Is your charisma in shape?
| 17th February 2020
There are many kinds of charisma, many different definitions of charisma, and many different ways that each of us can display charisma. And that’s part of the problem, according to author Kevin Murray who specialises in helping people, mostly leaders, to be more effective and inspiring.
Here the leadership speaker explains that, for many, charisma seems somehow unattainable – gifted to a few lucky people who have it naturally in abundance.
Sadly many just don’t believe they are capable of having charisma, because they have completely the wrong idea about what charisma is, and how to achieve it.
I’ll bet you’ve met or seen charismatic people, and they’ve filled a room or stage with their presence, lighting up everyone around them, infecting them with enthusiasm and warmth. Those people have a huge presence. They radiate personality and strength. They have a cause and you can feel their passion for it. They focus on you with a laser-like intensity, and you feel suddenly like you are the most interesting and important person in the world. Their charisma is contagious, and long after they have left, you still feel the energy of their presence and enthusiasm.
Oh no, not me, you say. I can’t be like that. So, you don’t bother. And therein lies a major missed opportunity.
There are many kinds of charisma, and people have different shapes to their charisma. I have devoted the past 10 years of my life to helping leaders be more inspirational. While researching and writing three books, I have spoken to more than 120 CEOs, conducted various research projects among more than 10,000 managers and employees, and, over the past three years, searched out and devoured everything I could find on charisma.
When I ask managers whether they believe that they have charisma, the answer is usually no, especially if I ask them in front of others. A brave few will sometimes admit to having ‘a little charisma, perhaps’. The commonly held view about charisma is that it is all about having a huge presence and a powerful magnetism, which, of course, is beyond nearly all of us.
This huge presence and powerful magnetism is not necessarily good for business. In fact, there is strong evidence to suggest that business leaders who are overly charismatic might well be damaging to teams and organizations. The best managers have a quiet charisma, which they apply wisely and appropriately, because they are not driven by the need to be the centre of attention all the time. Charismatic leaders know that they don’t need to be awe-inspiring. But they do need to be inspiring.
And that’s the point of charisma in leadership. It’s about being able to command attention and build trust. It’s about making people feel worthwhile, and that they are valued and important members of a team. Charismatic leaders persuade their teams to their cause and show them where and why they’re crucial to delivering it. They give their teams direction and purpose and align the whole team to that common cause. They get people to go beyond what they have to do, to do the very best that they can, because they want to.
There are charismatic leaders who are high on charm and can make us feel as if we are the most important people in their lives, and that they love our ideas and views. They listen well, they charm us and engage with us, they respect us and appreciate us. They find ways to include us and make us feel we belong. They index highly for affective presence and warmth.
There are others whose charisma comes from being passionate about a particular cause, and we are swept up and amazed by their passion and their drive. They have a clear vision, and they show us how we can help, and how our strengths can help them achieve the impossible. Their charisma comes from their cause, and the unwavering passion they have to achieve it. They are driven.
Other leaders attract us by being hugely transparent, articulate and compelling about the values that drive their behaviours, deeply honest about how they see the world, and themselves. They ooze integrity. They are committed. They encourage trust and trusting teams, and they attract us because they are so authentic.
Still others can be compelling communicators, who dazzle us with their articulate views. They have a way of connecting with us and relating to us in terms we understand. They focus on issues we are concerned about. They tell thought-provoking stories that move us to action. They index highly for persuasiveness.
And, finally, there are those who command a room simply by standing in it. Their very presence attracts our attention, because of the way they hold themselves, the way they dress, or the powerful and assertive body language they use. They are always positive, they are optimistic and give us hope, and their energy is contagious. You would give them high marks for personal power.
These are the five traits of charismatic leaders – authenticity, personal power, warmth, drive and persuasiveness. Each of these traits requires a set of skills to be able to deliver them consistently and well. It is no good trying to become brilliant in only one of these areas. It is a blend of these five traits that makes the difference.
What’s the shape of your charisma? Does it index highly in one area but not in others? If so, this could be warped charisma, also unhelpful when interacting with people. If you are high in drive and personal power, but low in warmth, for example, people will pay attention to your natural authority, and be clear about your purpose, but feel awful, because you never praise or recognise them, you don’t listen to them and pay no attention to their concerns.
Kevin Murray is the author of Charismatic Leadership – the skills you can learn to motivate high performance in others, published by Kogan Page, priced £14.99.