Whenever there’s a discussion of “what makes a great leader?” invariably the trait of “charisma” surfaces— that special “something” that is appealing and makes people want to follow that leader. I recently read something that helped me think about the ways in which leaders attract people to their cause.
The reading comes from an essay1 written by the late Wilma Mankiller, the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She says,
When I am asked about the important characteristics of leadership, being of good, positive mind is at the top of my list. Few people of good will are inspired to follow negative, pessimistic people. People with clear minds are like magnets.
We’ve all heard the phrase “magnetic personality”. If you think of the properties of a magnet, it provides a great metaphor for leadership. Some magnets have a very strong “pull” and remain magnetic even when there is no magnetic field surrounding them. Others are temporary magnets (think paper clips)—they are only magnetic when they’re exposed to a strong magnetic field.
People who are positive—have the “clear mind” that Ms. Mankiller alludes to—in my mind, those are “permanent” magnets. No matter what the circumstance, they find the “possible” in any situation. By contrast, leaders who are pessimists operate like temporary magnets—strong when things are going well, but losing that “pull” through negativity when the going gets tough.
In keeping with the magnetic metaphor for leadership—
In what ways do you see a connection to leadership and magnetism?
How does keeping a clear mind help when leading people?
1 The Right Words at the Right Time, p. 206
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