Why charisma is often mistaken for better leadership

3 minute read

Why charisma is often mistaken for better leadership-363662-edited

Charismatic people get attention. That's why it's only natural to assume they would make capable leaders - however, this isn't always the case. When it comes to executive leadership, candidates with more charm and presence often jump to the top of the pile. But judging leadership worthiness on charisma alone can be dangerous.

In this blog, we’ll talk about why charisma can be very misleading in the recruitment process, what some of the critical drawbacks of charisma are, and how leaders should be chosen instead.


Charisma can be a misread signal of competence

Think of people with the most charming, outgoing personalities. They often earn celebrity, or a reputation as the 'life of the party'. They tend to be good at captivating and persuading us.

Very often such people, in politics and entertainment as well as the business world, can charm their way into positions of power. But charisma alone is a weak criterion for effective leadership. The fact should never be ignored that bad leaders, charming or not, can wreak havoc and cause lasting damage. 

Charisma scores huge points in the quest for power, because it helps the ambitious effectively sell themselves. But in no way is it a guarantee of the morality and integrity that truly good leaders possess.


The negatives of charisma

Charisma can actually be a warning sign of much deeper problems lurking under the surface of a leadership candidate’s personality. 

For one, personal persuasiveness can have the effect of hiding the worst characteristics of a leader until it’s too late. Charm can cover up deeply narcissistic traits, as well as the inability to compromise and work well with others. Once such a person gets decision-making power, the ripple effects of discord, confusion and low morale may soon follow.

Also, leaders can become addicted to the perks their charisma has earned for them. They begin to adore positive affirmations from ‘fans’, which only encourages them to keep using charm to get their way. After consolidating their influence, it’s easy for this type of leader to resist rebukes from outside. 

Finally, with charisma, judgement often goes out the window. Instead of respectfully reasoning with others to achieve goals, a manipulative person who has exhausted their charm is inclined to try bullying and force. The turmoil that follows can ruin an organisation from the inside out.


How Winsborough select and develop high-quality leaders

Winsborough believes in a high standard of leadership. Leaders should not be selected just on the basis of charisma, but on their ability to bring everyone in their charge together, to a place of good collaboration and efficiency at work. 

A leader must have other qualities like maturity, an interest in everyone’s success, and the ability to focus on important goals, in order to break new ground from the corner office. Leaders also need deep self-awareness, which is where development comes in. Some executives need to lean away from reliance on charm. Instead, they need to use logic and rationality to direct their teams and drive organisational goals. 

This is why Winsborough emphasises robust, scientifically-validated personality tests. We use Hogan Assessment tools, a set of proven for revealing personality in depth. We then use the data to predict leadership potential along several dimensions.

Combining this with behavioural coaching, true-to-life management scenarios, and research-backed resources on team building, we give leaders everything they need to understand themselves and raise the bar for everyone around them.

This is how we avoid the trap of charisma, which can hide incompetence and yield false positives in recruitment. Rather, this is the path to finding leaders with real people skills and a mind that’s set on organisational progress, whether they are conventionally ‘charming’ or not.


If you want to avoid the ‘charisma trap’ and select and develop leaders with true promise for your organisation, talk to us today.