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What are the qualities of a successful leader?
They have a strong vision, can clearly communicate their goals and can command a room. But a new study from Ghent University published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that charisma only takes you so far.
The researchers looked at the charisma scores — taken from a 56-question personality assessment — of nearly 600 business leaders and compared that with how their colleagues — peers, subordinates and superiors perceived their effectiveness.
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They found that when charisma increased, so did the perception of effectiveness, but there was a point when it would plateau and decline. “Leaders with both low and high charismatic personalities were perceived as being less effective than leaders with moderate levels of charisma,” said study co-author Filip De Fruyt.
The sweet spot between the two comes down to the perception of being able to adapt and handle whatever is thrown at you. The researchers found that people with lower charisma were considered to be less effective because they didn’t have enough strategic acumen. But those with high charisma got knocked because their “operational behavior” was seen as lacking.
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The study defines strategic leaders as someone who is able to communicate his or her vision and get people to invest in and enact it. An operational leader is someone who is proficient at completing tasks in the short term, allocating resources and doing it in a disciplined and orderly fashion. The researchers say that people who are moderately charismatic were considered to be more effective because both of these sides of their leadership were apparent.
“While conventional wisdom suggests that highly charismatic leaders might fail for interpersonal reasons like arrogance and self-centeredness,” said co-author Jasmine Vergauwe, “our findings suggest that business-related behaviors, more than interpersonal behavior, drive leader effectiveness ratings.”