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The Power of Charisma

By Tom Murray | Managing Director, Agency

Charisma. The one quality that all leaders tend to have. Charisma has a positive connotation, but charisma works both ways, both  for motivating and fear, so unfortunately, some of the most destructive leaders in history also were charismatic. When harnessed for good, it can be used to be very persuasive and also get the most out of any team.

To illustrate the point, I want to take you through a quick case study on how charisma can truly impact teams.

This experiment was done by John Antonakis, a Professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, who also is the editor-in-chief for “The Leadership Quarterly”. You can also view one of his Ted Talk’s on Charisma here.

In John’s experiment, he took a group of mail sorting workers during the holidays who were going to be sorting Santa letters from kids and split them into three groups.

  • Group 1: these workers were all given the same fixed wage for their work based on the amount of hours worked + a normal, non-charismatic speech
  • Group 2: these workers were all given the same fixed wage for their work based on the amount of hours worked + an incentive to earn more $$ by hitting milestones for the number of envelopes that they sorted + a normal, non-charismatic speech
  • Group 3: these workers were all given the same fixed wage for their work based on the amount of hours worked with no incentives for bonus pay + a tailored charismatic speech about what and why they were doing

If you’d like to view the speeches (as well as more detail of the study), you can view them here by going to slide 25 .

The results were a bit surprising. As expected, group 2 saw the biggest lift in output, with a 20% increase due to the potential to earn more.

What was surprising though was that group 3 saw a 18% boost compared to group 1, and yet the only thing different was the speech that they heard before completing the task.

It is expected than that a 4th group that has potential incentives built in while also receiving a charismatic speech would drive the highest output, but that one we will just have to assume for now.

The impact that charisma can have on a team is clear. The more charismatic that you can be a as a leader, the more likely you’ll see an increase in output.


Written By:

Tom Murray is the Managing Director of the agency. I have vast big agency experience with over 6 years working on brands such as Pepsi, Visa, P&G, Oreo, Showtime, Under Armour, Estee Lauder, and more.  I’m an entrepreneur at heart, having started my own eBay consignment business at 14, owning an ice cream shop by the age of 23, and currently am getting my MBA at Binghamton University, with a business analytics focus. I apply an entrepreneurial mindset to everything I do, and know the true value of a dollar, whether it is mine or yours. My goal is to stretch and push client’s marketing dollars as far as they can go, to ensure you get every bit of value out of your marketing spend.

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