Many people believe that charisma is all about having a ‘big’ personality, being the ‘life and soul’ of the party and being a strong leader. Others believe that charisma is the ‘luck of the draw’, that you are either born with it, or without it and that it can’t be developed. I disagree on both counts.
I know many people who are quietly charismatic, they have a wonderful aura, you feel instantly comfortable around them and you feel enriched just by being in their presence.
I have also helped people develop their charisma. Not in a fake, mechanical way but to enable them to connect with who they truly are inside and to let that shine from a place of pure authenticity.
Global charisma guru Nikki Owen has spent years studying and researching charisma and her definition really encapsulates the true meaning: ‘Charisma is an authentic power that captivates the hearts and minds of others’.
There are people who claim to teach charisma and they focus on superficial tips on body language, eye contact, voice tonality, appearance and so on. These elements might make you look more confident but if it is not aligned with who you are at your core, it will appear fake and contrived.
Politicians for example, are often taught to appear more ‘charismatic’ to better connect with the electorate. However, think of the recent election debates – the more heated they became, the more the polished veneer started to crack as the true characters started to bare their ragged teeth!
I am sure that much of the shock election of Donald Trump was due to the fact that his main rival, Hilary Clinton, has a distinct lack of charisma. Whereas, Bill Clinton, was said to have oozed charisma. Apparently, when you spoke to him, he had a way of making you feel you were the only person in the room.
Trump would have had a much tougher battle if he was pitching against the very charismatic Michelle Obama who comes across as very warm and authentic with a genuine interest in making the world a better place.
Theresa May is widely criticised for her lack of charisma. She often appears cold, distant and disconnected from the people around her. This gives the impression that she is out of touch with the real issues affecting the electorate and seriously damages her popularity ratings.
So why develop our charisma?
Extensive research by the University if Lausanne and The Harvard Business review has shown that charismatic leaders outperform their non-charismatic peers by over 60 per cent.
One of the biggest challenges for businesses globally is employee engagement. More than 44 per cent of the global workforce intends leaving their employer within five years and more than 21 per cent intend leaving within two. When interviewed, these disengaged employees said they were not being given the chance to explore their potential at work. They were feeling undervalued and de-motivated.
Leaders often underestimate the effect of their mindset on the effectiveness, productivity and engagement on the whole organisation.
So, how important is charisma for leadership and corporate success?
Have you ever worked in an environment where one negative person completely drains the energy of everyone else in the room? I call them ‘energy vampires’. The reverse is also true. A charismatic leader can lift the mood and motivation of the whole team and build high levels of workforce engagement.
‘The Leadership Quarterly’ quotes a study by Joyce Bono and Remus Ilies, which proved that charismatic leaders have a stronger emotional effect and gain greater employee cooperation than their non charismatic counterparts.
Charismatic leaders affect both their followers and the organisational culture. This ‘Mood Contagion’ means these leaders are capable of altering workforce attitudes, beliefs and motivation. They are also much more effective in attracting and retaining talent because they naturally create better quality relationships.
These leaders emotionally engage their employees because they are comfortable with engaging their own emotional responses.
People with high levels of charisma are happier, healthier, enjoy more success in their chosen careers and possess increased resilience to the challenges that life presents.
Developing charisma is all about recognising and celebrating your uniqueness, appreciating the true value you have to offer and stepping up to let that value shine.
Charismatic people –
- Are known to be happier and healthier than their less charismatic counterparts
- Value themselves and are comfortable in their own skin thereby making people around them feel comfortable in their presence
- Find doors opening for them that remain closed to others
- Experience opportunities lining up almost effortlessly
- Are remembered long after an event and are far more likely to be contacted afterwards and to be referred to ideal connections.
So how can we become more genuinely ‘charismatic’?
I am sure you will have heard the phrase – ‘thoughts become things’, but what does that actually mean? If we spend our time watching news from war-torn countries, despairing over politics and the socio-economic issues all around us and engrossed in violent, distressing TV, it will occupy our thoughts, our dreams and ultimately impact on the way we feel and behave.
Similarly, if we spend our time with negative, ‘glass half empty’ people, they will feast on our natural energy like vampires at a Halloween party and leave us feeling lifeless and depleted. We in turn will then drain the energy of the people we interact with. We become self-absorbed and we are seen as ‘selfish’ because we have no energy or motivation to support others
When we are happy, motivated, living in ‘flow’, doing the work we love, the feel-good hormones, serotonin and oxytocin and our cells are operating in growth. We feel and look well and we exude a glowing energy, which draws people to us who just feel good in our space. We are happy to help and support others and we are seen as being ‘self-less’.
The founding pillar of charisma is ‘self-esteem’ and only when we fully value ourselves and the unique gifts we have to offer, can we truly shine as the person we were born to be.
Some people see taking time for themselves every day as being selfish – it is actually absolutely essential. When we feel valued, safe and supported we are much more aware of the feelings and actions of people around us. We have much more to give and our presence and energy will leave a lasting impact on them.
Sylvia Baldock is a leadership development expert.