Leadership Myth-Busting #10: Charisma… the essential quality of “born leaders”
We’ve all been there… wowed by a leader who exudes charisma. There is something about their magnetic personality that demands attention. They walk into a room and their presence is felt – even before they say anything. For many people, charisma is a quality that is synonymous with being a “born leader”. But, is this a myth? Clearly, some people have a more charismatic personality than others. However, do people with charisma automatically make good leaders?
A quick google search can inform you that charisma is defined as compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. Often this devotion is given unquestioningly. We may say there is an aura about a particular person. But there can be a dark side to charisma. It can disguise character flaws and, if left unchecked, leave followers vulnerable to being manipulated and even abused by their leader.
Michael Green writes,
Charisma without character is a catastrophe.
Andy Hawthorne goes further:
You’d have thought we’d have learned by now that giftedness doesn’t equal godliness, and that charisma doesn’t always equal character. It’s a lot easier to say the right stuff than to live the right life.
The problem with charisma is that it can catapult someone into a position of leadership before their character has been developed. This can be dangerous for both the individual and the organisation they lead. When we accelerate leaders in this way, we can be in danger of bypassing essential processes in a leader’s development. Robert Clinton in his excellent book, The Making of a Leader states:
Mature ministry flows from a mature character, formed in the graduate school of life.
I am not saying that people with charisma are automatically bad or disqualified from leadership. Clearly not! But I do believe that we often don’t follow due process with someone who has is naturally outgoing and affable in the same way that we might with someone who is more introverted or shy.
I believe the Bible teaches that leadership is a gift entrusted to people by God (e.g. see Romans 12:8). Consider Moses. A runaway “failure” who struggled to speak. Or David. Overlooked by his family – not even considered a potential leader. And the disciples of Jesus, a rag-tag mish-mash of personalities and experience. Biblical leadership is not anyone’s birthright. Rather, an essential quality of all leaders is not charisma, but humility. Heidi Baker states,
There is only one direction in ministry: lower still.
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of some leaders who have played a huge role in my own life. Some are naturally charismatic. But many aren’t. In fact, those that have had a lasting impact are those that demonstrated qualities that don’t always make the headlines in leadership literature. They were consistent, reliable, steady, faithful and wise. These are characteristics they developed in the school of hard knocks. I encourage you to seek out such leaders who can help you navigate the challenges of life and leadership.
*Image by Freepik