Charismatic Leadership: Energizing for Empowerment

Charisma is the powerful personal quality that some people have that attracts and impresses other people. Not all successful leaders are charismatic but some successful leaders are, in addition, charismatic too. Charisma could occasionally be a family legacy but in most cases that does not, by itself, make for sustainable charisma. Charisma is not a skill that can be acquired or honed. It is an intrinsic aspect of one’s personality that is part genetic and part developed over the years. Transactional leaders cannot be charismatic leaders. Transformational leaders, though not necessarily all, tend to become charismatic leaders. Charismatic leaders tend to be the natural products of a context in which their capabilities and values resonate with the larger organization, developing a strong emotional and psychological bond between the leaders and their followers. Trust and credibility are the key pillars that reinforce charisma. Charismatic leaders are open to self-sacrifice, self-evaluation, self-correction, and even self-atonement. As a result, charisma is not related to position or power. Charisma endures even if leaders do not seek power or even if they exit positions of power.

A charismatic leader can be electrifying and energizing for the organization. Whether he or she would, in fact, be empowering or enslaving is the determinant of success of organizations under charismatic leaders. As with most leadership factors which act as strengths as well as weaknesses, charisma also acts both ways. Charismatic leaders need to constantly evaluate whether their charisma inspires others to greater creativity and productivity or just keeps others spellbound, looking for constant guidance and direction. An organization’s interests are better served when the hope and energy unleashed by a charismatic leader are channelled systemically and systematically by a companion leader towards creativity and productivity.   The charismatic leader has yet another responsibility; he or she needs to be equally charismatic when leading large gatherings, managing small teams, or interacting individually. The elements of charisma may vary across the three settings but the core characteristic of leading based on the leader’s unique differentiators, listening with empathy, and responding with assurance would remain the same. Charisma that is built on competencies and values, and reinforced by empathy and responsiveness tends to be invigorating and empowering. The journey of charismatic leaders is a continuous one of self-evaluation and self-actualization for the broader benefit of organizations and societies they represent and lead.

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The Theory of Decisiveness: Ten Principles of Decisive Leadership

Leadership has many traits to enable and support. Reference may be made to the author's post, "Leadership Qualities and Skills: Opportunities, Challenges and Enigmas", Strategy Musings, November 6, 2010 ( Amongst such several traits, decision making, or decisiveness, is a key trait; so much so, decisive leadership is referred to as a distinct category of leadership. Decisiveness is the ability to take decisions quickly, perceptively, and firmly. Decisiveness does not mean taking random or snap decisions. Decisiveness means, in leadership practice, taking considered decisions. Leadership is all about converting a vision into reality through an organization, which requires decisions to be made by leaders all the time.

While there are several leadership styles, leaders are required to be decisive in all the styles. Only the style of decision making varies across leadership styles. Apart from being focused and agile in decision making based on available information, one can be flexible (adaptive to situations), hierarchic (taking hierarchy-based decisions) or integrative (taking into account multiple points of view). The first approach makes use of little or minimal information while the last approach tends to get weighed down by enormous amount of data and information. The other two fall in between, based on the dynamics of context and the extent of hierarchy, respectively. While there could be other ways of linking decision making styles to overall leadership styles, decisiveness can be seen as being prompted by ten different dominant competencies.

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Hard Skills and Soft Skills: Differences Real or Unreal?

The way hard skills and soft skills are taught in educational institutions, the manner in which they are imparted by family and social ecosystems, and finally are updated by on-the-job experiences ironically run counter to the need to develop holistic business or corporate leadership. The managerial grid which advocates that leaders should have more of strategic skills and less of technical skills, or put in a different way more of soft skills and less of hard skills is deficient. A music conductor, however eminent, cannot afford to forget how the notes are written. A surgeon, the more eminent he or she is, the more skillful, technologically updated and behaviourally competent he or she must be. The requirements of the corporate C-suite are no different, and require technologically and behaviourally holistic and competent leaders.

The CEO and other C-suite leaders need to keep the technical and professional competencies as strong and updated as they have been at the beginning of the career. They must also have an appreciation of what soft skills can do to enhance leadership. Educational approaches and experiential strategies should not make hard skills easy to lose and soft skills difficult to acquire. Holistic executives and managers who are high on both hard skills and soft skills would support a C-suite bench that is far larger and richer than what India, Inc has at present. The enriched C-suite would be a great leading factor in India's quest for globalization. There would be a greater all-round entrepreneurial and big business development in the country and a greater emergence of Indian multinational corporations across the globe, as a result.

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