Clearly we’re all drawn to charismatic leaders. Whether we’re talking about political leaders like JFK, public speakers like Zig Ziglar, or trainers like Anthony Robbins, how does the charisma or strength of a group leader impact a group, pro or con?
We’ve become increasingly conditioned to being entertained, via television dramas, commercials, movies, talk shows, youtube, etc. The primary focus of “news” shows now favors entertaining and stimulating over informing. The messages are getting shorter and more provocative in attempts to get our attention in the rising sea of information. A dead pan speaker, no matter how relevant and important the content of his message, is unlikely to be heard.
I’ve seen coaches and trainers who actually specialize in the “entertainment factor” to create more success in their workshops and events. After all, we’re competing with Hollywood at every turn with hundreds of cable and satellite TV stations, flashy Internet audio and video, etc.
Further, we’ve been conditioned to sit and listen to the “teacher,” “leader,” “speaker,” up in front of the room and view her as the expert, authority, guru, etc. If this is true, I can’t help but wonder, from the perspective of a facilitator, about the impact a charismatic group leader has on the empowerment of her group.
Will her charisma rub off on her group and connect them to their power? Or will her charisma inspire them to just sit, enthralled and entertained for the moment, having little impact on the work they, and they alone, came together to do?
This article was inspired by the following comment I received from Lynn Goldhammer, a fellow facilitator:
I’m wondering if [I can learn to] be a less obtrusive facilitator when I’m supposed to be facilitating… I just realize that people need to talk and have discussions, and that isn’t happening in this high tech world. So, I go in and start conversations, but am always up in front directing them. I’m wondering if that is always best? If maybe some situations will benefit from me sitting down, and facilitating from within the group even when I’m not part of the group or contributing my thoughts. Does that make sense? Less controlling of the flow, while still keeping folks rounded up and moving… (a cowgirl versus a dog (leash) walker?)
This comment got me thinking about the potential downsides of what we often consider to be strong or charismatic leadership on the health of group process. I did a little research on the Internet and found nothing regarding the downside, problems, or harm that might come as a result of strong, charismatic, even “forceful” leadership. It seems that according to most people, this is a commodity we can’t get enough of.
I’ve heard Charisma defined as a potent combination of inspiration and enthusiasm. To inspire means to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on others, and enthusiasm is a strong excitement of feeling. There’s no question that inspiration and enthusiasm serve the collective good of groups at one time or another. And perhaps that’s the key. Just as there’s a time and a place to “use” charismatic, strong, or forceful leadership, there may very well be times when it could also hinder your group’s purpose.
Use your charisma as a tool to empower others. If you’ve been able to help get a group to openly dialogue around an issue they’ve committed to work with, then you’ve done your job as group leader and it’s time to get the heck out of the way, at least for the moment. And it might well be that your charisma sparked the passion that got them started. Great job! Now turn it off and sit down!
View fading to the background as success . Though I prefer to be a bit of an introvert, I like to think that I can be a bit charismatic at times. (Though I’m ready to admit this could be a complete fantasy of mine.) Whatever the case, I actually don’t mind being in the background and know I’m being a successful facilitator when I’ve worked myself out of a job, at least momentarily, and my group’s cruising on its own.
Be Quiet. Silence is a much underestimated skill in this arena. And yes, sitting down and facilitating from within the group, literally, can work as well.
I’m sure there’s a lot more to be said on this subject (as he turns his charisma on low), but let’s hear some of your ideas.
Are you a strong and charismatic group leader? Do you know when to turn it off? How can you better use this skill to empower your groups? We’d love to hear what you come up with. Click on Add Your Comments to share your questions, feedback, or experience on this topic.