Monday, July 27, 2009

Obama's Charisma: Loved or Feared?

Niccolo Machiavelli believed it was better to be feared than to be loved. It takes a combination of fear and love to ultimately gain respect. President Obama's quest to be loved has bumped up against the realpolitik of the world. While he's enjoyed a "Rock Star" reception in the US and abroad, at the end of the day, American citizens specifically and the world generally look for concrete results based on the current challenges across a wide swath of issues ranging from the US economy to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The need to be loved will eventually falter Obama's efforts to be effective. It has been argued that President Obama's leadership style falls under the Charismatic Leadership Model. Charismatic leaders have been divisive by their mere nature due to their "single-mindedness" of purpose. To date, President Obama really hasn't stood for much outside of bromides and platitudes. As such, he has yet to create the enemies typical of charismatic leaders who operate through sheer force of focus and personality. This doesn't suggest that his political instincts aren't keen. Some would say that he's doing exactly what Machiavelli advised, respond to each challenge according to one's best interest. For all the disparaging comments made against President George W. Bush, one always knew where he stood on an issue. Time will tell whether the Bush Administration will be vindicated based on the decisions of the past.

As Senator Obama, President Obama had the luxury of throwing stones from the sidelines as a mere spectator on national issues. At this point, his politics hasn't been that different from President Bush's. He's merely re-branded the packaging to make it go down easier for the palates of the world. Invariably, effectiveness lies in staking out the lay of the land, making an assessment and moving forward based on the interests of a country. The old saying in politics, "There are no permanent friends nor enemies, only permanent interests" is prescient to the core of human nature. By trying to be all things to everyone, you work against yourself and eventually lose the respect of initial supporters based on the choice to be popular over being effective. People often don't care where the line is as long as you draw one.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Charisma & The Importance of Fame

One of the core needs of human beings is to be recognized and seen as significant. No one really wants to live in obscurity feeling that she has not contributed to society in some way. It would be a misnomer to say that the need for recognition is new, but the level and scope is a recent phenomenon. The social dynamics in a rapidly changing world made it acceptable for individuals to become self-promoters, although in some sense the stigma still remains. In the past, society frowned on the person who talked insatiably about himself and what he could do. However, the person who commands the spotlight and captures the imagination of people usually finds a place in their hearts. One person in recent history is given credit for spawning the likes of the many figures we adore today. The professional wrestler, Gorgeous George, who flourished from the late 1940's to the early 1960s, was the original sports figure who is credited for the likes of Muhammad Ali, Little Richard, Liberace and the popularity of today's wrestling. Gorgeous George competed for years as George Wagner with very little success. He was seen as plain and a less than average wrestler. George almost gave up wrestling until he came up with a marketing plan that would change his career and the face of sports forever. George grew his hair long, dying it blond and wearing gold-plated bobby pins with elaborate robes. He entered the ring escorted by a valet who sprayed his corner and his opponent's with disinfectant and perfume. He is given credit as the originator of using entrance music preferring "Pomp and Circumstance," which has become popular in many arenas including public speaking and professional wrestling . Through Gorgeous George's antics, he created a frenzy that brought people out in droves to witness his theatrics. What made him successful? He was a self-created character in the "theater of the absurd," which struck a chord with people because it captured their imagination through shear audacity. The world has rewritten the parable, "the meek shall inherit the earth" to "the bold and courageous shall inherit the earth."

Related: Charisma

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Charisma & The Fight Over Leadership

The interplay between charismatic leadership, transformational leadership, transactional leadership as well as other traditional leadership models is always fascinating. Are pundits trying to determine the ideal leadership model or merely playing each model off each other as a form of brinkmanship? Once more, is a person's personality geared towards one leadership model over another? Certainly, a life-long introvert wouldn't necessarily adopt the Charismatic Leadership Model to follow. While the Charismatic Leadership Model may have ideal traits the introvert may emulate, invariably, the core genotype for charisma may not be present. Consequently, hybrid approaches in leadership development may be necessary based on current social conditions. There has been an ongoing "Intellectual Donnybrook" where pundits square off one leadership style versus another. In the end, the winner is the style most favored personally by the pundit (based on his own temperament).

At the core, each leadership model is attempting to persuade or assuage the natural narcissism within each individual for the greater good of the organization. At the macro level, charismatic leadership may resonate with one group of individuals more viscerally than a traditional form of leadership. At the micro level, a leader may have to use various leadership styles for individuals in a smaller group as a means of group cohesion. It's the leader who is malleable and mutable to the context of the situation as well as the personalities involved who will triumph. While there may be core traits within each leadership model, the would-be leader could and should use leadership models as mere tools for achieving an objective. To suggest a leadership model exists that is purely altruistic is naïve. Whether it's a mission, crusade or profitability, leadership is created to feed the hungry need of the overarching objective.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

FAQs on Charisma

1. Can charisma be learned or are you born with it?
Based on our extensive research, we have determined that developing charisma is a skill just like typing, communicating or driving. Contrary to some schools of thought that assert that charisma can be learned through a 1-2-3 step process, we believe that it is a philosophy that increases as the skill is embraced. But, there are certain personalities that have a greater proclivity for charisma than others.

