Working for a manager who is at the same or lower level of competence as you is anger producing, uninspiring, unproductive, frustrating, demoralizing and eventually leads to underemployment. If they are “Charismatic” it adds an irritant that only makes things worse.

How Charismatic but Incompetent Managerial-Leaders are Destructive Create Learning team building and leadership

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Mark was the General Manager of sales. When consumer demand was high and closing sales, he received this role to quote Mark’s boss Alan, “Was so easy a monkey could do it.” Mark oozed charisma; his staff went above and beyond to do their best work for him. He was a recognized salesman, as long as consumer demand was high. Liked by the companies customers and vendors, they were happy to have him visit and treat them to golf and dinners.

Mark’s charisma appeared to work well during the high consumer demand. The orders and sales kept coming in, and everyone was happy.

Upon interviewing several of Mark’s staff, some mentioned that they knew his level of capability was equal to or lesser than their own; they were captivated by his personality and wanted to make him look good.

When the market environment changed, Mark’s charisma was tested by a rapid decrease in customer demand and increased competition for their customers. Mark’s inability to see multiple plans, challenges, and opportunities and the inability to handle increased complexity to lead through this change meant that he could not execute the changes required to sell to a different customer in a different environment.

The staff was aware of this problem, and they did all that they could to prevent his downfall. The workers’ support, for their charismatic but “too small” for the role leader, made things worse, resulting in production problems. Mark’s sales team was under orders to pressure existing customers to order more! With no regard to the customer’s need or desire for the work, this resulted in production problems. As the sales continued to drop and production pushed back, Mark’s inability to keep control and adjust to the market changes became more and more apparent.

Mark resigned, and his job was given to another general manager who was known to be “big enough” for the role and gradually got sales back in order.

Mark was “too small” for the complexity needed to manage the sales team. His challenges (while staff & his manager recognized it) were overlooked because, as they said, “He was able to pump you up and believe he could do anything. His charisma was contagious, and he was one hell of a guy.”

Consulting and examining this with the company CEO, CFO, COO, and Sr. Human Resources, Mark was a great sales guy and was able to plan for work in stable and known environments. This role requires a different complexity-processing ability, someone that can examine multiple challenges. Some challenges they have experienced, many they have never experienced, and plan various strategies that are conditional upon each other, working with and thriving in rapid changes.

Mark could never tie together all the parts of his job, especially tie together sales with the work of production and other general managers in the company; he could only focus on sales. His focus on sales illustrates how a charismatic and not competent enough leader is always counter-productive in the long term.

If his staff and others had not so strongly supported Mark, the CEO might have changed the necessary role before profit and people were lost.