5 Rationales for not Factoring Charisma When Hiring for a Leadership position

Cautionary Tales about Charismatic Leaders

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According to trait approach AKA “great man” theory, Charisma of a person
is a great indicator for his/her success as a leader (Northouse, 2015).
While we have plenty of examples in modern and ancient history of great
leaders who had captured the attention of communities, nations, and
sometimes the entire world through their charismatic characters. When it
comes to organizational leaders, I venture to assert that Charisma by
itself as a qualification/measure for effective leadership is a
dangerous notion for the following reasons:

1. Magic losses it’s meaning after the trick is reveled: leaders who rely heavily on charisma to achieve tasks or motivate their followers are short on political capital. Followers will continually do right things right when they realize that their role in the organization is bigger than merely being props for the big kahuna.

2. Cult-personality is often deadly: you might want a likable person to lead, but you don’t want a workforce to follow blindly. If history has taught us one thing about cult-personality, we must be wary about gulping the Kool-Aid. Not only such leaders can go rogue, but also they have the power to bring the organization down.

3. Too much about the show doesn’t make it a good show: followers can spot the signs of a high-voltage leader when they see one. Energy spent is precious and must be directed to mastering the craft rather than polishing the leader’s image. A leader’s commitment needs to be to the quality of the organizational brand rather to making their name to be the brand.

4. Hyping central-casting leaders can be demoralizing: Doers, result-oriented, big-transactions leaders are respected and followed genuinely. When we ask followers to look at their leaders as role models, we are asking them to emulate their behaviors and skills. Charisma is neither a behavior nor a skill.

5. Personal success is contingent on others’ failure: Many charismatic leaders are drawn to the limelight and they get their energy by hoarding attention. Such behavior is not only stifling to others’ development, but it can be sabotaging to followers’ success. In many cases, charismatic leaders are only concerned about having their moment in the sun at the expense of others.

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