Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Change is Not Made in An Instant" Leadership and Charisma

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a breakfast meeting with  Newark, New Jersey Mayor
Cory BookerIf you read the Wikipedia entry at the link you'll see his tenure has not been without controversy.  If you read the Wikipedia link on Newark, you'll see it is 8km west of Manhattan and has a population of over 277,000.  Approximately one third of the citizens of Newark live in poverty and just over 50% are African-American.  Significantly, every Mayor of Newark in the 50 years prior to Cory Booker's election has been indicted on criminal charges.

Mayor Booker's politics and policies are interesting but not the subject of this blog.  What I did find interesting was his ability to hold an audience, influence and even inspire.   Regular readers will recall I mentioned charisma as a set of skills for leaders....and made the point they are a  skill set and not just an intrinsic quality to a fortunate few.

Whether one agrees with his politics and tactics or not,  Cory Booker is undeniably charismatic.  He's a gifted story teller mixing humor, serious topics and relevant subjects.  His audience consisted of people who are actively working to reduce poverty and who work to help those in poverty through food assistance, housing, health care and employment counseling.  He used personal stories to make his three main points that
1)  We are all....regardless of our station in life.... standing on the shoulders of those who came before us.
 2)  That change in addressing matters of poverty isn't made in an instant or the result of a single heroic act.  It is made by small acts of kindness, caring and generosity performed day after day by many people over a long period of time 
3)  Great leaders in this area don't see others and say  "follow me!"...they inspire others to see the greatness in themselves.

Here's a link to a video of Mayor Booker telling one of his stories.  All great leaders have the story telling skill in their leadership kit.


  1. Thanks for highlighting Cory Booker and specific leadership qualities he exhibits. He's an incredible man, and there is much to learn from his leadership (including commitment and connection to his purpose). I like that you point out how his story telling is an element of his charisma.

    1. Thanks Susan. I was really impressed with Cory. He will clearly be pulled and pushed toward national office. On reflection I wondered if, given the state of our national politics, he might be able to do more good for more people as mayor of Newark. He's clearly making a difference where he is.