One of the best bosses I ever worked for was charming, excellent with people and understood the value of relationships. He was well-liked but too low key and two unassuming to be called charismatic. Yet, those of us who worked for him were fired up about it.

His words were more powerful than his delivery but he didn’t need to give Obama-esque speeches to get us to follow him anywhere; it was the nature of his character (his “moral excellence and firmness”[1])

He was in charge but he was not the boss. Kyle (not his real name) gave us direction but he was not dictatorial. He expected great things of us but he did not put any pressure on us.

I have worked for bosses who were good at pointing out mistakes; Kyle talked about missed opportunities.

I have had bosses who blamed me for not sharing information with them when a room full of witnesses would have confirmed that I did; when Kyle did not remember he would say “I’m sure you told me before but would you remind me?”

I have experienced bosses who talked about their direct reports as a team but then micro-managed them; Kyle created a senior leadership team and with his blessing, we held our twice-monthly meetings without him.

Kyle’s “moral excellence and firmness”, i.e., his character, led him to invest in us as individuals and to give us room to grow as a team. We became a high-performing group (IMHO) because we were well-led by a man of great character.

We hear so much about the need for leaders to have charisma in order to inspire and to motivate. However, the lack of charisma does not undermine good leaders; but the lack of character does. In my experience character trumps charisma every day of the week when it comes to motivation.

Have you ever been more motivated by a leader’s character than his charisma? Or vice versa? What was the impact on how you approached your work? I’d love to hear from you. Please send me a note via the contact form. As a thank you, I will send you an excerpt from my book, Transforming: The Power of Leading from Identity.


[1] From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary