Tag Archives: charisma

Leadership – do you have what it takes?

LeaderNow is as good a time as ever to think about leadership, something sadly missing some might say in government and banking.

Research shows that as many as 10% of leaders could have narcissistic or sociopathic tendencies lurking behind a charming veneer. They are self-obsessed, leave a trail of casualties in their wake, and like Typhoid Mary are seemingly unaffected by their actions.

Organizational psychologist Kathy Schnure’s  research, presented at the 25th annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and reported in Management Issues, compared ratings of leadership potential for those who have high levels of narcissism to those who show low-to-average levels on the ‘narcissism scale’.

She found those displaying strong narcissistic tendencies – things like exploitation/entitlement, leadership/authority, superiority/arrogance, and self-absorption/self admiration – had a significantly higher rating of potential leadership abilities than those with low-to-average scores.

“Those results would indicate the vision, confidence and pride in their own accomplishments could presumably translate into effective leadership in an organization or team,” Schnure said. On the other hand, while narcissists do gain leadership roles, often based on their charisma and ability to persuade others to accept their point of view, some of the underlying traits, or dark sides” will eventually surface, preventing any “good” leadership,” she added.

Timothy Judge, an organizational psychologist at the University of Florida, says a prime example of this “dark side” is an overblown sense of self-worth

“Narcissists are intensely competitive, self-centered, exploitive and exhibitionistic. They tend to surround themselves with supplicants they see as inferior. When they are challenged or perceive competition, they often derogate and undermine anyone, even those closest to them, they perceive as threats (and unfortunately, they are vigilant in scanning for threats)“.

Schnure said  leaders who are charismatic are not necessarily narcissists. “Charismatic leaders are not exploitive; they do not trample others to get what they want. Rather they display empathy toward employees” she added.

And what about leaders who are described as “charismatic“, for example Obama or the late Steve Jobs at Apple? Rob Goffee, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School and co-author of  “Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?”, quoted in an article in The Times “It’s not all about being charismatic“, in 2009, thinks that strong leaders are good at developing disciples, but not successors.

“The people that make leaders charismatic are their followers. Barack Obama, for example, is clearly charismatic, but he’s also enigmatic. You can’t pin him down and so he allows us to project our dreams and hopes on to him.”

So just what does it take to be a leader? According to the Work Foundation there are 5 key skills:

  1. Seeing the bigger picture
  2. Understanding that talk is work
  3. Giving time and space to others
  4. Going through performance
  5. Putting “we” before “me”

Source: The Guardian article “Follow Your Leader?” 16/01/2010

And based on good practice and wide experience I also offer the following quick read: 10 ways to be a leader 10Ways2bALeader

First published 8 April 2010

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Narcissistic Leaders – it’s all about them

