“Just a little more charisma can make a very positive difference in your effectiveness.” That is something we say in our book, Seeing Yourself as Others do. We have observed this phenomenon many times. It is helpful to have a scientific study support our pragmatic observations.
A recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology documented that …
… you can have too much charisma.
Much of the study was about validating the Hogan Development Survey on charisma. The study looked at four Hogan Assessment scales that are associated with the perception of charismatic leaders: Bold, Mischievous, Colorful and Imaginative. The report is written for other researchers with long and complicated explanations. (I am Hogan certified which helped.)
Let me give you a simplification of the study. The Hogan Assessment percentile scales from 1 to 100 can be looked at as low, medium or high on each of the scales. The study found that leaders who scored low or high on the charisma scales were less effective.
Leaders who were medium on the scales were seen as:
- Bold scale: Conviction and confidence.
- Colorful scale: Optimistic, expressive and captivating.
- Mischievous scale: Push the limits and explore the unknown.
- Imaginative scale: Visionary.
There is a high correlation with those showing a medium rating on the Charisma scale for leadership and organizational effectiveness. These leaders are most effective when there is a strain on the organization. They are able to communicate a direction and motivate others to follow their direction. They are often more directive and less collaborative as leaders.
Charismatic leaders, who are also more collaborative, create more engagement when there is opportunity more than difficulty. They are able to maintain the leadership position for longer periods of time with more engaged followers.
Too much of a good thing
When looking at the same scales for leaders with higher scores on the charisma scales, they were not as effective and often destructive. Leaders with high scores were seen as:
- Bold scale: Overconfident, narcissistic with high hubris.
- Colorful scale: Manipulative and attention seeking.
- Mischievous scale: Excessive risk taking.
- Imaginative scale: Eccentric.
We have all seen leaders who fit this profile of high charisma taken to a counterproductive extreme. The larger-than-life personality hired to “save” a company, who does more damage than good, fits this profile. That is an example of being too high on the charisma scale.
Not too little and not too much
If we are low on the charisma scale, it is helpful to increase charisma somewhat. Communicate with more conviction, optimism and expression than might come naturally. It contributes to your effectiveness. It is helpful to realize that a medium amount of charisma is the most effective.