Charisma is an individual’s ability to attract and influence other people. While it is often described as a mysterious quality that one either has or doesn't have, some experts argue that the skills of charismatic people can be learned and cultivated.
The Art and Science of Charisma
Charisma brings to mind powerful business leaders, rock stars on stage, politicians at the podium. Yet charisma’s most fundamental power may lie in the effect it has on everyone else. The ability to move others is an asset for leading people toward shared objectives. Charisma can also have a dark side, insofar as narcissistic individuals and predators use their powers to manipulate others.
What is charisma?
What are some examples of charismatic people?
Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama are examples of famous leaders widely considered charismatic—skilled at delivering messages that united and inspired those who followed them. Business leaders, performers, and others, from Oprah Winfrey to Bono, could also be called charismatic. And so could people like Adolf Hitler, who have used charisma to lead followers to destructive ends.
How is charisma used?
Charisma can help rouse followers or team members to band together in pursuit of goals. It can infuse group efforts with a sense of meaning and purpose, reminding everyone of the values they share—often through the use of symbols and storytelling. The specific goals and values can vary across places and social groups.
Is charisma necessary in leadership?
Not every leader is highly charismatic, and some research has even suggested that business leaders with the highest ratings on charisma are not necessarily the most effective. In a variety of leadership contexts, however, charisma can be valuable and may help instill confidence in and a sense of connection to the leader.
How to Develop Charisma
Like many characteristics, charisma is not something you simply have or don’t have. There are different ways of defining what counts as charisma, and some people possess certain—or sometimes, many—charismatic qualities in above-average proportions, from a talent for emotional storytelling to beaming confidence.
While charisma is sometimes described as a “gift,” some experts have sought to break it down into specific characteristics and argue that it can be learned. Many people, not just celebrities and presidents, use their charisma to stand out from the crowd.
How can I be more charismatic?
A variety of specific characteristics and techniques have been described by charisma researchers as communicatory elements that could increase charisma. They include tactics such as using metaphors and lists in talking about issues, telling stories that capture attention, and expressing shared emotions and moral conviction, as well as using gestures, facial expressions, and other nonverbals to express emotions and make an impression.
Can you fake charisma?
Practice may make someone more charismatic, but “faking” charismatic leadership could ultimately fall short if a person who speaks convincingly fails to actually uphold the values he communicates.
Does charisma depend on the audience?
In a sense, charisma may be in the eye of the beholder. While certain individuals are inarguably effective at inspiring people to listen to and follow them, charisma is about communicating shared values, and a charismatic speaker’s message will not resonate with or stir the emotions of all people to the same degree.