Where does charisma end and where do solid leadership principles begin?

We’ve all met charismatic leaders … you know, the ones who cast a spell, talk hypnotically and mesmerise everyone who is honoured to walk in their presence. Their story-telling skills are legendary and poetic  … they embody the magnetic properties of the time honoured book “How to win friends and influence people,” they live and breathe these principles with astounding effects and inhabit a sphere of influence that is extensive.

Knowing that good leadership attracts and influences people, it’s tempting to think that you also need to be charismatic to influence and motivate people. There are certainly enough lack-lustre leaders out there to suggest that charisma is a quality that most of us should look to cultivate.

In time, we learn that good character, ethics and sound adherence to applying leadership principles are the most important signifiers of a great leader, not just charisma. Charisma attracts people in the short term, but good character sustains and delivers lasting relationships.

Charismatic leaders without solidly applying proper leadership principles and good character tend to “wing it” or “fly by the seat of their pants”, relying on their personal influence and charm to gloss over problems and sweet talk people into believing that everything is OK, when it is not. For this reason charisma can be hollow and without substance and it’s just a matter of time before the spell is broken and people “see behind the curtain”, waking up to the illusion with devastating results.

Without solid leadership principles you cannot sustain meaningful relationships and, without deeply investing in your working relationships, the ability to be an effective leader is seriously diminished.

Character, on the other hand, is your internal DNA, embodying who you really are. It’s the inner fibre of your being … it reveals what you are truly made of, and what leadership principles you uphold.

  1. Good leadership sets a fine example. Leaders set a standard for their employees. Your team eventually aspire to emulate the characteristics of you, their leader. So, if you rely on your charisma to compromise on your standards, cheat the company, or take shortcuts, you can expect the same tactics from your team.
  2. Sound leadership creates trust. Good leadership functions only on a foundation of trust. If you remove the trust, by relying on your wits and the art of distraction, instead of sound leadership, then you fracture that solid base with catastrophic effects on the company culture you work so hard for.
  3. Good business ethics set you apart. Charisma makes people stand out for a moment, but good business ethics and leadership principles set them apart for a lifetime.
  4. Leadership skills extends influence. Charisma, by its nature, doesn’t last long, like a flash of gunpowder – a quick, blinding light, and then it’s gone. The only thing left is smoke, (and sometimes mirrors!) Good leadership, on the other hand, is more like a coal burning stove. Its effects are long-lasting. It produces heat and light, and as it continues to burn it becomes brighter and attracts people to its long lasting, permeating warmth.


Here at Sewells, our clients tell us we’re experts at working with people giving them the skills and confidence to brilliantly apply leadership principles that last a lifetime and motivate teams with transformative effects.


  • After 4 years of hitting a ‘glass ceiling’ for targets, we helped an established manufacturing company smash their target in the following year with a 21% increase.
  • We sky rocketed a reputable automotive manufacturer’s customer retention from bottom 10% (in a league of 200) to top three in a 6 month period.
  • We’ve seen employee engagement in one organisation increase from 75% to 92% in 12 months.


Call us to discuss your current leadership aspirations on 01244 681068 or contact us at tellmemore@sewells.com.

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