Those Big Ears Will Give You Confidence

In highschool we had to vote for a student government representative for our homeroom, the room we started and ended each school day. There were two candidates in our homeroom. One candidate was studious and seriously wanted the job — she had plans!

The second candidate was a goof who spent most of his school day talking with people. He was charismatic, but he didn’t have any plans for the school government if he was elected (but let’s be honest, those organizations don’t accomplish much anyways).

Who do you think won?

Everyone is drawn to a charismatic personality. Many of us believe charismatic people are born this way, and their leadership skills are an effortless result of their charisma.

The leader fights for the interests of her group. Photo "IMG_2810_1" by Allie, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
The leader is a member of her group. Photo “IMG_2810_1” by Allie, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

This is the story we tell ourselves. This story keeps us from looking at our own skillset to see where we fall short. But this story is not true.

You, too, can develop charisma and become an effective leader.

Charisma isn’t about being high-energy. It’s not about striking out in bold new directions or making perfect decisions. How can you develop charisma?

Charisma expresses itself through a leader who understands the needs of other people, and who acts in their interest. A leader who fights for the same thing they fight for. In one word: Service.

Charisma is a reflection of the concerns of people, voiced by someone who is listening and responding. If you’re not listening, you’re not leading. By echoing the concerns of your group, known as pacing, you build rapport and trust. That rapport translates into charisma and leadership.

Trust and rapport gives the leader confidence that people support her actions. As a good friend once told me, more is lost through indecision than poor decision. If the leader is moving in one direction, even if it’s maybe not the best direction, people will follow. People like being a part of a movement. Social Proof, believing others are a part of this same group, helps keep a group together and growing.

More is lost through indecision than poor decision.

In return, people will follow a leader down any path if they feel their concerns are being validated. Their emotions are already hooked. They’ve made a commitment, which most people will honor to remain consistent. From a persuasion standpoint, people have enough to think about. Knowing that you’re fighting for them, they’ll exchange loyalty for not having to weigh options and make decisions.

People will support a leader who shares their vision and fights on their behalf. Photo "Hong Kong 7.1 Rally 2014" by Studio Incendo, Flickr CC-By-2.0
People will support a leader who shares their vision and fights on their behalf. Photo “Hong Kong 7.1 Rally 2014” by Studio Incendo, Flickr CC-By-2.0

Think about it. Have you ever wanted to follow a leader that seemed unsure about the direction they’re going? Or a leader who was uninterested in the concerns of her people?

In my highschool, the charismatic candidate won the election for class representative. He persuaded us that he was a better choice just because people knew him and knew he listened to their concerns. The job itself didn’t matter as much as the feeling that he gave us.

I’d love to read your story about the worse leader you’ve ever worked with, and the best leader. What set the two apart? What have you learned from each of them that you apply in your own life?

Let us know in the comments below!