In the course of history, charismatic leaders like Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King have used traits in their personality to inspire millions of people to achieve great heights. What is the secret of this success? Many theories of leadership are available but none is comprehensive enough to present a complete picture of the effective leadership process. The WICS model is a bold attempt to bring together all the characteristics of effective leadership in one theory. This theory is therefore able to present the case for charisma in one go. It shows that Charisma is an integral part of intelligence and is central in the traits required in an effective leadership.
Content of Paper
Of the many models of leadership that have been proposed, the WICS model (Wisdom- Intelligence-Creativity-Synthesised), is unique in that it attempts to combine all the various strengths identified in the other models to present a theory that best explains the concept of organisational leadership. It, in effect, offers a combination of many of the concepts in visionary, transformational, transactional, emotionally intelligent and charismatic leadership models to present one solid body of knowledge on the subject.
Leadership is a complex topic that has many interlocking ideas and variables, many of which include behavioural aspects that cannot be easily quantified. It is not surprising therefore that different schools of thought with different perspectives have presented many theories that seem, as more and more evidence become available, not to be exhaustive in approach. The WICS model provides a framework to pool these together to present a more complete picture. The underlying question is what makes a leader successful, bearing in mind that the leader’s main role is to steer the organisation towards achieving its corporate goals. To answer this question, the WICS model groups all the requirements into three main classes represented by the letters in the acronym. This paper outlines the basic structure of the WICS Model to expose the role charisma can play in the effective leadership process.
Components in the Model
Wisdom in the layman’s language is the ability to apply knowledge and good judgement to solve challenging issues. This usually involves not only personal interests but also those of others. This notion of wisdom is utilised in the model to give a comprehensive definition that includes intelligence and creativity. It assumes wisdom involves balancing the personal interests with those of other stakeholders and the organisation at large by introducing judgemental values.
In the model, intelligence is taken as the ability to achieve one’s goals by using all the cognitive faculties of the mind. This includes the use of the processes of perception, memory reasoning and judgement to shape and adapt to the environment. Intelligence, according to this model, is the ability to recognise and define the problem, analyse the problem and apply mental processes to practical problems. This application to problems is known either as creative intelligence or practical intelligence depending on whether the problem is novel or routine. An interesting aspect of this is known as emotional intelligence. This is an aspect of practical intelligence and contemporary research has shown a high level of correlation with effective leadership.
The WICS model acknowledges that there are three relevant concepts in the study of intelligence as it is applied to effective leaders. The first concept is termed componential sub-theory and deals with all the components that are involved in the application of intelligence while the second concept is referred to as experiential sub-theory and is concerned with the levels of experiences involved in the application of the components. These two theories are universal and are applicable to everyone. The third one is called contextual sub-theory. It is different from the other two in that it is not universal but depends on the environment in which the intelligence is applied. It is this sub-theory that explains why some people may be regarded as intelligent in some cultures and not in other cultures.
Creativity features highly in the WICS model because it is crosscutting. It is defined as the ability to recognise, define and solve problems to produce novel ideas. It involves the employment of all the subcomponents described above to obtain a solution that either presents something new or introduces a new rearrangement of an old thing. A creative leader will use creative intelligence, analytical intelligence, practical intelligence and knowledge to obtain solutions that are novel and of impeccable quality. Creativity in the model is regarded as having four stages. It is said to begin with preparation stage followed by incubation and illumination stages and is complete with the verification stage.
• The preparation stage is when the leader is totally engrossed in the collection and analysis of relevant data. These are then classified as either significant or non significant with respect to the intentions of the creative mind.
• The model recognises that there is a period of incubation in which the leader appears to be inactive but in actual fact is working in the background pondering and meditating on the problem.
• The illumination stage appears after incubation. At this stage the leader would have developed sufficient insight into the problem.
• The final stage is dedicated to the verification of the solution proposed.
Interlocking Structure of the Components
All the three components of the WICS model interlock and overlap and therefore cannot be exercised independently. Intelligence appears to be the most important because it occupies a central position. Creativity requires intelligence and involves the exhibition of analytical, practical and creative intelligence at various levels. One cannot be wise without being intelligent and creative. However an intelligent person is not necessarily creative or wise. For a leader to be successful and hence effective, he will need to strike a balance between the three components. The quality of a leader can therefore be perceived as the combination of the various possible levels.
