The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers, and Profits
By Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Review by Robert Morris
Opinions are divided about the importance of charisma to effective leadership. My own opinion is that it resembles an expensive fragrance. It smells good but don’t drink it. Churchill, Gandhi, and FDR certainly had charisma but so did contemporaries such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. All certainly had magnetism.
In this book, Roberta Chinsky Matuson suggests that, however different magnetic leaders may be in most other respects, all of them demonstrate – to varying degree -- a covey of common traits. Here they are, accompanied by annotations that I have added:
1. Authenticity: “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know;
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."
-- Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching
3. Strong communication: “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — give it a tremendous whack!” Winston Churchill
4. Charisma: “Charisma is the result of effective leadership, and the power of your character, not the other way around.” Warren Bennis
5. Transparency: “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson
6. Vision: "You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’” The Serpent in Shaw’s Back to Methuselah
7. Resilience: “Champions get up when they can’t.” Jack Dempsey
Long ago I realized that traits such as these, if true, must not be compromised by the imperfect creatures that possess them, with Jefferson perhaps the best example among them. We are inspired by something we already possess within us, albeit previously unrecognized or at least under-appreciated. I wholly agree with Roberta Chinsky Matuson that the best leaders “energize people every day” but only with our permission. Great leaders identify with our visions, and with our values, even when we may not always understand what is happening.
The power of magnets is determined by the nature and extent of what they attract. The same is true of leaders. The appeal of some is defined by the greatness of their character and the enduring legacy of their impact. Other leaders are defined by the scope and depth of their evil, remembered only in infamy.
All organizations need effective leaders at all levels and in all areas beyond the C-suite throughout the given enterprise. Leaders without title become the gravitational center of collaborate effort. I only wish they were more widely recognized and more generously rewarded.
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