Not long ago, I was asked to review a video produced by the CEO of a large organization. Its purpose was to inform employees how the organization was performing and coping with the COVID-19 crisis. The crisis has put great financial strain on the organization, so the CEO was seeking to connect with employees who are understandably anxious about the current state of affairs.
Those of you with whom I have worked have heard me state that the measure of leadership is followership; a willful decision to trust in the future created and led by the leader. It is challenging to create and to maintain, and it is easily lost, as trust is fragile.
Charisma: a rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm. Personal magnetism or charm.
The word is used in both a religious (the original root of the word) and personal context. I have heard it said that the term is rooted in the French word le couer, meaning the heart. I don’t find reference to this in the dictionary, but my experience is that charisma builds from genuine heart to heart connection. Followers must feel the connection in order to bestow on someone the devotion that comes from charisma.
Charisma begins with the flowing out of genuine love or concern from the leader. Once felt by the follower, that devotion can be returned in kind. There are numerous stories of those with such ability. My favorite involved Gregory Peck who at one point was brought unannounced into the back of the room filled with dozens of female secretaries. They were all facing forward, away from him, but upon feeling him enter the room, they all turned in unison. Charisma.
This brings me back to the video presentation that I reviewed. The presentation was factual, thorough and delivered with sincerity, but it lacked the human connection vital to fulfilling the purpose of relieving the anxiety of followers. To relieve anxiety, followers have to believe in the leader’s heart and intent. Believing in competence may not likely be enough.
Tips for Creating Connection
Building charisma is a challenge in a face to face setting, even more so in a virtual setting. But, recall the Gregory Peck story, charisma is felt, not necessarily heard or seen. Here are some tips to building it as a leader.
- Be clear in your own mind that your intent is to create a heart to heart connection. If you are acting and speaking from an intent of truly caring for those you serve and who work for you, this will be felt. And if you don’t have that intent, don’t try to fake it.
- If possible, try to set up the presentation to allow for two-way video connection. Seeing your employees will make heart to heart connection easier to create and maintain. If a video link is not possible, then have some means for questions to be asked via chat. Then, respond to those as you make the presentation.
- Maintain eye contact. If communicating virtually, the contact is with the camera and involves imagining that it is your people.
- Use personal stories to make your points. Everyone knows that what you have experienced is what you feel.
- Pause to let the heart behind your message sink in. A data dump with no pauses will not get you there. True connection means the words enter the mind but the intent and true meaning enters the heart. There is a lag there that is vital.
- Ask for feedback. Was I clear? Did my intent come across? What did you feel as you experienced the presentation?
- Correct and get better.
Hope this helps you and yours to get thru this. If you have questions or need help in your work as a leader during this COVID crisis or afterward, as we create the “new normal”, don’t hesitate to connect with us. For more posts in the Leadership series, click here.