You have all met them and probably worked for one at some time, perhaps without realising. Initially they appear charming, seem competent, exude warmth, and often have a sense of humour. They are easily confused with extraverts and may even be considered charismatic. But in reality they dislike people, can become aggressive, are highly manipulative and can be a danger to others’ careers and well-being. We are talking about narcissists. I’ve posted about narcissistic leaders before but it’s a topic that keeps coming round. In everyday usage “narcissism” refers to inflated self-importance, egotism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness and we are seeing more of it every day and not just in the selfishness of bankers, with their undeserved bonuses. We see the sense of narcissistic entitlement exhibited by wanna-be pop stars and entertainers like Bruce Forsyth who said he had five years of torment wondering if he’d ever get a knighthood! We hear former WAG Nancy Dell’ Ollio’s comment that the TV show she had just been voted off would, without her, be “a Xmas tree without the lights“. You get the picture. It’s all about them. But it’s not just the City and showbiz. Students today are reportedly 40% less empathetic than they were 20 or 30 years ago. The current “Generation Me” is more narcissistic, self-centred and competitive and less concerned with other people’s feelings. One in four Americans in their 20s now scores at the narcissistic end of the Narcissism Personality Inventory scale. So narcissism is all around us so it’s no surprise that it rears its head at work. Narcissists think of themselves as being a lot better than they are and even though they are self-centred they attract followers. This is because they are seen as entertaining and exciting to be around. Because of their self-confidence they believe they are good leaders, project authority and a confident image, and people buy into that. There is evidence that narcissists seem to be able to take over leaderless groups with ease. Their confidence is contagious and the group starts to believe it is doing well. But there is a downside to having a narcissistic leader. Because of their high self-confidence and belief that they are always right they may not share information. When that is crucial to good performance the team will perform badly even though they think their leader is doing a good job. Experiments by Nevicka et al reported in Psychological Science last month showed that leaders with higher scores on narcissism were generally seen as more effective than those with low narcissism scores by their team members. But groups with more narcissistic leaders shared information less and because of that made worse decisions. So it’s good to have confidence in your leader and that will motivate the team but when the narcissistic leader doesn’t share information, dominates discussions and makes all the decisions, then the team will be less successful. And it is probable that the group members’ positive impressions will decline as time goes by. They can shrug off criticism about their behaviour but can’t stand it if people tell them they are not as brilliant or wonderful as they think. After all they prefer to be admired rather than liked. This may be because their over-confident and boastful behaviour is covering up feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem. At least those were the findings from research into narcissistic women who were asked to rate themselves on their self-esteem and levels of narcissism. The questionnaire was then repeated with the women connected to what they thought was a lie detector. Some were told it was on and others it was switched off. For those who scored low on narcissism this made no difference but for those who scored high believing they were attached to a lie detector produced much lower scores of self-esteem. The researchers concluded that most people with high levels of narcissism were compensating for their true feelings of low self-esteem which they normally inflated by claiming to like themselves. Narcissistic behaviour is one element in a cluster of what is called the dark side triad along with psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Of the three it is probably the one with more positive aspects and strongly related to extraversion ie sociable and outgoing, narcissists only showing their negative aggressive side when ignored or no longer admired. If you want to know more about the clinical definitions and see the checklist click here.

My most read business posts in 2010

Writing a business blog means that you are competing in a busy arena against some very big organisations and expert writers.

And everyone has an opinion about their company or boss don’t they?.

So it’s gratifying that so many of you have read my posts and also taken the trouble to add comments or e-mail me.

These were the most read of my posts in 2010.

No 5 (actually there were 4 sharing 4th spot)

Leaders, charisma and NVC

We had plenty of examples of leaders who were less than charismatic in 2010 but does it matter?

Female CEOs still trusted more than males

Whilst most people prefer to work for male bosses, even females, it  seems the recession has brought out the best in women CEOs.

PR=Protecting Reputations

And there were lots of reputations that needed protecting – just think BP!

Stressful Days are here again

A re-blog from EI4U where it was the second most read post. So unfortunately stress is back on the agenda. Resilient leadership needs to be the order of the day.

No 3: Leadership – the Dark Side

And talking of leadership – we all love reading about psychopaths but dealing with them at work is a different kettle of fish.

No 2: What kind of manager are you?

A bit of light-heartedness from the Chartered Management Institute but people like to know these things (but being compared with Posh Spice?).

And No 1 by a big margin: It doesn’t pay to be too nice

So no more Mr Nice Guy!

But best wishes to all of you for a happy and prosperous 2011

Leaders, Charisma, and NVC

As I’ve posted before in Body Language Watching Opportunities” watching politicians is always good for practising your skills at reading non-verbal communication (NVC). The recent UK elections and the subsequent election of a new leader for the labour party provided lots of contrasting examples.

And although Gordon Brown, for example, was regarded as a poor performer in this regard compared to Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, Blair and Obama’s falls from favour show that people do eventually see through the spin and the rhetoric (see “Being visionary is not enough”).

Ken Rea, a senior acting tutor from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, who also coaches senior executives, wrote an interesting piece for the Sunday Times on this topic putting Ed Milliband, the newly elected labour leader, under the spotlight: “Leaders must act like they mean it”.

