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  1. Wealth
January 3, 2013

Is Charisma Overrated in the Workplace?

By Spear's

The FT today discusses how to boost your charisma in the workplace, but is charisma overrated in business?

The quality unites Hitler and Churchill, but split Blair and Brown. Boris Johnson has bucket-loads of it, Cameron a little, Ed Miliband none at all. For a fleeting TV moment in early 2010, we thought Nick Clegg had it. Obama definitely has it.

The quality is of course charisma — the ability to persuade, convince, inspire trust and loyalty or — in Boris Johnson’s case — the ability to portray oneself as a bumbling buffoon requiring public indulgence, despite being fiercely intelligent and politically ruthless.

Many believe that charisma is something innate: you either have it or you don’t, but in fact many of the skills employed by charismatic leaders can be learned. The FT today discusses the benefits of charisma for managers in the modern workplace — when introducing a controversial HR policy, for example. The current theme in management ideas plays down the importance of ‘corporate stars’ in favour of teams, the article argues, but perhaps charismatic leadership is important in business after all.

There are of course times when charisma can be advantageous in business —  magnetic personalities may be at an advantage when it comes to attracting new partners and investors, or when forced to impose difficult decisions on teams.

But charisma isn’t everything — in fact, it isn’t always valued. Even in politics there are times when sober, diligent management is favoured over charismatic leadership: take the replacement of Berlusconi with Mario Monti for example. Just as in Italy changing economic circumstances prompted demand for a change in leadership style, the same can be true for business. Often qualities such as bullishness, vision, competence or sincerity can be considered far more important than charisma.

With business experts offering advice on how to ‘nurture charisma’ (the FT provides a list of charismatic qualities that can be learnt) come other risks too. When attempts to appear charismatic are too forced it can easily make you look like a lunatic: take Blair in the later years, or Gordon Brown’s gruesome PR smile. Were I a manager, I’d rather be considered a dry old stick than risk resembling Ricky Gervais’s character, David Brent, in the TV series The Office.

Above: Is this charismatic enough for you? David Brent dances for his colleagues in the office

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While it can’t possibly do any harm to be aware of how you present yourself to colleagues, and to focus on playing to your strengths, before listening to any management tips advising you to tweak your personality, I’d recommend always watching the video above first.
Read more by Sophie McBain

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