Tuesday, December 8, 2009

First Time - Part 8: Charisma

This is part 8 of in a series of short essays on fundamentals of leadership. While it is drafted for those who have just moved into their first leadership position, I hope there is a little something in here for the most practiced of leaders, a ‘getting back to basics’ that everyone needs every now and then.

By now you’ve noticed one or two folks in your organization who have something ‘extra,’ some spark, that makes people sit up and take notice. It seems to draw people in, makes everything they say or do seem so much more effective and more important, no matter what it is. Folks call it charisma.

What is Charisma? The word comes from the Greek kharis, which means favor or grace, and dictionaries will tell you that charisma is personal charm or grace, particularly when it is used to persuade others. Frankly, that doesn’t really tell me much.

From what I have seen, charisma actually is one “simple” thing: it is ‘passion communicated.’

Take a look at the great coaches, and then listen to the players they coached: you invariably end up with the same stories from the players: stories about how the coach may have understood the game (football, basketball, etc.) but the thing they remember was how he brought all the players together and motivated them, how he took a bunch of individuals and made a team.

That’s charisma. It’s a passion that is so complete that it overcomes all the obstacles in your way, your unease with speaking in front of large groups is forgotten, the fear that you may be on the wrong path is swept aside, the concern that you may not be able to actually do what you have planned turns into a challenge.

When someone becomes truly passionate about their goals, they focus their energies, they study harder, they devote themselves to their goals. Their goals become part of their lives, and, in a very real sense they no longer work, rather they are consumed by their goals and it can’t be defined as work.

That passion is not only all consuming, it can be quite infectious. In some areas those with a passion are called ‘geeks,’ think of a comic book convention. But, arguably, all great leaders had something in common with those we often label as ‘geeks:’ they too had an all consuming passion, something that keeps them up late at night, that gets them up in the morning; they are always talking about it, and always want to talk with you about it.

Fans of any sport sense this in the great athletes: not only is the athlete’s performance remarkable, the commitment to that performance, and to winning, the passion for the sport, is communicated in everything act of the great athletes.

As a life long hockey fan, having grown up in Boston, I, like millions of others, was always struck by how Bobby Orr could rally the team without saying anything. Watching him play hockey, even 40 years later, you can see his passion and you can see his teammates feed off that passion.

So – find your passion. Even if the organization you are in is not your passion, bring your passion into your work – connect to your passion through your work, your leadership. Become ‘invested’ – go back to Maslow: move beyond ‘survival,’ move up the pyramid. How far? Great leadership demands that you be at the level of self-actualization.

Now, once there, you need to communicate that passion to others. You are self actualized, and you need to get them to buy into your self-actualization, you need to communicate your passion – in words and in deeds. Put on the mask of leadership and leave it on.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home