Myth 1: You've got to have incredible charisma
A big personality will certainly help. But being able to size up -- and make use of -- the personalities around you is much more important.
By Josh Hyatt, Money Magazine senior writer

NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -- Everyone believes a modern-day leader has to generate a few sparks. "You can't pull together resources and people if you don't have the capacity for making other people want to contribute," says Paul Reynolds, a management professor at Florida International University in Miami.

Perhaps no business leader epitomized that notion more than Herb Kelleher, the chain-smoking, hard-drinking cofounder of no-frills Southwest Airlines, who revolutionized his industry, charmed the unions and inspired his thousands of employees by (among other things) impersonating Elvis and donning an Easter Bunny suit.

REALITY: It's not about charming people; it's about evaluating them. In Southwest's case, witness that the Dallas airline hasn't lost any altitude without the boss, who retired as CEO in 2001. It's on track to log profit growth of at least 15% this year.

"Charisma was never the key to Herb Kelleher's success," says Bill Payne, entrepreneur-in-residence at Kansas City's Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which promotes entrepreneurship. "He surrounded himself with an exceptional team."

To do that yourself, you need to assess people's skills in a calculating way. Business leaders "may be social misfits themselves, but they know how to size people up," says Bill Heiden, a Lyme, Conn. financial adviser to business owners. "They have the ability to extract the value from other people."

In fact, management guru Jim Collins argues that charisma can be a liability. The force-of-nature leader appeals to employees who need a hero - so when the chief exits, no one can measure up.

Even Reynolds, who thinks charisma does help snare talent, agrees that "to be effective, a person has to have something to offer beyond personality."


Myth 1: You've got to have incredible charisma

Myth 2: You must be able to see into the future

Myth 3: You've got to stick to your guns, no matter what

Myth 4: You need to take big risks

Myth 5: You need a burning desire to get rich

Plus: Secrets of success from those who've made it Top of page

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