Charisma, Leadership, and Execution

“Charisma is the result of effective leadership, not the other way around.”

— Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus
Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge


When we think of leadership, invariably we tend to think of those leaders with magnetic personalities and towering charisma, inspirational speeches and moments of greatness.  Charisma is something that is very hard to define, but everyone knows it when they see it.  But is having “it” truly necessary to be a great business leader? There is no question that it certainly doesn’t hurt.  But truly great bosses know that actions speak far louder than words.


You don’t have to make flashy headlines to be a leader.  Abraham Lincoln, Margaret Thatcher, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were tremendously charismatic, but it was the day-to-day tactics of consensus building, delegating authority, and managerial excellence that was the true reason for their success. In the end, the ultimate test of a leader’s skill is in accomplishments achieved, not people charmed.  Sure, rock-star CEOs like Jack Welch and Steve Jobs could captivate a packed room, but a mild-mannered personality combined with ruthless drive and efficiency has worked out fine for Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.


Personal charisma has never been a substitute for superior management skills, whereas competency and success will certainly have people taking notice regardless of personal appeal.  But being in a supervisor position still requires instruction and interaction with subordinates.  How does a professional leader translate competency and strategic vision into the ability to lead others? That is the difference between personal charisma and executive charisma. And the good news is that executive charisma is a skill that can be developed and improved upon.


Executive trainer and founder of Benton Management Resources, D. A. Benton defines executive charisma as “the ability to gain effective responses from others by using aware actions and considerate civility in order to get useful things done.”  What this means is that when combined with the authority inherent in a leadership position and the success your strategic ideas have gained, simply treating people in a professional and respectful manner can do wonders for getting your team to follow your lead. The foundation for developing executive charisma starts with dependability, confidence, and honesty.




If employees can depend on their boss to act in an ethical manner, to treat others fairly, and to expect of themselves what they expect in others, then that boss has gone a long way to creating executive charisma. There is simply no greater way to ensure the loyalty and focus of your employees than to consistently and dependably stand by the core values and vision you wish to present.



If you don’t believe in your ideas or your team, how can you expect your subordinates to believe in them as well? While confidence levels may vary over time depending on many factors, including external ones outside your control, the team should never feel that what they are working toward is pointless or destined to fail. It is up to the executive to provide the team with the unwavering sense that the team, through whatever method, will be able to find a solution.



A forthright and direct boss will get much better results than one who keeps the staff in the dark. Bosses must be especially clear on what the expectations are for the employees.  In a stressful and fast-paced environment, such as most workplaces, an unpleasant but direct truth is much preferred over a confusing and misleading sugarcoating.  The only way to overcome most challenges is to face them head on. A leader is the one who identifies the problem and sets the team to fixing it.  


Leaders come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. The one common trait among successful leaders is the ability to get the job done.  By focusing on dependability, confidence, and honesty, even a boss who doesn’t have dazzling charisma can count on the loyalty and excitement from the team. 

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