Why Being a Middle Manager Is So Exhausting. Eric M. Anicich, Jacob B. Hirsh. Harvard Business Review (March 22, 2017). Through a series of empirical studies exploring the concept of charisma outside of an organizational leadership context, a team of researchers identify the two core dimensions of personal charisma and show that charisma is an informal personality trait observable in any context.
What is charisma? Much of past research focuses on the outcomes of charisma and often within the context of leaders in an organizational setting—e.g., charismatic leaders generate emotions that inspire others to follow them.
However, leaders are not the only people in our lives who exhibit charisma, argues a team of researchers from the University of Toronto. We can observe charisma in our friends, family members and even strangers. In a series of studies involving hundreds of volunteer lay participants, the researchers explore the informal, general charisma that occurs in our everyday lives.
The first step in studying charisma outside of the organizational leadership context was to reveal the personal qualities at the heart of charisma. To that end, the researchers asked a group of volunteers to each name four characteristics of charismatic individuals (focusing on hypothetical individuals rather than specific examples such as political leaders). A second group of volunteers then rated the resulting set of 100 characteristics on how closely they defined charisma, and a third group took the resulting trimmed down 40 characteristics and named which ones applied to them. The researchers then conducted factor and other analyses of the data that emerged from these studies, which led to the identification of the two core dimensions of charisma: Influence, which is the ability to guide others, and Affability, which is the ability to make others feel comfortable and at ease.
With the two dimensions identified, the researchers developed and tested a tool for measuring charisma, called the General Charisma Inventory (GCI). The GCI is based on three items measuring Influence and three items measuring Affability, as follows:
With their newly created charisma measurement tool in hand, the researchers conducted a further series of empirical studies that yielded the following insights:
In studying charisma outside the context of leadership, this research reveals characteristics and nuances of charisma that may in fact help organizations to identify high potential individuals for their leadership pipeline, notably:
Organizational leaders may discover other ways to apply to their specific situations the lessons of this unique perspective on informal charisma.
Charisma in Everyday Life: Conceptualization and Validation of The General Charisma Inventory. Konstantin O. Tskhay, Rebecca Zhu, Christopher Zou & Nicholas O. Rule. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (January 2018).
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