I just listened to Barack Obama’s speech given last night in Wisconsin. There is no doubt, as I’ve mentioned before, Obama is dripping with charisma. This has certainly helped him in his campaign in that it creates a realized inspiration for those listening. There is something electric about charisma and the way a charismatic leader can energize a group of people toward the completion of a mission.


Charisma alone isn’t enough. I’m sure Obama knows this–he seems like a smart guy. In fact, charisma can backfire in a hurry if it does not have help from it’s brother and sister. We’ll consider charisma’s sister tomorrow.

The brother, the oh so necessary brother of charisma, is substance. Now one might argue that there is substance to Obama’s charismatic speeches. And, she would be right. He does have substance to his speech. However, what he needs now is substance to his ideas. I’m not suggesting he doesn’t have substance to his ideas, but rather that he needs to start sharing some specifics of that substance.

If you are a charismatic leader, chances are you are given a pretty wide path to share your inspiration. And, chances are people love to hear you talk, and are energized by your hope. And, chances are, you are bored to tears by details. But, unless your inspiration becomes a detailed strategy–one that can be implemented–your charisma may become a weakness rather than a strength.

What’s critical for a charismatic leader is detail. Not so much detail that people fall asleep. But, substantive detail that can be shared in the same inspirational manner everything else is communicated. For instance, Obama needs to tell us three ways he will turn the economy around. Give me a 15,000 foot look at substance.

Hillary Clinton, last night in El Paso, declared she wanted to raise the minimum wage to $9.50. She wants to require congress to raise the minimum wage every time they raise their own wage. That is 15,000 foot detail. That’s what charismatic leaders need to share when they are trying to inspire a community, city or organization.

Now you might say, and rightfully so, what’s the big deal about Clinton’s detail on a minimum wage increase? That’s nothing but empty rhetoric as well.

Well, you may be right. And that’s why to substance, we have to add the sister of charisma as well.

Stay tuned.