Charisma: You don’t have to be born with it, to lead with it

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Tactics of charismatic leaders

George Banks and Janaki Gooty, associate professors in the Department of Management in the Belk College of Business, are scholars on topics ranging from developing relationships and managing emotions to authentic, ethical and charismatic leadership styles.

Banks and Gooty, and the Belk College of Business, are at the forefront of cutting-edge scientific research to better understand the specific behaviors effective leaders use to gain workers’ support toward a shared vision and commitment. They are using big data and employing machine learning to objectively measure leaders’ effectiveness free of individual bias and audience perceptions.  

Companies can leverage this research to train their teams to be more effective in delivering a vision, promoting hope and optimism and building effective relationships via emotion management. Banks and Gooty are presenting “Demystifying Charismatic Leadership,” a half-day workshop offered by UNC Charlotte Executive Education on Friday, Feb. 7.

Why is it important to research leadership styles, such as charismatic leadership?

Leadership, more than any other human capital, is intuitively believed to be associated with success. This is illustrated via the sustained performance and longevity of firms that had great leaders, like Jack Welch at GE, Elon Musk at Tesla, legendary basketball coach John Wooden or Bill Gates at Microsoft.

Leadership provides vision and creates hope and optimism regarding a more desirable future regardless of where a firm might be. This notion has been labeled the romance of leadership, and thus leadership has been of interest to philosophers, scientists, motivational gurus alike since the dawn of human history. Charisma in particular is the “it” factor, and thus draws the attention of scientists and CEOs alike.

What do leaders like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk have in common? Is it a natural gift? Is it training? 

Many claim that it is their charisma. Long-believed to be a natural gift, charisma can be learned and expressed through specific leadership behaviors known as Charismatic Leadership Tactics (CLTs) that are the focus of Executive Education at the Belk College of Business. 

Because charismatic leadership often is associated with strong personalities, you note that your research focuses on Charismatic Leadership Tactics to help educate and train individuals to be more charismatic. What are some examples of these tactics?

Rhetorical questions are one tactic. Why is this effective? They create anticipation and engagement. For example, John F. Kennedy, in accepting the Democratic nomination for president in July 1960, asked “Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question.”

Stories/anecdotes are another effective tactic. They make messages more memorable through visualization and/or emotions. Consider this quote from Ronald Reagan, “Government is like a baby: an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

Can I learn to be a charismatic leader?

Yes, everyone can learn to be a charismatic leader! Whether you’re already very charismatic or not, anyone and everyone can apply charismatic leadership tactics to improve the extent to which they are perceived to be charismatic on a daily basis!

What else should we know about leadership? 

Charismatic leadership is one way of leading—increasingly we live in a world where people demand integrity and agility. We seek out leaders who have a strong core of values and act/live by it as well as leaders who can appeal to the diverse workforce. In this regard, we are at the forefront of theoretical and empirical research in ethical leadership and the “the future of leadership,” which gets at the agility factor. This cutting-edge work focuses on building theoretical models of leadership that are free of bias and testing via machine learning/data science techniques. 

banksBanks completed a Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University. His research scholarship has appeared in numerous academic journals including Science, Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Management, and Journal of Applied Psychology. He was the recipient of the 2017 Sage Publications/CARMA Early Career Award from the Research Methods Division of the Academy of Management. Prior to UNC Charlotte, he worked as a consultant for HRinterax Inc. (Shelton, Connecticut) and Human Technology, Inc. (McLean, Virginia).

GootyGooty earned a Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University. Her research has appeared in elite leadership and research methods outlets such as Organizational Research Methods, Journal of Management and Leadership Quarterly. Currently, she is associate editor at Leadership Quarterly and president-elect of the Southern Management Association.