Inspiring Leadership: Learning from Great Leaders

By John Adair | Go to book overview

TWELVE

Charisma

'True charm is an
aura, an invisible
musk in the air; if you
see it working, the
spell is broken.'

LAURIE LEE

Charisma first became a popular term in America during the 1960s and 1970s. Webster's Dictionary defines it as a 'personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a statesman or military commander.' It has since been applied much more widely to leaders in fields other than politics or war. In industry, for example, the word has often been used about industrialists such as Sir John Harvey- Jones in Britain, Lee Iacocca in American and Carlo Benedetti in Italy. It is now in danger of losing all its distinctive meaning and becoming synonymous with public attractiveness: a mixture of good looks, a striking manner and self-proclamation. So often such 'charisma' proves to be like a coat of unrenewable fresh paint, which shortly reveals lasting inadequacy underneath it.

In this chapter the nature of charisma (in Webster's definition), and the problems associated with it, will be explored by looking at some military commanders who undoubtedly had it, notably Alexander the Great, Napoleon and Lawrence of Arabia. The actual word 'charisma' comes to us from the New Testament. The chapter concludes with an exploration of the Biblical concept signified by the word. It is an example of how the three seams of tradition that lie beneath the Western understanding of leadership — in this case, Judaeo-Christian religion and philosophy — can still be mined for ideas which refresh leadership today.

-254-

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Inspiring Leadership: Learning from Great Leaders
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Inspiring Leadership - Learning from Great Leaders *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction 1
  • Part 1 3
  • One - Leadership through Knowledge 4
  • Two - Leadership Skills 24
  • Three - The Servant-Leader 37
  • Four - The Ability to Give Direction 58
  • Five - Making the Right Decisions 77
  • Six - The Art of Inspiring While Informing 108
  • Part 2 *
  • Seven - The Roots of British Tradition 138
  • Eight - The Gentleman Leader 156
  • Nine - Nelson 187
  • Ten - Polar Explorers 207
  • Eleven - Leadership in a Changing World 220
  • Part 3 *
  • Twelve - Charisma 254
  • Thirteen - Women as Leaders 276
  • Fourteen - Styles of Leadership 303
  • Fifteen - Leaders for Tomorrow 335
  • Picture Acknowledgements 346
  • Select Bibliography 347
  • Index 349
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