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Charismatic leadership

New research peels away the layers mystique around the phrase ‘charismatic leadership’

Professor Martin Kilduff

New research into charisma and leadership of work teams has peeled away layers mystique around the phrase ‘charismatic leadership’, according to Professor Martin Kilduff, Diageo Professor of Management Studies at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Among the conclusions in research entitled ‘Social Networks and Leader Charisma’, co-authored by Professor Kilduff, is that leaders who are regarded as charismatic by their teams will have a high-performing group.

He says that when leaders interact with their subordinates, they build social capital that has positive effects. The research focused on the question ‘how much of an impact is there on team performance because the leader is seen as charismatic’.

Two models were examined in the research. The first was “charisma-to-centrality”, or how a leader’s charisma leads to the occupation of a central position in an informal advice network so giving positive influence on team performance.

The second, the “centrality-to-charisma” model, analysed charisma attributed to those leaders who are socially active in giving and receiving advice.

Two different studies supported the second, centrality-to-charisma, model.

If you are seen as charismatic by your team you are likely to lead a high performing group. A more surprising conclusion was that, having stripped away the mystique around charisma, it’s not a vision thing as in the Bush presidency.

It’s a much more mundane process. It’s about soliciting advice from people, boning up and becoming an expert, being able to give people advice, treating them with consideration, being available and socially integrating with people at work level.

If there’s any potential there at all, they will come to see you as charismatic. Rather than booming from a high place with your vision of the future, slamming the door and going back to dream up new, great thoughts, this is a much more practical way for people to emerge as charismatic.