Business leaders – don’t worry if you’re not the life of the party

"Charisma is a distraction to good management. You don't need to have the personality of a Steve Jobs, Richard Branson or Jack Welch to lead a business. Most successful businesses are run by people who are quiet and persistent," said Mark Faust, President of Echelon Management International, based in Cincinnati. He has been consulting with CEOs on strategy and effectiveness for more than 25 years.

"Charismatic leadership is a dangerous fad, and 'leadership charisma' is not a sustainable basis for successfully building a company or managing any type of organisation," says Faust who consults on leadership issues for companies in the high-tech, defense and agriculture industries amongst others.

"When a team or community surrenders to a charismatic leader, they are surrendering their own responsibilities and thus their freedoms," said Faust. "Companies as well as communities should follow a process, not throw hope behind an individual. They should follow logic, not charisma. They should follow dialog, not speeches."

"Washington and Lincoln were not known for their charisma. But they were known for earning and giving respect. They didn't dictate as presidents. They managed," said Faust.

Faust says leaders should help their teams to continuously refine their individual and organisational objectives. This skill of facilitative management or of "Socratic Leadership" is often the most effective approach for many organisations.

Here are three steps Faust suggests managers use to help their organisation eschew the lure of charismatic leadership:

  1. Work with the team to clarify goals – quarterly not annually. Faust's company helps companies build growth strategy, uses an online assessment that takes input from all employees and management on a quarterly basis. His company also interviews customers to ensure all stakeholders are part of the strategy process. Ironically most companies forget to involve the customer in strategy.
  2. Take responsibility. Don't feel threatened by ambitious subordinates but celebrate their triumphs with them. Don't point blame on others but understand that responsibility ultimately lies with you. "Be the anti-Donald Trump," quips Faust. "Give your team as much involvement and credit as appropriate, both in planning and in celebrating success."
  3. "Earn trust by being consistent. Managers must clarify and reinforce the values of the organisation. Too many CEOs write values for the walls but fail to walk them out in the halls," he says.


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