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I don’t like to waste words with definitions, but charisma is often confused with an individual’s presence in front of a person or group.

Charisma (from
noun, plural charismata [kuh-riz-muh-tuh]
1. Theology. A divinely conferred gift or power.
2. A spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people.
3. The special virtue of an office, function, position, etc., that confers or is thought to confer on the person holding it an unusual ability for leadership, worthiness of veneration, or the like.

A person with charisma has the ability influence by quickly establishing authority, whereas someone with presence is only holding the attention of their audience.

The charismatic is NOT static, and some might consider their ability truly divine. When you have a great product leader with traits like Steve Jobs, you will understand what I mean.

A great product leader knows their audience better than almost anyone. That is because they are curious as I had mentioned in the prior post in this series here.

Up Stage

Early in my career with a global software publishing organization, I was asked to kick-off our annual sales, marketing, and product leadership meeting for our division with a presentation on the state of the business as well as our goals for the coming year.

I looked forward to these opportunities each year to share with the team. I know what you are thinking–I must be sick in the head to want to get in front of several hundred of our best, brightest, and highly compensated.

For many years, I was the one sitting in the audience listening to executives drone on about the financials–death by slide presentation is what it might have read on my tombstone.

I was not going to be the one responsible for putting more nails in the coffins of our best minds within the organization. I wanted them to leave educated and inspired. Or at least until the next presentation.

I was nervous as you might expect the night before–so I could not sleep. In fact, I used that nervous energy to continue to improve each and every one of my slides until it was time to start. Or so I thought.

Unexpected Outcome

Following the presentation, and over the next few hours, a steady stream of individuals that had sat through my kickoff presentation came up to me and provide me with some feedback. I was humbled.

The comment that left the greatest impression was from a senior sales representative who had seen presentations like mine for over 20 years. He said, “I have sat through presentations for decades that put me to sleep in all types of organizations. Your presentation was the BEST I’ve ever seen.” I was humbled and pleased that he found it so valuable.

How was it different from other presentations that you have likely seen in your lifetime?

The Retrospective Five

  1. I understood my audience and what would resonate with them–I was one of them after all.
  2. I had invested multiple times over the years in training around improving my public speaking skills–and applied those principles to smaller stages like team meetings and conference calls–waiting to be called up to the “big leagues.”
  3. I knew my material better than everyone in the room–I was the authority on everything that came out of my mouth that morning.
  4. I weaved the information into a narrative (a story) my audience could identify with that morning, rather than spewing facts and figures.
  5. I understood that it takes more than presence to keep their attention–I had to be charismatic and inject my personality into the presentation.

It worked for me. It can work for you if you are willing to invest in yourself.

Special X-Factor

The good product leader will do the job expected to get up in front of the organization and give them the facts and figures. The great product leader does it with charisma by understanding their audience, practicing daily, getting creative, and using stories to inspire and explain.

Don’t be static. If you are not doing more than expected, then you are static. Being charismatic can be your spark for igniting the team and your product(s) to new levels of success. It is that special x-factor that allows a product leader to stand out among their peers and within the market. Our friends at Pragmatic wrote an excellent piece back in 2013 on x-factors for product leaders at the same time they did the rock star infographic that inspired me to write these posts. Enjoy!

What kind of product leader are you?

1316588 What’s Next?

My intent is not to write a book here. So, in case you missed the first post, this is #2 of 10 in my nine-piece mini-series on great product leadership. Click here to move on or stay tuned (or subscribe) for the next installment on Better Than You: Competing for Product Leadership if you like what you have been reading so far.

Comment away below.

Really, what kind of product leader do you want to be?

1278141Star Product Leader PSA

The team at Pragmatic Marketing created an incredible infographic that gets to the essence of what skills a “rock star” product manager or product marketer are likely to possess. You must check it out here. Print it. Make it your wallpaper. Pin it up on your wall. Frame it. It is that good.

I’ve been a tech product manager for many years now and lead some exceptional teams. I’ve seen these traits in the best product leaders (and humbled when others have seen them in me) and will share some stories and insights I have found on how you enrich these individuals and help make your teams even better.

I’m building on the nine traits as defined by Pragmatic Marketing of Rockstar Product Leaders
(Please give them some love and get certified–it’s worth the investment)
1. Curiosity (Turn Up Your Rock Star Product Leaders)
2. Charisma (The Charismatic are NOT Static)
3. Competitiveness (Better Than You: Competing for Product Leadership)
4. Optimism
5. Servant Leadership
6. Confidence
7. Integrity
8. Whole Person
9. Always Learning Expert
10. The Missing Trait

Also, you may want to check some additional resources I find helpful from the team there at Pragmatic.

Pragmatic Annual Survey

X-Factors for Product Leaders