The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Just Because You Don’t Wear A Suit Or A Tie Or Have A Side Parting Doesn’t Mean You’re A Danger To [Commercial] Society …
January 27, 2011, 6:33 am
Filed under: Comment

I often talk about the commercial value of ‘strong & charismatic leadership’ as well as how I believe it should be something business schools include in their syllabuses … however whenever I bring it up at a conference or something similar, I tend to get smacked down because there is this belief [in certain business circles] that it’s a danger, rather than an opportunity.

Of course I appreciate a high-profile leader means a company may disproportionately attract the attention of competitors or lawyers – but apart from the fact ‘high profile’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘dangerous’ or ‘corrupt’ – the fact so many of these “believers in the bland” spend billions each year trying to shove their name down everyone’s throat hardly demonstrates an organisation fixated on hiding under the radar.

Now I am not saying every charismatic business leader will drive a companies revenue – just like how every bland corporate head doesn’t get double digit growth – plus I am painfully aware that you can’t actually teach someone to have charisma … however my point is that if its commercial value was recognised and validated, then maybe it would encourage more companies to embrace the unique or the different, because sadly at present it appears that regardless of whether we’re talking about brands or business leaders, there is an attempt to standardise tone, manner & approach and I believe that is a major contributing factor to the seemingly never-ending production line of the soulless and the average, even if on occasion they try and disguise it in cliché-ridden sparkles.

Being different isn’t wrong. Being wrong is wrong.

27 Comments so far
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Birkies are not charismatic.

Comment by John

be fair to him john, the fucker doesnt have anything else that might get him remembered.

Comment by andy@cynic

you really have been sacked by dan the fucking man havent you campbell.

ok, take off the fucking dust sheets and start the fucking engines again, but this time i want a fucking lawyer to check the contract before you fuck me over once again.

Comment by andy@cynic

What are cliche sparkles? Are they starbursts 2.0?

Comment by Billy Whizz

are you saying you fucking read campbells shit that closely billy? fuck me i knew life was bad for you but i didnt realise it was that fucking shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s only when Rob is involved.

Comment by Billy Whizz

you and the population of the entire fucking universe.

Comment by andy@cynic

today I spent most of the day reading the financial times (travelling). I noticed that I attracted two kinds of stares from the businessmen around me: one of confusion (unsurprising), and the other a strange mix of intrigue and admiration. which was kind of reassuring in a way, as I daydreamed about being a kick-arse supply chain mgmt exec with a lip ring, tattoos and liberal use of the word motherfucker 🙂

pretty please can we have more different business peeps? it’ll make a nice change to ‘us’ vs ‘them’.

Comment by lauren

Lauren, now we’re talking charisma. Just one question:
On which side is the lip ring?

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

you don’t remember? sheesh..

Comment by lauren

Thank you Lauren for actually getting what I’m saying rather than simply take the piss. Mind you, if you now say the only reason you were reading the ‘FT’ was because that’s how your fish & chips were served, I’ll cry.

Comment by Rob

rob, you’ll be relieved to know that I chose to get the FT. even though business and its stranglehold on language and politics gives me the shits, I still have a brain I like to exercise. plus the FT is yet to fill its pages with ‘he said, she said’ gossipy pap.

Comment by lauren

Too many people can’t handle different. It messes with their worldview. That. of course, is a good thing.

Comment by John

It also makes them question everything they know/have been taught … and yet the greatest lesson is that there’s always more than one way to approach a problem, though it would appear that for all the talk, too few people in adland actually understand that.

Comment by Rob

Is this to prepare/soften us for an impending flight or upgrade request?

Comment by Lee Hill

Funny you should say that …

Comment by Rob

The last line of the post , along with the picture was enough to get the message across. Why so much in between, ha!

No one is gonna disagree with you on this one, well they shouldn’t !

Comment by bhaskar

You’re right mate, except that when it comes into practice, I know a lot of people who seem to change their opinions to quite a degree.

Comment by Rob

Hi Rob,

I’ve been doing a bit of work around talking to what Yanks like to call C-suite types, CEO’s, CFO’s etc and there’s some evidence that the most effective types at this level tend to be, shall we say, less charismatically blessed.

Efficiency, attention to detail, excellent organisational skills are key traits. Being an anal retentive that will focus really hard on execution and pushing things forward tend to thrive (with the odd exception)

There’s an interesting NYT piece on the topic here

Comment by tom

Hi there and thanks for this Tom.

I’ve read these types of research reports before and they are almost always imply that a CEO with a more charismatic personality cannot possess attention to detail, organisational skill or a focus on efficiency and that is plain bollocks.

I have been fortunate to work with a couple of the more well known characters in “C-Suite” land and can tell you from first hand experience, their vision and drive is more than a match for many of the passive and faceless leaders many in the business world tend to celebrate.

The other thing is that very rarely do any of these reports take into account how these more outspoken leaders improve corporate morale which in turn increases productivity.

It always seems that anyone who celebrates the less-than-typical CEO gets faced with a barrage of commentary that states that regardless how good they may be, they’re are still ‘inferior’ to the “classic” business attributes of the major corporate CEO’s.

I’m not saying you’re doing this and I accept the research as a valid opinion, but I just find it fascinating that even though Steve Jobs is a founder of one of the most successful and profitable companies in the World, his CEO credentials [from a purely business industry perspective] are still probably less than that of the head of a corporate bank, despite all the dramas they put the World through over the last couple of years.

It appears the business World view charisma as unpredictable and unpredictability is the worst trait you can have – which is why I think it is influencing the production line of soulless and average everything.

Comment by Rob

Totally agree with the sentiment Rob.

In my naivety I had thought that all CEO’s would be cut from the type of cloth you’re arguing for. Found it interesting that in fact people that have “found one thing they’re good at and do it over and over again” tend to get to the top.

Comment by tom

The sad fact is the greatest achievement many CEO’s seem to have are resilience or conformity.

Comment by Rob

Could you elaborate on your thoughts about resilience?

It seems you are negative about it and that makes me curious to know why.

Especially as I am of the opinion it will be THE key ‘skill’ for the 21th century, be it in people, be it in business..

So any fightback on that position would be good to hear/read..

Comment by niko

You wouldn’t hire a salesman with no charisma.
The problem is love of money creates fear of risk, fear of risk drives you to safer, blander, safer, blander, safer until no personality is left.

It takes visionary leadership to understand the value in the charismatic, the creative and exciting. Ironically the rewards are there: Sony, Nintendo, Virgin, Nike. Look at Sony, the period where they started playing safe was the biggest crash in their history, only the vision of Ken Kuturagi in Playstation (which Sony originally didn’t want to be called a Sony product) kept them going.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I agree with you Mr M, but don’t the examples you use represent people with vision rather than charisma? I know it could be argued they are linked, but the thing I find interesting is that the people who have genuine charisma don’t tend to come across as being brave … which is possibly one of their greatest assets/benefits, because suddenly the things they say make sense, when in another persons hands, they may sound like madness.

Comment by Rob

I think they are definitely linked. It takes vision to know where to go, and charisma to make it happen.

Charisma makes bravery feel like confidence, and when you are pushing boundaries you always need confidence.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Granny and sucking eggs notwithstanding, Bob Sutton
here – – has some interesting things to say on this topic.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

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