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Charisma, I have always found it an interesting personality trait. Charismatic people often do quite well on a social level. Take somebody like Barack Obama. Apart from his substantive vision and his actions, his charismatic appearance has undoubtedly helped him during his presidency. But is charisma always good for your career? Or is there a flip side? This has been investigated…
The flip side
The University of Ghent recently published a research article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The article shows that charisma can indeed help you during your career. In fact, the more charismatic a manager is, the more effective he comes across to the employees working under him/her.
But there is a flip side. There is such a thing as too much charisma, which can turn against you. An overly charismatic person is actually perceived as less effective. He or she is considered arrogant or egocentric. People also believe that this person handles things less well on an operational level. A person with little charisma is also considered to be less effective. The reason is that people think this person can handle things less well strategically.
Selection during job applications
A manager with an average amount of charisma performs best. In terms of appearance, this person would be right in the middle: sufficiently effective, strategic and operational. According to Jasmine Vergauwe, lead researcher at the University of Ghent, it is better to hire someone in the job application process who is moderately charismatic. At least, when it comes to a management position.
According to the researchers, it is very difficult to identify the tipping point. When are you too much or too little charismatic? That is difficult to assess. However, the study does show that someone’s level of adaptability and capability to cope with stressful situations are key factors.
How realistic is this?
I found it not only interesting to read these findings, but also very recognizable. In my social circles, I’ve often seen it happen that people with too little or with too much charisma are evaluated to be a less good manager. Especially when an organization hires a new manager, the first impression he/she gives is absolutely crucial.
On the other hand, what matters most is that this manager does his/her job well. And the effect charisma has, depends on the type of work, the environment and the people. Someone who has many external customers in a commercial job serves as a role model within the organization when it comes to appearance. But in a department with IT-specialists, one would think the level of charisma is less important than in a management position.
In the end, I do understand the researchers’ advice to hire someone with an average amount of charisma, but the question is whether this is realistic. Again, the degree of effect the charisma has, depends on the type of job, but would you honestly turn down someone perfect for the job, because he or she has too little or too much charisma? I doubt it. When it comes to appearance, the first thing I would pay attention to is personal care, rather than charisma. But that is my opinion.
I’m curious to hear your experience. Have you ever paid attention to people’s charisma during job interviews?