Expert advice on Business Leadership and tips on becoming a more effective Leader.

The Surprising Secret of Leadership Charisma By Joe Tye

“My job is more important than I ever thought. I knew it was important, but never really thought of myself as important doing it.”

That was a comment on a training program evaluation form from a phlebotomist who works at Alverno Clinical Laboratories, which serves 26 acute care hospitals in Indiana and Illinois.

When I saw that, I immediately thought of the advice that Mary Kay Ash used to give her beauty consultants: imagine that everyone you meet wears a sign that says “Make Me Feel Important.”

Google that phrase and you’ll see it is still considered some of the best advice a salesperson could ever receive. But it’s more than just advice for selling more stuff – it’s great advice for being a better person and a more effective leader.

Mary Kay is one of the leaders I included in my book All Hands on Deck: 8 Essential Lessons for Building a Culture of Ownership. Mary Kay was, of course, a tough competitor (to get a feel for just how tough, watch the movie The Battle of Mary Kay starring Shirley MacLaine), but what made her special – and underpinned the lasting success of her company – is that she was just as concerned about building people as she was about building her business. More than that, she knew that the one would lead to the other.

MMFI – Make Me Feel Important – is a formula for enhancing your leadership charisma. Real charisma is not convincing other people that you are important (if you have to convince them, then you’re not). Rather, it’s making a connection in such a way that you elevate their sense of importance.

Ronald Reagan had it and Bill Clinton has it. Everyone I’ve ever spoken with who met either man said that they felt like – for those few brief seconds – they were the only person in the President’s world.

Steve Jobs had it. While he had a reputation for being very hard on people (well earned, no doubt), anyone who entered his famous “Reality Distortion Zone” left feeling that the word “impossible” had just been expunged from their vocabulary. They felt special – were made to feel special – by being drawn into the circle of the insanely great.

There is a scene in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit in which Gandalf the wizard is trying to sell Thorin, the mighty king of the dwarves, that little Bilbo Baggins the hobbit was the burglar they were looking for to help them retrieve their stolen treasure, he was justifiably skeptical. Hobbits, after all, love nothing more than eating, playing, and sleeping, and they want no adventures, thank you very much.

The turning point came when Gandalf insisted that there was more to the little hobbit than met the eye – in fact, there was more to him than ever he could see himself. The rest of the story is the story of Bilbo Baggins striving mightily to live up to that MMFI characterization. And by the end of the story, it is Bilbo the hobbit who emerges as the real leader.

It does not take a fancy title for you to be a more charismatic leader yourself. All you have to do is spend less energy trying to feel important yourself and more energy working to help other people feel important.

People who are made to feel important are more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty, the way so many Apple employees did because being part of something special made them feel important.

This week, try it yourself. Imagine that everyone you meet has a sign that says MMFI or Make Me Feel Important. Be creative in the ways you respond. A hand-written note, the gift of a book, or a spontaneous cash award can all make someone feel special.
Joe Tye is president of Paradox 21 Inc., which provides corporate training and culture change initiatives based on a proprietary curriculum of The Twelve Core Action Values of Personal Leadership Effectiveness. He is also the author of several books and audio programs on personal, career, and business success, and a popular motivational speaker. Visit

-what are some things you can do, starting right now to make others feels appreciated?

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