A Spanish proverb goes; a handsome man is not quite poor. Charisma is a free gift of nature to men, and it gives to a few of them and not to all of them. It is about possession and imparting of graciousness to life. Halo is a ring of light or colour like the one formed by refraction around the sun or the moon. The natural phenomenon is visible to the naked eye, while the halo that is self-created by leaders, managers and religious persons is presumed and invisible.
As supervisors and managers we all have interviewed people across cultural, religious, ethnic, linguistic and nationalistic divide; it would be the greatest fallacy and untruth of Himalayan proportion if we do not admit that we have been swayed towards better looking people than the ordinary ones. Consequently, in more than one sense we are guilty of giving advantage to the people, who have an aura around themselves and this includes, interviewees, colleagues, subordinates or seniors an unfair advantage. This is what I have referred to in the title to this piece, the “beguiling halo” effect. The halo could be natural or it can be one that is contrived at the spur of the moment. There is a great difference between these two. The real will endure any challenge or test but the fake and put on will wear away in a few parried repartees. Handsome looks by nature’s design only germinate in a truthful heart. With presence of attractive looks only the heart can argue and not the mind. Beauteous of nature is high sounding piety.
There is also no such thing as indisputably handsome to indisputably ugly. These come with appendages of quality of character. With apologies to Aristotle, I am amending his remarks to say instead of beauty, possession of good looks is a great recommendation than any letter of recommendation. If divinity has given eyes meant for seeing then there can be no excuse not to remain appreciative of good looks. All charming people I fancy are spoiled. It is the secret of their attraction (Oscar Wilde).
The halo corrupts the mind of the onlooker. It is only human to succumb. A single trait’s appreciation in a person spills over to encompass the entire personality. Contrarily a single visible negative trait can demolish the persona of the colleague. Such action and reactions can lead to a corporate culture where there is prominence of psychological bias.
It is true that the charisma or good looks open door to your potential for it speaks even when it is silent or muted. A single negative trait can create feelings of dislike towards any colleague who appears to be crooked. This is conversely called the horn effect. Shaikh Saadi was invited by the royalty for dinner. Rustic and mystic that he was he arrived at the palace in his usually tattered and rags of clothing- the sentry did not let him in refusing to accept that he could be the famous Shaikh Saadi. The Sheikh went back home and came in a satin tunic and turban to match; the same sentry bowed down and welcomed him. At the dining table Saadi to the horror of his host picked up the bowl of curry and emptied it upon his satin dress…puzzled the royalty asked, what are you doing? He replied calmly, I am feeding the one invited (his outfit), for Saadi was refused entry to the feast. This is the horn effect that poor sentry was suffering from.
While dealing with colleagues or when interviewing candidates never look on a standalone basis physically good looking attributes but search for the inner beauty that may have taken permanent residence in the heart. In the assessment of co-workers, often we become victims to making a judgement on a single trait, regardless of it being either positive or negative. A manager who likes a colleague because of eloquence in speech, may lack talents, but only because the eloquence quality is in agreement with the manager’s appreciation, all weaknesses get overlooked. That colleague could very well be like a political demagogue, magical with words, but totally bankrupt when action is required.
A manager must learn not to let a sign trait dominate, positive or negative, their judgement abilities. Colleagues must be evaluated on a wholesome basis; see which traits are over-weighing in a personality.
Any candidate who may for good reason of economy or for bad reason of tardiness come to an interview clad shabbily will never get the same attention as a man who shows up with an exquisite taste a fine blend of clothes and looks. Personally I believe no person should be considered a corporate executive unless he says and subscribes to the view that no person is handsome only by features. It has to be fair face. It could very well be the case of fair face, foul heart. The peacock has fair feathers but foul feet. It must be checked if good looks and honesty are in agreement in any personality. Farce gives away the soonest. Handsome is as handsome does, as is commonly said.
A crabbed nature cannot reflect good looks. The obvious question is does charisma help in creating that ‘halo effect’ upon others? The answer is yes. It, however, does so only to a limited extent. But if it lacks talent and grace it will rent asunder at the first prick. In the showbiz world, actors live and thrive on good looks, yet not the so-good looking actors have made their mark on the celluloid screen; which proves that while it may be a good factor to have attractive physical features, it is the acting and performance ability that matters most. It is no crime to be blessed with good looks that allow you a slight advantage- it is in conformity with human psyche, behaviour and response. When the beholder is stunned expect no fair judgement. In history charisma has many dark chapters associated with it, in the form and likes of Hitler, Mussolini, who all are guilty of crimes against humanity yet were extremely popular and had the ability to entice and pull crowds and masses, through corruptible inspiration.
The clergy have a halo built around themselves of piety and in most cases this can be the best disguise they put on each day while on the pulpit of sermonising their crooked horizon of truth.
Managers with good looks alone cannot boil the markets. Fair is not fair but that which pleases. If merit is backed by grace, it is the most lethal combination to possess for growth and success; add and pepper it with reasonably good looks and dame luck will sit at your door step.
Intelligence demands that when supervisors and managers interact with their teams they should continuously remind themselves that their impartiality in decision making is not impacted heavily by either the halo effect or the horn effect. Use the halo effect to individual and corporate advantage. Diffuse the horn effect by speaking and listening to colleagues.
The writer is a freelance columnist