Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Charisma Case Study: Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina

The firing of Hewlett-Packard (HP) CEO Carly Fiorina shows that when it comes to charisma, women are just as affected by it as men. Fiorina's ousting suggests that the playing field has not leveled equally for men and women, but charisma is an equal opportunity provider between the sexes. The February 10, 2005 Wall Street Journal article, "How Traits That Helped Executive Climb Ladder Came to Be Fatal Flaws" described Fiorina as "unshakable, self-reliant, comfortable with the spotlight, fond of dramatic gesture, impervious to criticism…passionate about the big picture…embracing change as a way of life." Intuitively, these traits should have been the means for rocketing HP's stock into orbit after its $19 billion merger with Compaq Computer Corp. However, before Fiorina's ouster, HP's stock reportedly was down 50%.

A 2004 University of Florida study showed that Chief Executive Officers who exude intelligence, optimism, and leadership do not necessarily help their companies perform better than less charismatic counterparts do. However, the more charismatic CEO’s tend to draw higher salaries and better benefits. The study surveyed vice president-level managers of 59 Fortune 500 companies about their perceptions of the company CEO's charisma. Indicators included confidence in the CEO's management abilities and whether the CEO’s made the survey respondents feel optimistic about the company's future. The study compared the resulting "charisma" score to indicators of corporate performance and crosschecked the results against the CEOs' salaries. The conclusion... better firm performance is unrelated to the CEO’s charisma, but rather to higher salaries for the CEO5…except when the market volatility proved a benefit to the company.

Taking the necessary cues from the University of Florida's study shows that charismatic leaders are great for getting the ball rolling and creating optimism, but they need a more stabilizing style of management while enthusiasm remains high. In the current global economy, the "all or nothing" approach to leadership is not sufficient. Dissenters of the charismatic leadership model cannot rest on Fiorina's demise by saying "I told you so”, nor can the charismatic leadership model suggest that a conservative, risk- adverse approach is impractical during volatile economic times. Fiorina's ousting illuminates the need for hybrid approaches to business management that are streamlined enough to turn on a moment’s notice based on the needs of the immediate situation. A world of differences has finally come to mean all the difference in the world.

The celebrity-industrial complex has insured that business, politics, and entertainment require inanimate entities to have personalities. For Hewlett-Packard to shun any nuance of the value that charismatic leadership brings would act contrary to its best interest. There is a reason England still maintains a monarchy, while the Prime Minister and Parliament operate the government. The individual pragmatically seeks a stable government to insure ones perpetuity, and the need to maintain traditional emotions acts as a stimulus.

The lessons learned from charismatic leadership are:

· Realizing the "Built in" power and weakness---While we live in a "winner take all" society, every business, or management model has its down side. The idea is to measure the strengths versus the inefficiencies and make the necessary corrections as part of the process.
· Checking and balancing the factors that spark charisma---Egotism, self-glorification and a need for high achievement are factors in a charismatic personality. In the celebrity-industrial complex, these are not necessarily negative traits, but one should apply modifications through pragmatic conservatism when deemed necessary.
· "Don't become overwhelmed"--Charismatic leadership sweeps in like a Tsunami and mesmerizes everyone in its path through shared passion and energy. Emotions often override logic and all that is left are the shouting and finger pointing. Managers have to be on guard for the intoxicating nuances that such leadership brings.
· Asking more questions---Big picture thinkers see the world from a different perspective. Charismatic leaders may be big on plans, but short on details. By analyzing every aspect of the "Big Plan”, executives can help the charismatic leader view the challenges that such actions may create.

For more information, visit:  Charisma

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Are Men & Women Equally Charismatic?

The Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute defines "charisma" as the creating of illusions to impact the emotions and psyche of others through the use of flair, finesse and glib language. The idea of the charming and engaging individual takes on different dimensions when applied to males and females. The difference is analogous to a fragrance smelling different on a man than on a woman. Such contrasts beg the question as to whether men and women can be equally charismatic. A man characterized as suave and debonair may be seen as charismatic. Where similar traits characterized by a woman might be deemed sexy, sultry or scintillating. But is this charisma? If not, charisma is either a term reserved strictly for men or the definition has to be expanded to encompass the differences in expression of both genders. In many instances, a key point to note is that a person may not be generally accepted as charismatic when he or she crosses the gender line for expression. For example, charisma is often viewed as imparting the gender traits within its definition and does not necessarily allow for men to take on traits deemed feminine and vice versa. Terms such as flamboyant, outlandish or ostentatious might apply, but charisma is arguable.

In viewing this hypothesis of charisma being gender specific, under the terms of Core Edge's definition, women can be charismatic, but it manifests itself differently than that that of men. In a patriarchal society, the traits deemed charismatic are often attributed to men, but the idea that women may take on similar traits and not tarnish their femininity should be accepted. The singer Madonna reportedly exhibited traits believed to be masculine in her ascension to stardom. She was focused, brusque, ruthless and committed based on biographical accounts. It was her unorthodox approach that aided her success, which defined her charisma. To say that a learned behavior cannot apply to a particular gender would create the slippery slope of discrimination. But we would be naive not to observe the differences in expression. If we are referring to the illusory aspects of interpersonal communication which charisma imparts, could we suggest that men are apt to create illusions that connect; whereas women are less inclined to demonstrate similar proclivities? The will to power by men alters the acceptance of charisma by both genders. Again, we would have to expand its definition merely for inclusionary purposes. While Denzel Washington, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Smits may be deemed charismatic, they exhibit it differently. The same would be true for Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Julia Roberts.

Is charisma equally distributed among the sexes? Based on our analysis, charisma is subjective and intangible. It can be compared to being physically attractive. If enough people believe that you are attractive then you are deemed attractive. However, how charisma plays out is often deemed more masculine within a male dominated society. It is no accident that it may be easier to randomly recall men who are deemed charismatic than women. Often there may be a general consensus when naming men, but when it comes to women, we may have to ponder a little longer in our listing. The term has not been traditionally used to describe women. As the role of women has drastically changed, the dynamics that create charisma would naturally level the playing field to encompass personal expression in this arena also.

The onslaught of the philosophy of charisma has created excitement for both sexes. The discussion, up until recently, was null and void. It was not and could not be seen as a legitimate philosophy when there weren't any serious studies on the subject. Now that the discussion has begun, it becomes even more interesting for both genders to utilize this new information in the realm of marketing as a competitive tool. Those who use charisma to separate themselves from competitors as well as seek personal fulfillment will have the advantage and ultimately end up redefining it-whether male or female.

For more information, visit: Charisma

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Charismatic Communications

Charismatic leaders often express themselves well, but their greatest attribute is their ability to listen and feel for the person who is speaking. It is the ability to listen and empathize with others that make them so compelling. Communication is a life-long process in which you are not merely speaking to the person, but her childhood, worldview and past experiences. We are a product of all our experiences as well as genetic makeup. The age-old question has always been, "Are we influenced more by our genetics or our environment?" It is tantamount to asking the question, "Is the glass half-full or half-empty?" In each case the answer is both. It makes no difference how you view a half-full glass; it will always be half empty, also.

We are inextricably attached to our genetic makeup and environmental influences such that we do not know where one ends and the other begins. The charismatic leader uses all that she has at her disposal. She has an arsenal of tools in her repertoire to pull out at will based on the necessity of the situation. The individual who is multi-faceted in her world-view will exhibit greater communication skills than someone who is one-dimensional. Relating and connecting to people requires a keen awareness to the nuances of human motivation and behavior. Charismatic people are outgoing and thrive on exploring new experiences where they are able to communicate pragmatically as well as theoretically. The key to the charismatic communicator is this endless desire to expand her horizons as she looks at the world from different perspectives.

Related: Charisma