2. How is charisma defined?
We define charisma as the creating of perceptions that impact the mind and emotions of others through through flair, finesse and glib language.

3. In what context do you use charisma??
It is subjective and based on perceptions. Charisma has merit solely in a social context and if humans were not social animals the need for charisma would be irrelevant. Surveys consistently show that charismatic people make more money and generally are more successful than their counterparts. Invariably charismatic people have an edge even when they are not as technically proficient as their counterparts. Because we focus on charisma and its interplay within the professional arena, we are most interested in its leadership and business development abilities.

4. What factor does charisma play in business success?
Unquestionably, our research and observation suggest that people who are deemed charismatic are more fun to be around, connect with more people and develop relationships that lead to greater income potential in addition to invitations to forums where opportunities present themselves.

5. Must you have charisma to be successful?

No, you don't need charisma to be successful. We position charisma under the umbrella of business development and self-branding. In the Information Age where many people are vying to be heard and recognized, those who possess charisma will have an edge. Today, merit alone is not the sole criterion for success. With the expansion of the Internet and media, the individual has gotten smaller. Consequently, skills like charisma help the individual enlarge herself.

6. How can charisma improve client relations, close more deals and win more contracts?
The success of a company, venture or enterprise begins at the individual level. In contemporary society, people are buying customer service and personalities. The days of big companies making large profits solely through name recognition have passed. Consumers and clients are buying experiences. When you possess charisma, you are creating an experience with people. Your ability to connect with engaging stories and anecdotes that help clarify a problem as well as produce solutions resonate into buying and selling power. Human nature is such that people like doing business with people who make them feel good and demonstrate a level of competency. Charisma propels you into positions of leadership, which demonstrate your abilities as a "go to" person. Winning contracts, proposals and closing deals increase when a person has great charisma coupled with competency. Particularly in the field of law, when people call on an attorney, they are emotionally buying security and peace of mind in addition to legal expertise.

7. How does charisma help with office politics?
One of the downsides of being in situations where divisions and "throat cutting" exist is that all sides want to recruit the charismatic individual to gain control. The charismatic person has good rapport with most everyone including upper management, which all sides want to gain favor. Used effectively, charisma can be used to bridge the gap by appealing to their sense of reason in a non-threatening manner. Remember, the charismatic person has the illusion of having more power than she actually has. Consequently, although these individuals may be her peers, they treat her like a supervisor. She realizes the potency of her personal power and thus remains above the fray and commits to no one in such a scenario.

8. Do you need charisma to be an effective leader?
Studies suggest that you don't need charisma to be an effective leader, but leaders who possess charisma easily influence and lead people and thus are remembered past their tenure. There are endless schools of thought on effective leadership, but very little on developing charismatic leadership. Yet, many of our most loved leaders were highly charismatic. Charismatic leaders not only get into the minds of people, they get into their hearts. Significant change usually occurs when people are motivated at both levels.

Related: Charisma

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Perspectives & Lessons Learned From Charismatic Leadership

Perspectives and 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. The upside of charismatic leadership is the inspiration, innovation and creativity it promotes in others. The downside is often the lack of scrutiny placed on the leader. Emotions should never overtake logic when dealing with charismatic leaders.

· Checking and balancing the factors that spark charisma---Egotism, self-glorification and a need for high achievement are factors in a charismatic personality. In a 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 should modulate charismatic employees by creating boundaries without stifling ingenuity.

· 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.

Related: Charisma

Friday, July 10, 2009

Will Michael Jackson's Charisma Equal Elvis' in Death?

I recently watched some interviews on "You Tube" of Elvis Presley's last inner circle of friends to decipher the difference between his charisma and that of Michael Jackson's. I determined that Elvis had more personal charisma. That "inner" or natural form, which is raw. Whereas, Michael had stage or "performance" charisma. These two types of charisma are as representative of the times they lived as much as their personalities. Surprisingly, the comments made by Elvis' inner circle were almost verbatim to the comments made about Michael within his inner circle (Generous, funny, kind, caring, loyal, etc…) Time will tell whether Michael's death will take on a similar dimension as Elvis'. I suspect that there will be a difference in the two legacies. Unfortunately, I'm not optimistic that 30 years from now, there will be a ritual of visiting a place like "Never Land" commemorating Michael's birth and death, like the pilgrimage to "Graceland." The changing of the contemporary landscape has not only changed people, it has changed the way people honor or remember icons.

