After researching charismatic leadership for the past three years, I am convinced that a small improvement in the charismatic soft skills of managers would make a huge difference to employees’ engagement, motivation and efficiency. These changes, in turn, would lead to improvements in productivity, profitability and growth.
The most successful managers are the ones who develop their soft skills. Research conducted with Fortune 500 chief executive officers by Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation found that 75% of long-term job success depends on people skills and only 25% on technical knowledge. However, too few companies invest enough in this type of skills training, making it up to individuals to find ways to improve. And there is a rapidly increasing need to do so.
Affective leadership charisma enables managers to positively influence followers and inspire their commitment and willing devotion to a common cause. They can bring out the best in their followers, because they feel great about themselves. This type of leadership is more important now than ever before.
Over the past decade, advances in technology have revolutionized our lives at a rate that is unprecedented in human history. Hold onto your hats, because the pace of change is only going to speed up. The sheer scale, velocity and complexity of what we now call the Fourth Industrial Revolution is ensuring that whatever we think is fast today will be pedestrian tomorrow. We are experiencing a tsunami of change, which will fundamentally transform the way we live, the way we work and the way we relate to each other.
When you connect billions of people and things through mobile devices with huge computing power, the possibilities are unlimited. Then there’s the constantly evolving technology in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), quantum computing, biotechnology and materials science … I think you understand why I used the phrase “tsunami of change.” When combined, these technologies will drive massive changes to individual lives as well as societies, workforces and economies.
A New Type of Leader
We need a new kind of leader for a new age of rapid change, as the technology revolution forces us to rethink the role of humans in the workplace. Employees at every level in companies will have to become more adept at change, which means being willing to learn, and relearn, and learn again, as the world keeps evolving around them. Leaders will need to have the right skills to enable and encourage this change. They will need to promote creativity and innovation at a pace never achieved before.
Managers must have the skills to handle this pace of change, especially when they may have to lead people who don’t work in the same office or in the same country or even necessarily on the same day. At a time when they will be facing unprecedented pressure to perform, to become simultaneously more cost-effective and more innovative, while dealing with huge levels of uncertainty and complexity, managers will have to put themselves between the chaos of change and their people. Doing so effectively will require managers to ensure they are skilled in the five key traits of charisma: authenticity, personal power, an affective presence, a compelling cause and persuasiveness.
Managers with authentic personalities build the levels of trust that are essential to good teamwork and collaboration — without which there can be little innovation. Without innovation, companies will quickly fall behind their competitors.
Managers with the right personal power infuse their teams with positivity and confidence and will be oriented to action. They are problem-solvers who can call on the diverse skills and viewpoints of their team members to create the best solutions.
Managers with an affective presence create a sense of worth and belonging at a time of huge uncertainty and, most importantly, make employees feel safe at a time of enormous disruption. Having a sense of worth is one of the most important employee needs and drives high levels of discretionary effort.
Managers who can convey a compelling purpose and connect their teams to it keep their employees relentlessly focused on customers and, thus, focused on rapid and continuous improvement.
Managers with the charismatic skill of persuasiveness enable the conversations that drive new ideas and keep essential relationships in good order.
The time has come for all managers to understand that these soft skills of charisma will determine their success in business more than the technical skills that probably put them into a leadership position in the first place. In an era of unprecedented disruption and change, we’ve never needed charismatic leaders more.