Are You a Highly Charismatic Person? Science Says You Might Be Seen as an Ineffective Business Leader

  • December 6, 2017
  • by:Serhat Pala

This article originally appeared on Inc.

When thinking about what traits a good leader has, charisma is right up there at the top. You may have a brilliant business mind, but if you can’t grab a microphone and sway an audience to share your vision, you’ll have a hard time leading a business.

But, researchers have just found that being too charismatic can actually be a bad thing for leadership. In a study published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” researchers from Ghent University, the University of Antwerp, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Kaiser Leadership Solutions found that leaders who are seen as highly charismatic may also be seen as less effective at leading a business.

This is because rallying people to believe in your vision is much different than running the day-to-day operation of that vision once it’s realized and that’s where overly charismatic people can falter.

The researchers studied 800 business leaders around the world from all levels of management and talked with 7,500 of those business leaders’ peers, subordinates and superiors. They found that people’s perception of a leader’s charisma increased along with their perception of that leader’s effectiveness, but only up to a certain point (the 60th percentile). If a leader’s charisma was seen as going beyond that point (just above the average for working adults), people’s perception of the leader’s effectiveness actually started to decline.

Tellingly, leaders who perceived themselves as highly charismatic also perceived themselves to be highly effective, meaning they remain unaware of their own ineffectiveness.

More strategic, less operational

Leaders who were perceived to be highly charismatic were seen to engage in more strategic behavior and less operational behavior, meaning they concentrated more on the overall business strategy than the day-to-day running of their businesses.

“Highly charismatic leaders may be strategically ambitious, but this comes at the expense of getting day-to-day work activities executed in a proper manner, which can hurt perceived effectiveness,” the researchers said in a recent article about the study.

While charismatic leaders tended to fail at being methodical in getting things accomplished in the near-term, non-charismatic leaders were also perceived to be ineffective, just for different reasons. They were seen to be ineffective because they failed at long-term planning, seeing a big picture perspective, questioning the status quo and encouraging innovation.

So, clearly leaders need to walk a fine line between being seen as lacking charisma and having too much of it. Let’s look at four behaviors to watch out for and then how you can straddle that line to stay in the “just enough” zone of charisma.

1. Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is a must in a leadership role, but, as the researchers point out, too much self-confidence in highly charismatic people can often turn into overconfidence and outright narcissism.

2. Persuasiveness

A must in business when attracting investors and getting people on board with your vision, in highly charismatic people, this can morph into outright manipulative behavior.

3. Enthusiasm

To get people excited about your vision, you have to be an exciting person. However, if you’re too exciting, you could easily start being an attention seeker who ultimately distracts from your business.

4. Creativity

Highly charismatic people are usually really creative, but if they allow their creativity to run a little too wild, it might turn into eccentricity. And while being a little eccentric isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you’re known more for your idiosyncrasies than your leadership, it could distract from your organization.

What you can do if you’re too charismatic.

As stated earlier, highly charismatic people tend to think they are more effective than they are perceived by their peers and colleagues to be, meaning they aren’t going to know when they’re being ineffective.

To counteract this, the researchers suggest enrolling in business coaching programs that focus on shoring up potential operational weaknesses in your business that you might not notice.

They also suggest highly charismatic leaders seek out personal development programs that can help raise their self-awareness and improve their self-regulation, things they tend to lack.

Most importantly, leaders should always be getting feedback from their peers and colleagues on their effectiveness to prevent any gaps in how they perceive their effectiveness versus how others perceive it. Needless to say, this feedback would probably be best gathered anonymously.

When it comes to business leaders, charisma is obviously a good thing, but steps might have to be taken to counteract it if you have too much of that good thing.

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