Virginia Bianco-Mathis
University professor, author

Virginia Bianco-Mathis

Business department chair of management programs at Marymount University and author of two books on executive coaching.

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Charisma

Q: In a remarkable reversal of fortune, D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty was solidly defeated in his quest for a second term, after a landslide victory four years ago. Many voters liked the changes in the city; they just didn't like Fenty. How important is personality in the quest for success? Are good ideas and an ability to get things done enough?

In my experience, there are two main ingredients for leadership success: charisma (empathy, interpersonal skills, vision, ideas, enthusiasm, and emotional intelligence) and management expertise (knowing how to implement ideas, track actions, brainstorm alternatives, measure results).

Each one of these ingredients seems to use a different part of the brain. When I'm asked to coach a leader, I try to ascertain the extent to which the person possesses each of these characteristics. More often than not, a person is strong in one and not the other. It is much easier to coach a leader strong in charisma.

A charismatic person can learn how to focus his/her vision, structure his energy, and motivate a team of managers to get things done. On the other hand, it is very difficult to transform leaders who only possess management expertise.

It is hard to change a leader who is egotistical, obnoxious, uncreative and interpersonally rigid into someone who can strategically envision futures, whip followers into a motivated frenzy, and demonstrate the kind of interpersonal savvy that moves mountains.

Thus, a charismatic mayor might want to hire Fenty to work on his management team. Fenty can work behind the scenes to get things done while the mayor sets direction and remains engaged with the people. Every once in awhile, a leader comes along who possesses both ingredients. Those are the memorable leaders. Fenty was no such leader.

Thus, a charismatic mayor might want to hire Fenti to work on his management team. Fenti can work behind the scenes to get things done while the mayor sets direction and remains engaged with the people. Everyone once in awhile, a leader comes along who possesses both ingredients. Those are the memorable leaders. Fenti was no such leader.

By Virginia Bianco-Mathis  |  September 20, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Making change Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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@Bobbo2 I agree with what you're saying. Fenty made some huge mistakes in the constituency engagement part of his job. His style is similar with Obama's

Leaders will make mistakes and will make unpopular decisions. The diff between success and failure is the personal touch. Clinton's style helped him through and so did W's. It's not all about style...but it helps smooth things over.

Posted by: bosslady1 | September 20, 2010 5:07 PM
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Correction, many voters DID NOT like some of the changes he brought about. Most of the changes people liked were put in place by Anthony williams. The only change Fenty pushed was school reform, which is the worst people engagement endeavor ever. Its not about radical reform, its about the lack of communication and engagement with the stakeholders. Anyone who understands change management understands that very fundamental component.

Its not about Charisma. Its about listening. Its about leadership. Fenty did neither. That is why he lost.

Posted by: dproctor06 | September 20, 2010 11:05 AM
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President Obama should look at the loss Mayor Fenty experienced. It appears to parallel what President Obama is experiencing. President Obama has had several accomplishments that should make his base happy. They are not happy. President Obama is aloof and shows significant arrogance at times. Gee, that is what Mayor Fenty was accused of. Anybody else see the similarities?

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 20, 2010 7:12 AM
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