Why charisma boosts creativity

The world has gone through a massive change in megatrends in the past five years that has a resounding impact on global and local businesses. New companies like Airbnb and Uber have shown that with an innovative vision it’s possible to make a significant impact upon a highly competitive and established market. Bitcoin, the innovative new payment network has established itself as a viable proposition for discerning investors. 3D printing is revolutionising the way traditional organisations manufacture.

Drones, robots and sophisticated technology is becoming commonplace for many. There is an innovation premium for businesses who have gained an enviable reputation for consistent and well executed ideas and creative thinking. Amazon, salesforce.com, Netflix are dominating their market channel and experiencing enviable growth. Spectacular failures such as Blackberry, Xerox and Polaroid are examples of what happens when a leadership team does not innovate.

The message is clear. Create and innovate or stagnate and die.

Since 2008 I have been measuring, assessing and studying the impact that charisma has on a number of business areas. These range from performance effectiveness and engagement to resilience and wellbeing. Interestingly there is growing evidence that links charismatic leaders with a creative and innovate culture.

A study from Susan Strickland (University of Colorado at Denver) and Annette Towler (DePaul University) suggests that higher levels of charismatic leadership tend to occur with higher levels of creative behaviour among certain employees. (Source: Strickland, Susan and Towler, Annette. “Correlates of Creative Behaviour: The Role of Leadership and Personal Factors”.) They found that charismatic leadership increased creative behaviours among some employees.  Employees who were low in openness to experience, were more creative when paired with a charismatic leader than when not paired with a charismatic leader.  Employees who were high in openness to experience appeared to have no meaningful change in their creative behaviour when working with a charismatic leader.

A plethora of research studies demonstrate that as openness to experience increases, so does creative behaviour.  But, for those who are not open to experience, a charismatic leader who inspires will encourage a safe environment where people become open to taking creative risks.

Charisma can only flourish when an individual is operating from a growth mindset. How a person feels on a ‘scared to safe’ barometer effects the way their 70 trillion cells operate. Cellular Biologist Dr Bruce Lipton has demonstrated that stress and fear releases adrenaline and cortisol that triggers cells to shut down and move into protective silos. They block anything from entering them including hormones that cause them to grow and flourish. What happens at a cellular level is a microcosm for what happens within the individual’s mindset. A closed mind cannot be creative.

Charismatic leaders already possess a growth mindset that at some level is ‘felt’ by employees. Charismatic leaders create a safe environment that promotes the guiding principle ‘you have to dare to lose to win’. If you feel scared you become risk adverse. When you know that it’s safe to explore, to generate new ways of thinking without penalty or punishment, then the mind opens up to its infinite potential to achieving that which closed minds would conceive to be impossible or too risky.

Charismatic leaders exude confidence, a sense of purpose, and the ability to articulate a vision for followers to grasp (House, 1977; Conger, 1991). Charismatic leaders are able to communicate this vision to their followers, and by the intensity of their own excitement and enthusiasm, compel their followers to support this vision (Yukl and Van Fleet, 1992). Charismatic leaders have a remarkable influence over subordinates who internalise the leader’s vision of what can be achieved through collective effort (Bass, 1985).

Charismatic leaders can do this because they give people a real sense of why they do what they do. There has to be a purpose behind creativity and innovation. A purpose that goes way beyond paying people for submitting ideas. When the individual feels totally engaged with their work and feels part of their organisation’s success then their ‘what’s in it for me?’ attitude (which is often driven from a survival mindset) will switch to a growth mindset.

Charismatic leaders inspire ‘striving rather than driving’ because the individual’s purpose has been ignited. There is no ‘force’ exerted because the employee feels stimulated and motivated, and recognise that they are part of their company’s vision. This collaboration between individual and the organisation builds energy that fuels creative thinking and inspires people to think outside of the box.

Charisma is potent with potential.

When you place a charismatic leader into the heart of an organisation it is like throwing a pebble into a pond. You see the ever expanding ripples – moving gracefully across the water. Yet, under the surface all the aquatic life is gently enlivened by the trance of movement radiating from a single pebble.

Charismatic leaders create a safe environment where people, minds and ideas blossom and flow. Charismatic leaders instil their people with a reason why they come to work every day. Charismatic leaders value the potential of each individual in the knowledge that the human mind is capable of infinite possibilities. As they start their day, charismatic leaders remind themselves that creativity and innovation requires a gentle and consistent touch. It has to be nurtured, unlocked and persuaded to thrive.

If you would like to learn more about developing charisma and creativity please contact Full Potential Group (FPG) , a company specialising in high-impact coaching, team performance and leadership development.



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