Contact me.
This post is also available in: German