September 5, 2012

Leadership Gravitas is Made, not Inherited

We’ve all seen leaders who seem naturally charismatic and influential, connecting with people at a visceral level, engendering respect, fascination and relatedness; often in just a moment. This power is at the heart of a charismatic Leader.

Charismatic leaders stand out from the rest as they show a certain unexplained quality that can occur as extraordinary. But, the reality is that no one is born charismatic. If leadership gravitas, influence and power can be cultivated, then where does it come from? There are some great lessons to be learned from the leaders I interviewed as documented in my book True Leadership The Source of Success.

1. Confidence, not bravado. People who are truly at home with themselves exude a calm, centered energy and tend to speak softly, while carrying great weight with their words. They are more interested in bringing out the best in others and turning the attention in the conversation away from themselves. My conversation with Michael Luscombe, former CEO of Woolworths at the end of his talk at the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce sums this up perfectly. With 500 people at the event and a long line waiting to speak to him, he made me feel as if I was the most important person in the room.

2. Care about big stuff.  Small talk is just that and there is a reason why it's also referred to as mindless. We tend to go a bit unconscious in those sorts of conversations, not really connecting to each other. Big ideas spark great thinking and to convey them effectively, people need to be present, focused and in touch with their audience. Otherwise they may fail to gain buy-in. Leaders who care, truly care about big ideas will ensure they communicate effectively every time. Leah Armstrong of Reconciliation Australia's conversations about indigenous people draw you in to the big ideas. She conveys great conviction without preaching, knowing whether or not she has your interest and buy-in.

3. Choose your words with care. ​ A charismatic leader's voice carries the weight of their commitments so they are very responsible with what they say. Elizabeth Broderick of the Australian Human Rights Commission chooses her words with great care, knowing how important she is, not in an egotistical sense, but with the knowledge that she has a very public role and an opportunity to affect very real and positive change for the people she represents.

4. Above all, act with integrity, every time.  Integrity is not just about behaving ethically, it is also about the congruence of your words, thoughts and actions. When people know what you stand for and who you are, and that is something that will have a positive impact on the world, they will trust you implicitly. Anne Sherry of Carnival Australia is open and transparent to her people. Like all the other true leaders in my study, her commitment goes beyond her stated role as the CEO, it is about her people and the chance to make a difference in this world. She is open, honest and not afraid to speak the truth, even if it makes others uncomfortable.

It's why she and other true leaders have real power. With nothing to hide, there is no fear, with a commitment to something important, you'll have big conversations, speaking from the confidence and clarity of knowing who you are and what your life is for.

That's real power.