We all enjoy working in an organization where we feel like our contribution matters, where what we are doing helps others and where there is a sense of comradery or family. Even when problems arise, they are confidently overcome. It is almost magical.
Sometimes that magic feels like it is slipping away. Your boss turns his company over to one of his kids, the PTA President resigns because her child graduates, the Rotary President passes the gavel to the next in line, or your church leader moves on to another ministry.
Naturally you want to hang on to the magic but it is difficult when the new leader, who has legitimate authority, doesn't have much experience with the organization or doesn't know how to motivate people. Your options typically are to leave the organization or hang on and reminisce about the good ol' days.
The best option is for you to be the inspiration, even though you don't have the authority of the boss, leader, president, etc. It dictates that you lead by inspiring others from the middle of the pack instead of at the head of the pack.
Charismatic authority is what leading from the middle is called. People follow you because they believe in you and your ideas, even though you do not have legitimate authority in the organization. You are an influencer and a persuader for good.
Being the inspiration requires that you are:
1. Willing to inspire others
You have to care about the organization, its people and its products/services because others can feel your enthusiasm or lack thereof.
The hallmark of a charismatic leader is the ability to persuade people, because you cannot reward or punish them for not following you.
Improvement cannot be sustained unless the ultimate goal and methods of achieving the goal are consistently the same. For example, the organization cannot work as a team if members of the organization are gossiping about each other. The leader must be consistent in encouraging everyone to work together, without petty criticism.
People have to be reminded that the objective is important by insistent encouragement. The leader must insist that it is important that everyone buys into the goal and the methodology.
Persistence is necessary so people will not think that by ignoring an issue, it goes away. The leader must persistently remind everyone to work together to achieve the goal.
6. Able to keep your ego in check
Arrogance will repel most followers unless you are fighting a common enemy and they think you are their only hope. Braggarts are difficult to tolerate for very long.
7. Positive and motivated by a better cause
Being positive is the essence of being the inspiration. Any whiner can get others to join in a complaint fest. You must be willing and able to lift the sights of others to see the benefit of doing things in a better, more efficient or kinder way.
8. Capable of leading by example
No charismatic leader will hold on to followers if they see the leader acting inconsistently with the message. Your commitment to excellence must include acting the part.
Remember, it is all about the humans. Leaders don't lead documents, machines, raw materials or concepts. They lead people, so you must be sociable and people oriented.
The legitimate leader might feel threatened by a charismatic leader. Even if what you are doing is benefitting everyone, and even if you are doing what the legitimate leader has asked you to do, you could be viewed as trying to usurp authority. Be careful and observant of the reaction of the leader. Never try to get ahead of what he or she thinks is most important.
Being the catalyst for beneficial change is exhilarating when you are successful. When you are the inspiration, others will respect and follow you, which will make your workplace more enjoyable and productive. A charismatic leader can be the inspiration that makes the organization feel like family.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Roger Allred's website. It has been republished here with permission.
Roger and his wife Sue have nine children and 21 grandchildren, so far. He has worked in many different jobs and in many different positions including a COO of a health care company, a teacher, the CFO of a feed mill, a CPA and the CEO of a power plant. In 2011, he received a heart transplant. In 2012, he and his wife hiked 60 miles in 6 days and summited Mt. Whitney to celebrate their 60th birthdays and the first anniversary of Roger's heart transplant. Roger currently works as a management consultant.