He is quick to say that he doesn’t believe leaders should act their way through presentations – after all it takes 3 years to for students to learn how to control their voices, body and emotions – but by understanding techniques used by actors leaders could have the confidence to be more authentic and thereby gain credibility. Milliband’s recent conference speech was sincere but Rea says because it lacked passion – a criticism also levelled at Obama – it made him look lightweight and lacking in charisma.

He says charisma is about revealing your personality by widening your vocal range and projecting a positive and engaging body language – driven by your enthusiasm. (see also “Have you got charisma?”). Milliband needs to learn how to use NVC, particularly his eyes, as Rea doesn’t think they register emotion or show any enthusiasm. Rea also points out that audiences mirror what actors are doing. So if you are giving a flat performance, the audience will give you back what you deserve.

When I run presentation skills or impression management workshops one of the key elements is getting the presenters to look confident and visually connect with their audience. Having emotional intelligence is also important I believe. Having self-awareness, controlling your emotions, understanding what your audience is feeling and developing a relationship with them is the basic requirement of good leadership. As Rob Goffee said in a previous post; “It’s not all about charisma”.

FYI this is not the first time someone from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama has expressed opinions on this subject. In an earlier post “Leadership Panto” the “charisma queen”, voice coach Patsy Rodenburg, explained how people can be coached to be more effective presenters.

Back in September the Daily Telegraph ran a piece in their Science section explaining why they thought David Milliband would be the new leader of the labour party (I almost typed new labour party leader but that would never do in these post-Blair days). Asking; “Is he built to lead?” the authors, Anjana Ahuja & Mark van Vugt, argue that we always pick a chief who can “emote”.

They remind us that David M owes his place at Oxford to his gift of the gab rather than his academic achievements (rather overlooking the possible influence his father might have had) and received an unconditional offer – not for him the need for outstanding A-level results. In their book: “Why some people lead, Why others follow and why it matters” they say that leadership and followership behaviours are hard-wired from our past over 2 million years ago and that we still measure our leaders in the same way we would have done over 10,000 years ago when we first settled in communities.

So if you were fit and healthy you were a potential leader and being big and strong helped you settle disagreements. They point out that that still holds true; taller candidates beat shorter ones eg Obama v McCain and stronger looking CEOs run larger companies than weaker-looking ones. And we know tall men earn more and first impressions count at interviews. (See “Take me to your tall…leader”)

One of the authors was able to demonstrate experimentally how people could be influenced by their sense of belonging to a tribe to choose an incompetent leader over an incompetent one, and even choose a leader who had previously failed when they had a choice of someone who had previously succeeded! So perhaps Red Ed’s triumph over David M through the tribal support of the unions shouldn’t have been such a surprise after all.

They are not saying whether leaders are born or made, because we don’t know. But we do know that some inherited personality traits such as extraversion and verbal IQ are associated with leaders. Leaders tend to speak more fluently using more metaphors and are able to create an emotional connection. Tony Blair said that because Gordon Brown had zero emotional intelligence he couldn’t communicate to the electorate and we saw some examples of that before he decided to retire.

The authors concede that we are sometimes poor at selecting our leaders because we are influenced by their spin or their good looks rather than their expertise or principles. But they say we have also evolved ways of dethroning power grabbers and failing leaders, not least by gossip or ridicule. These days it seems we go for character assassination rather than the real thing. Machiavelli must be turning in his grave!

FYI Research at Columbia University compared power postures to low power, non-assertive postures. Power postures take up more space, like a peacock spreading its feathers, whilst subordinates want to take up less space.

The researchers found that those people asked to adopt power postures, even though they didn’t know why, had higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol. In other words they felt more powerful and less stressed out.

Tim Lambert, a colleague of mine who is a consultant and trainer and a former actor, coaches people into making use of their personal space to help them to be more assertive and influential.