5 Barriers to Leading with Charisma

We discussed in Monday’s post on 3 Tips for Leading with Charisma that one of the things charismatic leaders do well is make others feel comfortable. After all, if the people you lead are uncomfortable in your presence, you’ll have a hard time forming relationships with them, and they’ll have a hard time leading up and speaking freely.

Just as we can intentionally lead with charisma, we can also unintentionally intimidate by allowing subtle or not-so-subtle barriers to remain in place that prevent us from impacting others. Here are five common barriers to connecting that we must work to minimize or remove if we’re going to connect with others:

The How’s-The-Weather-Down-There Barrier

If you’re tall like me, your height can automatically intimidate others who are shorter than you. Avoid looking down at people when speaking to them, especially if you’re having a disagreement or a critical conversation. Instead, invite the other person to sit down with you so you can eliminate the height barrier, make better eye contact, and talk on the same level.

The Massive-Mahogany-Desk Barrier

Do you have a nice big desk? Avoid sitting behind it when visiting with others. Your big roomy desk might make you feel comfortable and safe, but it doesn’t have that same effect for the person sitting on the other side. Keep a couple of chairs on the other side of your desk so that when you’re visiting with a coworker, you can remove that Lake Superior-sized obstacle and connect better.

The Remember-I’ve-Been-Here-15-Years-Longer-Than-You (And Always Will Be) Barrier

If you’ve served inside the same organization for many years or many decades, you’re likely proud of your tenure, and that you should be. However, consistently reminding colleagues that you’ve been working at the company since they were in grade school won’t do much to encourage them to speak up and share their ideas. Communicate your experience inside your organization by adding value to others, not by intimidating them with your years of service.

The I’m-the-Senior-Executive-Chief-Vice-President (And Don’t Forget It) Barrier

If we’re not careful, we can allow an impressive-sounding title to have the same impact as a nice, big desk: it can make us feel good and it can convey that we’re important, but it’s of very little benefit to those we’re trying to lead. Titles are another overrated leadership factor that can easily intimidate others. There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance, and sometimes a title will push someone over that line. When titles are used as a badge of honor, they can create a culture of elitism that then results in intimidation due to false levels of importance.

The I’m-Very-Busy-and-Important Barrier

This final barrier is one that any leader can easily fall prey to due to a hectic schedule and all the distractions of technology within reach. Whether you’re chatting with a coworker at the coffee pot or leading a team meeting, be present. An incessant stream of incoming phone calls, emails, and texts to your smart phone isn’t impressive; it’s distracting, and it says that the person or people you’re with aren’t important enough for your full attention. Instead, send the message that you value what they have to say; arrive on time, shut the door to block out background noise, and put your beeping blinking phone away so you can focus your full attention on the person in front of you.

Like all characteristics of a good leader, leading with charisma is something that must be done purposefully. By working to minimize or remove these barriers, we can do a better job of connecting with and making an impact on the people we lead and serve.

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