By Anthony Casperson
What type of person does it take to be a leader? The answer I find the most often is “A person with charisma that others are willing to follow.” Often, you’ll find the phrase “charismatic leader” when you’re looking at descriptors of people who have led well.
So, it seems like charisma is what it takes to be a leader. But what do they mean when people say charisma? Definitions given to the word include “personal charm or magnetism” and “the ability to influence without the use of logic.”
Even in 5E D&D, the idea of Charisma being a key to leadership is found. The Player’s Handbook describes Charisma as the “ability to interact effectively with others. It includes such factors as confidence and eloquence, and it can represent a charming or commanding personality.”
The book’s chapter on Feats that characters can have continues this connection between leadership and Charisma. The feat “Inspiring Leader” requires a Charisma score of 13 or higher. This means that one’s ability to lead well is dependant upon having a greater than average personal charm.
But then does this mean that people without this semi-nebulous personality trait are unable to lead? Does it mean that if you don’t just attract people to your side that you might as well give up the whole idea of being an effective leader? Should you not even try because you don’t have the right personality?
No. I believe that the typical understanding of what it means to be a leader is flawed. One doesn’t have to lead through their charisma in order to be an effective leader. And my first stop on this topic might be a strange one, but proof nonetheless that the outgoing, everybody-loves-me person doesn’t have to be the leader. This proof? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Anybody who grew up watching the 80’s cartoon show will probably remember the lyrics to the theme song. (And later series’ theme songs tend to have a similar section to them.) “Leonardo leads. Donatello does machines. Raphael is cool but crude. Michaelangelo is a party dude.”
It’s Leonardo who leads. But how does this prove that it’s not charisma that makes an effective leader? Well, this comes down to the fact that several psychological discussions about the personality types which people have can be seen within the boundaries of the four ninja turtles.
The roots of the discussion come from the Greco-Roman thought of the 4 humors, or temperaments. These 4 temperaments are dependant upon one’s place on two separate continua. One is the Extroversion/Introversion continuum. The other is the People-Oriented/Task-Oriented continuum.
Extroverted and People-Oriented individuals, called “sanguine,” are optimistic, outgoing, social, yet impulsive (Michaelangelo). Extroverted and Task-Oriented people, called “choleric,” are passionate, efficient, ambitious, yet aggressive (Raphael). Introverted and Task-Oriented people, called “melancholic,” are thoughtful, inventive, creative, yet overly cautious (Donatello). And Introverted and People-Oriented individuals, called “phlegmatic,” are relaxed, consistent, diplomatic, yet occasionally indecisive (Leonardo).
The “sanguine” personality is the one that falls in line with the “charismatic” person whom many would say is a leader. So, by the popular definition, it’s Mikey who should be the leader. (The one, in my opinion, who would be the worst leader unless you really wanted to go get some pizza.) Yet, it’s Leo who leads. The “phlegmatic” personality, one that is an Introvert by definition, is the leader? How can this be? The popular definition of charm and magnetism being what’s needed to be a leader isn’t followed.
This is because it’s not about one’s personality that makes a good leader. What makes a leader then?
Interestingly, if we follow a different definition of charisma, we can discover the truth. In Greek (yeah it keeps coming back to Greek), the word “charisma” doesn’t mean charm and magnetism, but rather “a gift,” something freely given to another. When we talk about the spiritual gifts, that’s the word used.
There is a gift (charisma) of leadership that God bestows upon some. Romans 12:8 tells us that those who have been given the gift of leadership are to lead with “zeal/diligence.” Thus, leadership isn’t connected to charm or personal magnetism. It’s not even connected to one’s personality. It’s connected to zeal, diligence, earnestness, seriousness. The one who leads, leads with great exertion. It’s with deep-seated care for others, which could even lead to physical pain, that the bible shows should be a characteristic of those who lead.
And even if we look at the characteristics of church leaders, such as is found in 1 Timothy 3, we see that these leaders aren’t categorized by their personality types. It’s their character, their growth in God, and their reputation among those both in the church and outside of it that’s mentioned as important.
Why then, in many cases, does charm and personal magnetism (wrongfully called “charisma”) seem to be what people look for in leaders? Even in the church.
We (blindly?) follow this definition of what type of person it takes to be a leader because we seek leaders whom we like, rather than those who will push us to grow. We want likeable leaders, not those who will lead us to holiness.
I’m not saying that the Michealangelos of the world shouldn’t be leaders. Rather, I’m saying that it is God who chooses who should be leaders. He’s the one who gives the gift. He’s the one who knows the whole plan.
So what type of personality does it take to be a leader? Any. God chooses every personality type to give the gift of leadership. And those who lead are called by God to lead with his strength.
When discussing who should and shouldn’t be a leader, remember to take into account God’s method of choosing leaders.