Charisma, Schmarisma: Real Leaders are Zealots

Among the counterintuitive facts leadership expert Jim Collins has uncovered is that personal charisma is largely irrelevant in successful leadership. In fact, it can be dangerous.
  • Transcript


Jim Collins:  One thing that we have to be very clear on is that leadership is not personality.  Some leaders do have charisma, but a lot of the very best leaders that we studied in the course of history have what I might call a charisma bypass, and they are not people who would jump across a table at you.  Some of them can be almost strange in their behavior; some of them can be magnetic in their behavior; some of them can be harsh and abrasive in their behaviors.  

And when you look at all that you say, well, wait a minute, leadership is not personality.  And, in fact, if you’re highly charismatic, that’s not necessarily a positive because the critical thing we found about how people engage with a leader is not about this external stuff.  That’s really pretty irrelevant.  It has to do with an answer to a simple question: why are you in it?  Are you fundamentally doing something that’s about you?  Or are you trying to build something great to accomplish something great, to build great products; or whether it be to build a great company, or to change a bunch of kids’ lives in a school, or to accomplish a mission in Afghanistan?  

I mean, if it’s fundamentally about you as a leader, why should anybody give themselves over to what you’re trying to do?  But if it’s fundamentally that you’re channeling your ego into a cause or a company or a set of work or something that you’re trying to accomplish that is not about you, that’s when people sign up.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd