PACE (Practical Application for Careers and Enterprises)

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Beyond Charisma


We are back from break and into our second week of classes! PACE is a yearlong course that integrates many disciplines we study in other classes into our career search and our PACE projects. One of the important topics we covered this week is leadership.

I used to think that to be a leader, I would need to be charismatic. This week, we threw that notion out the window and, through Ashley Nixon’s lecture, learned leadership involves much more than charisma. Which led me to a few questions: Where did my expectation of charisma come from? If charisma is not a requirement, what does it take to be a leader? And how is this useful for us in our PACE projects and moving ahead?

Why did I think charisma was important?

The English word charisma originates from the Greek word, χάρισμα (khárisma), which means “favor” or “gift.” In English, it was originally used in a Christian context to refer to an individual who has received a gift or power from the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church (“Charisma”). Over the years, the meaning has changed to a leader with personal magic or a special magnetic charm. No wonder we all have such difficulty being charismatic! Neither definition gives any indication on how we could become a charismatic leader, though self-help books often claim we should (ex: “Charisma: How to Develop Personal Charisma and Leave that Lasting Impression on Everyone You Meet”).

What does it take to be a (good or great) leader?

We get a lot of input from both PACE and our organizations class, but this came clear to me in a book I recently read. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, was written by two former Navy Seals, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. The authors led teams through Ramadi, one of the toughest missions of the Iraq War. Now leadership consultants, Willink and Babin explain how to lead teams through their firsthand accounts on the battlefield. They argue that Extreme Ownership is the idea that “there is no one else to blame; you must own problems along with solutions; commit to lead up and down the chain of command”. In practicing Extreme Ownership, the outcome of the team is the responsibility of all. Other topics covered throughout the book, which I highly recommend anyone part of a team read and internalize, on the “Four Laws of Combat,” including Cover and Move, Prioritize and Execute, Simple, and Decentralized Command (“What is Extreme Ownership?”).

I found it fascinating that no section of the book even touches on charisma as a tenant of leadership. There is no magic bestowed on Navy SEALs. Instead, their leadership is studied, practiced, and employed methodically to achieve outcomes. Leadership is learned, not magic.

How is this useful in PACE projects and moving ahead?

During our PACE projects, team leaders are not chosen by faculty or administration. Instead, it is up to each team to define the structure of their group. It is an opportunity for all of us in the class to study and practice leadership, perhaps even Extreme Ownership, without extreme consequences. Beyond PACE, whether you practice Extreme Ownership or another approach, there are no shortcuts to becoming a great leader. While this may be bad news for some people looking for a magic key, it is good news for the rest of us. We need to practice. We need to learn. And over time we can build ourselves into the great leaders we want to be.


More Information

Link to Tedx Talk on Extreme Ownership:

Works Cited

“Charisma.” Merriam-Webster. Accessed 27 January 2019.

“Charisma: How to Develop Personal Charisma and Leave that Lasting Impression on Everyone You Meet” by Jane Peters 2015.

“What is Extreme Ownership?” Echelon Front, 2014, Accessed 27 January 2019.

Emily Anderson is a first-year MBA candidate at Willamette University. She is a 2017 graduate of Gonzaga University, where she received her B.A. in International Studies. Emily enjoys PACE because of the opportunity to learn valuable career information, improve her analytical and speaking skills, and build partnerships with not-for-profits in Oregon.



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