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Are charismatic people better leaders?

Jin Hian Lee

Jin Hian Lee


Charisma doesn’t necessarily define success as a leader. Leadership is a mixture of traits: ability to inspire, to delegate, to communicate and most importantly, to persevere when things go wrong. To bring everyone back to everything that we are doing right. Back to why we’re in this: A significant aspect of my role is to set the larger vision – a clear, defined idea we can rally behind and work towards. A compelling goal has the ability to inspire, clarify and focus the work of all the individuals in your organisation. Even before you begin, have a hard look at your vision of success. What is it? Why should someone else believe in it? If you expect people to get behind your efforts, you’d better give them a good reason why. And hey, if you can deliver that in a charming, charismatic manner, all the better.

Jeremiah Lee

Managing director, Kingsland Global

Truly effective leadership comes about when leaders are the guardians of not merely a company’s balance sheet, but also the keeper of its vision and culture. An effective leader is more than just a brilliant strategist and inspiring visionary, he is also a charismatic leader who is able to clearly articulate vision in leading the company forward with exemplary character and eloquent persuasion to provide inspiring guidance. While a common direction and strategy is important, leaders should also stay adaptable, capitalising on identified strengths and seizing opportunities to remain competitive and forge ahead of the curve. These qualities are especially vital for young companies such as ours – a common vision and a solid foundation of ethos and culture must be established to serve as a guiding compass and framework in our pursuit for growth amidst a rapidly changing operating environment.

Hari Sivan

Co-Founder, soCash

Leadership is a unique blend of focus, creativity and decisiveness. While this requires effective communication and a love of taking calculated risks, being an inspirational leader has its advantages. For startups, it is important for synergy and motivation in the team and often it is the charismatic leader who pulls the team along.

The style of leadership varies depending on the industry, organisation size and culture but leaders inversely need to be enveloped with a brilliant and empowered team. The team is truly driven when inspired by the leader’s vision and a transition occurs – from working towards goal to an inspired team that exceed expectations. Good leaders focus on empowerment, innovation and agility. Once this culture permeates the organisation, it works as a cohesive entity focused on excellence. The days of KPIs are long gone and it’s now all about BHAGs (Big Hairy Ambitious Goals).

Kai-Niklas Schneider

Managing Partner - Singapore, Clifford Chance

It is human nature to gravitate towards charisma. However, leadership is also about inspiring and motivating and it must be anchored in merit and industry knowledge. For me, charismatic leadership is about leading by example. In a professional setting, our clients expect excellence. Lawyers take pride in being the most-informed people in the room as they simply must, in order to add value to clients and provide the necessary robust advice. In my role, I look back at the traits of effective leaders that have motivated me in my career, and a quote by Lao Tzu particularly inspires me: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say ‘we did it ourselves’.” I would encourage future leaders to draw on inspiration from others, but to realise that personal authenticity is the key to engaging your team.

Eliot Connor

Country Director, AdParlor

The secret to charisma is to listen more than talk. Ask the right questions to get people talking, and more importantly, thinking of smart answers. This especially applies to leadership. Create an environment, infrastructure and culture for professional and personal success, then constantly challenge them to solve problems and excel in their field. A flat, startup-like hierarchy where everyone can raise ideas, and a formalised training and award system ensures each member is motivated to grow. Team members are most engaged when they are encouraged to take ownership of their careers, incentivised to lead, and given opportunities to become thought leaders. Each member should be regarded as a business owner, and be given responsibility over their own set of metrics. When you treat employees as valued business partners and consultants, they will naturally take a vested interest in the business.

Compiled by Rumi Hardasmalani (rumih [at]

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