of the Week
Journal | Issue #0129 | December 2, 2003 | 9,000 Subscribers
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This week's article, "Is
Charismatic Leadership Good for Groups?,"
was inspired by a dialogue with my friend, Lynn Goldhammer,
Commander and Quality
Performance Consultant in
the Coast Guard. Our discussion
got me questioning the value of strong, forceful, and
charismatic leadership in the world of facilitation
and training. It occurs to me as a facilitator, that
at some times and in some places, this trait might get
overused. This article explores when strong leadership
may and may
not be useful. We
look forward to your comments!
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Charismatic Leadership Good for Groups?
A critical look at the impact of charisma on group process.
we're all drawn to charismatic leaders. Whether we're
talking about political leaders like JFK, public speakers
like Zig Ziglar, or trainers like Anthony Robbins, how
does the charisma or strength of a group leader impact
a group, pro or con?
We've become increasingly conditioned to being entertained,
via television dramas, commercials, movies, and talk
shows. The messages are getting shorter, more provocative,
and persistent, in attempts to get our attention in
the rising sea of information. A dead pan speaker, no
matter how relevant and important the content of his
message, is unlikely to be heard.
I've seen coaches and trainers who actually specialize
in the "entertainment factor" to create more
success in their workshops and events. After all, we're
competing with Hollywood at every turn with hundreds
of cable and satellite TV stations, flashy audio and
video enabled Internet, etc.
Further, we've been conditioned to sit and listen to
the "teacher," "leader," "speaker,"
up in front of the room and view her as the expert,
authority, guru, etc. If this is true, I can't help
but wonder, from the perspective of a facilitator, about
the impact a charismatic group leader has on the empowerment
of her group.
Will her charisma rub off on her group and connect them
to their power? Or will her charisma inspire them to
just sit, enthralled and entertained for the moment,
having little impact on the work "they," and
they alone, came together to do?
article was inspired by the following comment I received
a fellow facilitator:
"I'm wondering if [I can learn to] be a less obtrusive
facilitator when I'm supposed to be facilitating...
I just realize that people need to talk and have discussions,
and that isn't happening in this high tech world. So,
I go in and start conversations, but am always up in
front directing them. Hmmmm. I'm wondering if that is
always best? If maybe some situations will benefit from
me sitting down, and facilitating from within the group
even when I'm not part of the group or contributing
my thoughts. Does that make sense? Less controlling
of the flow, while still keeping folks rounded up and
moving... (a cowgirl versus a dog (leash) walker?)"
comment got me thinking about the potential downsides
of what we often consider to be strong or charismatic
leadership on the health of group process. I did a little
research on the Internet and found nothing regarding
the downside, problems, or harm that might come as a
result of strong, charismatic, even "forceful"
leadership. It seems that according to most people,
this is a commodity we can't get enough of.
I've heard Charisma defined as a potent combination
of inspiration and enthusiasm. To inspire means to exert
an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on others,
and enthusiasm is a strong excitement of feeling. There's
no question that inspiration and enthusiasm serve the
collective good of groups at one time or another. And
perhaps that's the key. Just as there's a time and a
place to "use" charismatic, strong, or forceful
leadership, there may very well be times when it could
also hinder your group's purpose.
Some Thoughts on Using Charismatic Leadership as
If you've been able to help get a group to openly dialogue
around an issue they've committed to work with, then
you've done your job as group leader and it's time to
get the heck out of the way, at least for the moment.
And it might well be that your charisma sparked the
passion that got them started. Great job! Now turn it
off and sit down!
- Though I prefer to be a bit of an introvert, I like
to think that I can be a bit charismatic at times. (Though
I'm ready to admit this could be a complete fantasy
of mine.) Whatever the case, I actually don't mind being
in the background and know I'm being a successful facilitator
when I've worked myself out of a job, at least momentarily,
and my group's cruising on its own.
For those facilitators who are charismatic and great
at motivating groups to participate and engage, that
very strength can work against you if you don't know
how or when to get out of the spotlight. I believe this
is ego work for the dynamic facilitator. See your charisma
as a tool and learn when and when not to use it. Once
you've stimulated and inspired your group, exercising
your charisma may disempower them. A facilitator who
has her group's best interest in mind will give them
room to develop and exercise their own charisma.
- Silence is a much underestimated skill in this arena.
And yes, sitting down and facilitating from within the
group, literally, can work as well.
- I'm sure there's a lot more to be said on this subject
(as he turns his charisma on low), but let's hear some
of your ideas. Please email
them to me.
you like to republish this or other articles from the
are free to do so providing you follow these guidelines.
you a strong and charismatic group leader? Do you know
when to turn it off? How can you better use this skill
to empower your groups? We'd love to hear what you come
up with. Please email
us your comments.
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Steve Davis helps facilitators, coaches, consultants and leaders
who are struggling to
present themselves confidently, empower their groups, enhance
their facilitation skills,
and build their businesses on and off line. Please email
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a Learning Facilitator Teleclass
will explore how to make the leap from conventional teaching
to the skills, attitudes, and practices necessary to create
and facilitate a learning environment.
the 4-Day Format/Training works...
dial into your class every day for 4 days (Mon-Thurs) for
a 60-minute focused training segment using a conferencing
2. You work with a learning guide during the course (about
an hour a day of study and field work) which you complete
by Thursday, or sooner if you wish.
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an online listserve during the course.
4. During the week, you may access the instructor via email
for help or situational questions.
what you'll be learning and doing during this course...
the Landscape of Learning
- What is "Learning?" Who Learns? Who teaches?
- Review distinctions between Teaching, Training, Mentoring,
Coaching, and Facilitating
- The Content/Process Paradox
- The medium is the message.
Changing the Paradigm
- Shift from Director to Guide
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from participating in the training...
your love of teaching and training
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to your students.
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for you both
- Become a better listener and communicator.
- Release the burden of trying to "make" learning
happen in your classroom.
- Collaborate and learn from a community of your peers, who
are all passionate about empowering groups.
This is the first run of this class and will be somewhat of
an R&D nature, meaning that we may be experimenting with
new ideas and approaches and will be looking for you to be
involved in its creation. Therefore, the cost of this training
is discounted from our standard fee of $89 to $49.
Everything you read about above is included. And, we offer
a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
This class begins December 8, 2003 from 1:00-2:00PM EST.
It will meet daily for 60 minutes from Monday through
Thursday, the 11th. Because this is an R&D class, it's
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well depending on our progress and student interests.
Also included with
In addition to the training described above, you also receive:
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you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal. Look
for your next issue on December 9, 2003.
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