A glimpse into the future might be the difference between Marilyn Monroe's legacy versus Anna Nicole Smith's. A representation of how Anna Nicole has been honored compared to Marilyn Monroe is some evidence of how Michael Jackson will be honored compared to Elvis Presley.

For more information, visit:  Charisma

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Charisma of Michael Jackson

In the coming years, music historians, psychologists and pundits will dissect the Michael Jackson phenomenon. Arguably, Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainment civilization has ever known. To break down the making of Michael Jackson, many of the fabled stories of the Jackson Family will be rehashed, torn apart, analyzed and finally synthesized into a theory. In the end, a part from his body of work spanning 40 years, his physical transformation over the years and his impact on the music industry, a comprehensive and concise understanding of the factors that created Michael Jackson will emerge. Was he a product of some miraculous alchemy? Was there a metamorphosis from childhood prodigy to adult Superstar? How did he evolve into a musical genius where others either devolved or never quite made the cut?

During the rise of the legendary group, The Jackson Five, two other groups emerged around the same time—The Sylvers and The Osmonds. The Sylvers were lead by Edmund Sylvers, but their youngest brother, Foster Sylvers, was their answer to Michael Jackson with Foster's hit song "Misdemeanor." Before the Sylvers, The Osmonds answer to Michael was little Donny Osmond who exploded on the scene with the song "One Bad Apple." In terms of commercial potential, it seemed that Donny and Foster might be able to give Michael a run for his money. Remember, this was nearly 40 years ago and The Jacksons had created an appetite for the cute, young, precocious child singing songs about experiences he hadn’t had yet. As time would reveal, the only one left standing among the three prodigies was Michael Jackson. Why?

Many commentators would suggest that Michael Jackson was far more talented than Foster Sylvers and Donny Osmond relegating his later success as proof positive of this claim. However, if the three started out having comparable talents, what made the difference between them? They all were cute, could sing and had stage presence. But, there was a mark difference between Michael Jackson and the rest.

One common denominator that permeates many charismatic personalities is some level of depravation early on in childhood development. The fabled stories of the Jackson patriarch, Joe Jackson, ruling the family with an iron fist creating insecurities and self-esteem issues within the family, in some cases creates extreme greatness or severe depravation--or one in the same. With limited information on the family backgrounds of the Sylvers and the Osmonds, a mental leap suggests that these families had pretty normal upbringings without any external compulsion to further their talents once experiencing initial success. Outside of Donny Osmond, a good trivia question would be “Where are they now?” Not the case with Michael Jackson and the Jackson brothers. Joe Jackson reportedly pushed them into greatness using draconian means. A once aspiring musician himself, Joe Jackson, introduced his progeny to music at an early age similar to Earl Woods putting a golf club in the hands of golf great Tiger Woods almost before he could walk. The same is the case with Leopold Mozart instructing a young Wolfgang Mozart. These beginnings instilled within Michael Jackson a certain level of discipline coupled with his interest in this art form would lead him to greatness. This is a great departure from time-honored child showing promise in local talent shows and “growing out” of music, as he gets older. Michael’s early introduction and socialization put him on the path to musical greatness.

To be sure, Michael Jackson was a compilation of passion for music, relentless ambition and deliberate practice. The steps to Michael's rise that lead to his awesome stage charisma were:

---Extreme curiosity for any information geared to professional excellence. Michael Jackson was consumed with being the very best entertainer and reportedly studied other legends to determine how they remained relevant and gained longevity. Motown Records Founder, Berry Gordy, remarked that Michael would ask at great length questions about the music industry and what went on behind the scenes. While his brothers were off doing things leisurely, Michael was querying the executives around him.

---Deliberate practice and an insatiable desire to "one up" himself. Geoff Colvin, in his book, "Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else," notes that deliberate practice has essentially 3 components: 1. An enthusiastic coach (someone with passion for the craft who cultivates and nurtures it) who mentors the phenom , 2. Minimum 10,000 hours or ten years of deliberate practice for the would-be phenom, and 3. The phenom would have started at a very early age. Michael was encouraged by his father, a guitarist, practiced hours a day and began singing at 5 years old and persisted for 40 years.

---Isolation and solitude to perfect his craft Michael Jackson spent a great deal of his time rehearsing and contemplating the music and moves he perfected. In fact, he had actual legal patents for some of his dance moves. The thought of Michael Jackson sharing his behind-the-scenes creativity would be naïve. He allowed the public to relish the manifestation of the process, but did not allow many into his creative inner sanctum nor expose his innovations to the world before they were complete. As an artist, Michael's creativity soared in the darkness of solitude.

There have been many entertainers before, during and since Michael Jackson who wanted to astound the world with their talents. Michael showed and proved that superstardom is much more than talent…it's much more, hard work.

For more information, visit: Charisma