How to inspire others

Picture 012a3Ask the average Joe on the street what makes a good leader and a frequent answer will be high confidence. But that is only part of the equation. Charismatic leaders must show solidarity with the people in order to win their approval. They must be seen as representative of the group. People want to know that leaders share their sentiments– feel the same way that they do. 

If a leader wishes to be a pathfinder, out of in front of the crowd, the crowd will not perceive them to be as appealing. This results is pressure on the leader not only to perform, but also to appear to belong.

Leaders must also express the high standards that they hold for themselves along with the confidence that followers can meet these standards simply by association. One of the most important rules of speaking to enhance charisma is to make statements that show moral conviction. New leaders often initially gain sway over their audiences by appealing to the moral high ground.[1]

The more emotional the appeal of the leader, the more influential the leader is. Also, the more likely the followers will act harshly against those they reject due to a perceived lack of morality.  One of the problems with a charismatic leader in politics is that an appeal to fight against the common enemies is often a way to rise to fame. This often creates an “us against them” culture with people who are not that much different.

Still, the search is on to learn the secrets of enhancing one’s influence. In a study at the University of Lausanne, managers at Swiss companies were taught principles of charismatic leadership over a 3 month period. The specific skills: how to  “inspire” other to buy in to their ideas using non-verbal influencing such as emotional expressiveness. They also learned to talk about the hot topics of leadership, such as moral convictions and lofty goals. They learned to speak like a leader using analogies and anecdotes. After three months there was some change. However the researchers admitted, “Our results also showed that a substantial investment must be made to produce medium effects.” [2]

So, charismatic behavior can be taught. Are moderate effects enough to justify the investment of money and time required for training and practice of the skills to inspire?  The question remains–can other skills that could be learned during this same time frame more valuable?

[1] Howell, J. M., & Frost, P. J. 1989. A laboratory study of charismatic leadership. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 43: 243–26
[2] Antonakis, J., Fenley, M., & Liechti, S., Can Charisma Be Taught? Tests of Two Interventions. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2011, Vol. 10, No. 3, 374–396


This entry was posted in Emotional intelligence, Leadership, Manipulation, Persuasion. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How to inspire others

  1. knlistman says:

    Reblogged this on Write about what? and commented:

    Is charisma training really effective?

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