Charismatic leadership – the quickest way to employee empowerment

With the challenges of Brexit, organisations are struggling to come to terms with uncertainty, lack of confidence over the trajectory of UK government spending and inflation risks. So are businesses empowering their people right now to perform well in these exceptional circumstances?

Fear is the biggest barrier to high performance, innovation and wellness. A sales director freezes at the start of his presentation at a sales conference. A project manager appears quiet and withdrawn during an update meeting. A Financial Advisor fails their compliance exam. A new recruit has that ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look. These people have choked under pressure. When our brain has been overloaded with too much information and as levels of worry increase, we can experience ‘paralysis by analysis’ and part of our brain’s processing power becomes depleted. We literally can’t think clearly.

I first came across The Choking Effect in 2002 when Sven-Goran Eriksson became manager of the England football team. He believed that if players played defensively, whilst they might not lose, they would not create opportunities to win. Taking a shot at goal weakens the team’s defence so every shot at goal is a risk for that player. Supported by Professor Willi Railo from the University of Oslo, Sven identified that fear of failure or fear of making mistakes can create a crippling form of anxiety. With the burden of expectation, this is clearly demonstrated during penalty shoot-outs.

When employees don’t feel safe for any reason they often appear withdrawn, resistant, disinterred and even incompetent. Their body has gone into a state of survival. The 70 trillion cells in the body with into mini-silos that block growth hormones. In this state of mental, emotional and physical lock-down employees’ performance becomes suboptimal.

Clearly this is the opposite of what organisations need right now. They want high performing, motivated and engaged people who are working collaboratively and feel safe to explore new ways of doing things. The biggest opportunity for creating a safe and highly productive culture lies with the leadership team. Their fear and anxiety creates emotional contagion that spreads through the organisation faster than a virulent flu epidemic.

Within an empowering environment leaders and employees feel a sense of personal power that they do possess the resources inside of themselves to make a difference at work. Empowered people automatically reframe situations and challenges into positive opportunities for growth and progress. To feel empowered you can’t then complain or moan about anything in your external world because you hold the belief that at some level you are creating it all.


To create an empowering environment within your organisation:


  • Engage in vision – align individual’s values to the corporate vision


  • Motivate by example – operate from a mindset of growth


  • Participate and involve – encourage, support and enable others to get more involved


  • Open communication – be honest and open even if the news is not good


  • Willingness to let go – delegate and give responsibility


  • Executive mentality – encourage people think like a leader


  • Respect their boundaries


During my thirty year study into charisma I encountered research by Harvard Business Review and the CBI that demonstrate charismatic leaders are over 60% more effective. In my own research with 150 business leaders I found that there is strong evidence that proves the link between charisma and high levels of engagement, a vital requisite to create an empowered environment. The charismatic leader is significantly more resilient and creates a compelling vision that causes people to feel safe and inspired.

Charismatic leaders have the ability to create high levels of trust so that people feel involved, trusted and cared about. Charismatic leaders contribute to individual empowerment that leads directly to more innovation, improved flow of communication and higher team performance.

This is not the time to batten down the hatches. This will only serve to further depress employees who are already experiencing the pain of a depressed economy. This is the time to equip leaders with the exciting realisation that they already possess an innate charisma within them. Everyone has the potential to be charismatic if they focus on developing five internal attributes:

  1. Self-esteem
  2. Sensory awareness
  3. Compelling vision
  4. Driving force
  5. Balanced energy

It’s only when people feel safe that empowerment can start to happen between the leader and employees – this is where authentic charismatic leadership can really unlock the door to business growth – it’s the easiest way to navigate employees through uncertain times.

Nikki Owen is a charisma expert at The Charisma Connection at Full Potential Group (FPG) , a company specialising in high-impact coaching, team performance and leadership development. She is part of a team at FPG offering in-house accreditation for Internal Charisma Connection Practitioners


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