Thus the WICS model regards effective leadership as the ability to identify challenges in an organisation and act accordingly by using the three components at appropriate levels. These are known as traits of leadership and are postulated in the theory as being flexible and dynamic as opposed to rigid and static. An implication of this view is that leaders are not born but are developed although it can be argued that genetics provides a good start.
So what is charisma and how does it fit into this model? Charisma can be described as the personal characteristic or quality that makes people have faith in that person’s ability to lead. It is this faith that confers authority and influence over large numbers of people. Charismatic leaders enjoy undivided loyalty amongst their followers. Charisma can be perceived as a cultivated relationship between a leader and his followers. It has the ability to impact on the behavioural outcomes of the followers such as commitment to the leader, self sacrifice and determination to succeed. Charisma comes in three forms. It can appear as “Referent Power” which is the ability to move followers using the leader’s personality. A second form of appearance is known as “Expert Power” and this stems out of the technical expertise recognized in the leader. A third form is known as “Job Involvement” and it arises out of the dedication of the leader to the project. Researchers have studied many charismatic leaders in history and have identified the following traits that are common to all. They have also asserted that by building these traits leaders can increase in charisma.
• Vision. All charismatic leaders are visionary.
• Communication Skill. They have excellent communication skills which are used to deliver the vision to the followers
• Inspiration of trust. They have the ability to inspire trust in their followers.
• Emotional expressiveness. They can express their positive emotions clearly and are able to transmit this mood to the followers.
• Self promoting personality. They have personal traits that speak for themselves.
Several empirical studies have also been conducted to establish the relationship between Charisma and the performance of followers and these have established a positive correlation between charisma of leaders and business unit performance. Bono and Ilies , for instance, conducted several studies on charisma and mood contagion and established several positive results about how a charismatic leader affects the behavioural states of his or her followers.
Types of Charismatic Leaders
Historical evidence shows that there are two broad categories of charismatic leaders.
• Socialised Charismatic leader. This kind of a leader uses charisma to the advantage of others and also to the advantage of the organization.
• Personalised Charismatic leader. This is a leader that uses charisma for personal interests.
Obviously Boards of Directors will be more interested in the first socialized charismatic leader.
Charismatic leaders can also be viewed from the perspective of the type of charisma employed as follows:
• Office-holder Charisma. The attraction of the office rubs on the image of the holder.
• Personality- trait Charisma. The charisma arises from the personal qualities of the leader
• Divine Charisma. The leader is born with the charisma.
The WICS model is a trait based approach to effective leadership and it tries to bring together in one theory the most desirable traits that are featured in all the earlier theories on leadership. In so doing it categorises the traits into three types which are Wisdom, Intelligence and Creativity and asserts that an effective leader synthesizes these three types of characteristics for success. The model places intelligence in the center of all the processes involved and enumerates the roles of each type of intelligence in the effective leadership process. Of particular interest is the use of the charismatic appeal of leaders in moving the followers to achieve greater heights. Charisma therefore occupies a central place in the theory because it is a type of emotional intelligence which in turn is an aspect of practical intelligence. This demonstrates that charisma is a highly desirable trait in leaders and the model recognizes that although there are instances of divine charisma, leaders can develop their charismatic appeal by learning to improve on the characteristics of a charismatic leader described above.
Sternberg, R. J. 1998. A Balance theory of wisdom, Review of General Psychology, 2, 347–365. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Sternberg, R. J. 1997. Successful intelligence, New York: Plume.
Caruso, D.R., Mayer, J.D. & Salovey, P. 2002. Emotional intelligence and emotional leadership. In R. Riggio (Ed.), Multiple Intelligences and Leadership. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Sternberg, R.J., Forsythe, G.B., Hedlund, J., Horvath, J., Snook, S., Williams, W.M., Wagner, R.K. & Grigorenko, E.L. 2000. Practical intelligence in everyday life. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Zaccaro, S.J., Kemp, C. & Bader, P. 2004. Leader traits and attributes. In J. Antonakis, A.T. Cianciolo & R.J. Sternberg
(Eds.), The Nature of leadership, 101–124. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Bono, J. E. and R,. Ilies. Charisma, positive emotions and mood contagion. The Leadership Quarterly 17 (2006) 317–334