The culture of personality vs. character: why do we like our leaders to be charismatic?
There’s no doubt that an ability to communicate helps, when leaders need to mould or steer their team, and, therefore, an extrovert personality seems ideally suited. But following on from my last post, it’s not a direct link that ‘he who shouts loudest, shouts the best’. In other words, just because someone is outgoing and dominant in a group situation, it doesn’t automatically mean that they’re the best person to inspire or lead a team.
Until the early 1900s, society was based on the Culture of Character, according to Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet’.
Role models were determined by their deeds; duty, morals and hard work were the benchmarks of an admirable person. Then, this attitude changed: suddenly, society focused more on the person, rather than what he or she achieved. Traits such as attractiveness, magnetism and dominance became aspirational; as Susan suggests, it’s no coincidence that we began to obsess about movie stars in the ‘20s and ‘30s – an admiration of celebrity that has only increased as years have rolled by. Nowadays, you only have to be in the public eye to be ‘famous’ and in demand – and there are plenty without a talent or discernable reason for being there.
Tony Robbins is one of the most charismatic, magnetic men of our generation; people flock from all over the world to hear him speak. Despite the fact that his brand of wisdom is nothing extraordinary, the same advice inherent throughout most self-help books, Tony’s delivery and energy attracts thousands, a tribe of people fully entrenched as followers of his brand. Should he so choose, and because his magnetism is so powerful, I think Tony could ‘lead’ these people anywhere, just because, in today’s society, we’re so influenced by personality.
To use Susan’s description, even if someone is introverted, to get noticed in any industry (and also because our culture expects it) they need to be a “hearty extrovert with a salesman’s personality” – even those who have little interaction with the public or no call as a leader, such as a deep thinker within an underground research lab. William Whyte, author of ‘The Organizational Man’ explains, “These people will still have contact with other people in their organisation. It helps if they make a good impression.”
But what if we’re all charismatic and magnetic (even the introverts who are, essentially, playing a role)? If aspirational traits, such as those Tony Robbins holds, were present in everyone, would we not back to square one, where no one stands out? How would true leaders be defined, and to whom would we look for direction if we were all the same?
Last week, I explored Susan’s findings on brainstorming and its effectiveness. Introversion appeared to be a positive, and necessary to balance extroversion – both of which are integral to our world. The culture of personality, therefore, doesn’t seem the be all and end all, or feature heavily in the overall scheme of things.
Leadership can benefit from charisma – particularly useful when encouraging or directing people, as in Robbins’s case. The world, however, can’t run if we’re only concentrating on selling ourselves – at some point we need to actually demonstrate our worth, to actually have something to ‘sell’. A good leader does so by example, not endless posturing and empty words.
One thing Susan Cain always promotes, throughout the years she’s studied the subject of introversion/extraversion, is balance. Personality and charisma are arguably wonderful things for a leader to have, but the most successful teams require a leader to also display more introverted qualities, such as strength of character and a duty towards the group’s ultimate goal.
To further develop your leadership qualities, or the leaders within your organisation, contact me at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.
Thanks to freedigitalphotos.net for use of the images.
- Posted in: Executive Coaching ♦ Leadership Coaching ♦ Management Coaching ♦ Team Building
- Tagged: angela sabin, bold, culture of character, culture of personality, executive coaching, extrovert, introvert, leaderhsip, Leadership Coaching, Management Coaching, quiet, shy, susan cain, tony robbins, william whyte