Meanderings

The following are several criteria that McHugh explores in this article, beyond the business typologies explored more deeply in his book Introverts in the Church (2009). Charisma. For many people charisma is the preeminent trait that distinguishes a great leader from ordinary people. It is an intangible quality—perhaps better described than defined—that attracts others to a leader like a magnet. Charismatic leaders have a theatrical quality to them, and they relish playing the lead role amid other actors on the stage. Public attention is an intoxicating force that brings out their best qualities. They are able to inspire and captivate others with their passion and presence.People with charisma have the uncanny ability, as my friend describes them, “to speak to millions but make you feel like they’re speaking just to you. You don’t know them, and you’ll never meet them, but they feel like your friends.” A truly charismatic leader has a mystical ability to mix the appearance of an untouchable, larger-than-life persona and an accessible, sympathetic friend.Dominance. People who are dominant are hard-charging, persuasive and directive. They can motivate people and accomplish their goals by sheer force of will. This trait is primarily positional, meaning dominant leaders rely on the authority of rank or title to compel others. Their understanding of leadership “assumes that humans are naturally still, at rest, and that they need some motivating force to get them going.”When I think of a dominant leader I think of an extroverted pastor I once met who has built a large and successful youth ministry. He has positioned himself at the heart of the program, to the point that people cannot conceive of the ministry without him. He is constantly pushing things forward, starting new programs and rallying people around his ideas. He will not take no for an answer and will debate and persuade until the other person relents or ends the conversation.Gregariousness. Gregarious leaders relate comfortably with people of different personalities and backgrounds. They are able to initiate and prolong conversations and are at home among strangers. They have the capacity to disarm people and assuage conflict with their warmth and charm. Gregarious leaders in the Christian community are the face of a welcoming, friendly, inviting church. They set the tone for hospitality and openness among the congregation. They are skilled in the ministry of chat, filling awkward silences with engaging conversation, and people quickly feel at ease around them.In a highly verbal culture, words carry power. The person who wields words with the greatest fluency, or even just uses the most words, is invested with authority. In group contexts people often give leadership to those who are most willing to present their opinions, even though their solutions may not be the right or best ones. Speaking is construed as confidence, whereas reserving one’s opinion, or speaking up only on topics one has previously considered, is interpreted as timidity or deference to others.Superstardom. The superstar leader is one who excels at everything. Anyone with church leadership experience knows that the tasks of leading are manifold, even to the point of contradiction. Those in charge are called on to provide visionary, intellectual, administrative, financial, social, spiritual and emotional leadership. Superstar leaders are able to successfully address both the overarching needs of the organization and the particular, more personal needs of the individuals who comprise the organization. They have a rare combination of skills, which are often bolstered by intangibles like charisma and high energy, and are able to assert those qualities in a variety of settings.