South-Western - Management  
Itís Not about Empty Suits
Topic Leadership
Key Words Leadership, charisma
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News Story

Charisma is a trait that a lot of leaders seem to share. Many wonder how much of a role charisma plays in the success of leaders. The author of this article thinks charisma is one of the key characteristics that help to make a leaderís job easier.

Of course, there are some who have charisma without the brains, vision, or character to go along with it. In these cases, the trait is useless and can even be dangerous, when others try to emulate the empty personality. ďBadĒ or unethical charismatic leaders are out there too. Some of these people have the power to wreck lives and even nations.

Good charismatics, however, lead with magnetism plus integrity and intelligence. Their job is made a lot easier because people want to follow them. It is easier for a charismatic leader to energize people to achieve a goal. These leaders are the ones who are able to passionately explain a vision and excite their people to strive for the steps it will take to achieve the vision. Non-charismatic leaders can do this too, but it takes a lot more time and reasoning for them to win over hearts and minds.

Alan Greenspan is an example of a leader who has succeeded without charisma and has instead gained loyal followers on the depth of his logic. More commonly, good people who want to be leaders find themselves stalled at a certain point because they lack the innate ability to engage otherís hearts and minds. Charisma canít be learned or trained, and canít be faked for long. It seems to be something that people have or donít have. So, without it, leaders wonít automatically fail, they will just have to take a slower track to the top.


Define charisma.


What is the difference between an ethical and an unethical charismatic?


Have you known a charismatic leader in your life? If so, describe the personality traits that this person had. Do you agree with the author that it is easier for a charismatic leader to engage the hearts and minds of the people who work for him or her?


Do you agree with the authorís opinion that charisma is an innate trait and cannot be learned? Why or why not?


Even if charisma cannot be manufactured where it doesnít exist, there are some behaviors that leaders can use that can help them to appear more charismatic. Be prepared to discuss some of these behaviors in class.

Source ďItís Not about Empty Suits,Ē Business Week, October 16, 2006, p.132.
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