Posted on 19th February 2020 at 11:22
In my work with directors of companies, some of them not only want help with their public speaking, but more generally want help with being a leader, such as having more influence, persuasiveness and, indeed, ‘charisma’.
Charisma originates from the Greek word, “kharis” meaning grace or favour given by God. So, although the etymology of the word suggests it can't be acquired, many people believe there is a lot that can be done to develop it. Indeed, a modern definition found in the Oxford English Dictionary does not state that it is a quality which can only be bestowed by God. It defines charisma as “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”. Other definitions include a magical allure or some kind of X factor.
So if we accept that charisma is not a God given quality and it enables us to inspire and influence others then the question is how can we develop or further develop it if we want to be a magnetic, charming or charismatic leader? The best leaders are those who we can respect, admire and follow. If you are leading your company or team it may be useful to ask the question what kind of leader are you and how much charisma do you have?
Several people have studied charismatic people including British Professor Richard Wiseman. He suggested that when you see someone who has charisma, without realising it you are copying their posture and facial expressions. He also noted that charismatic people feel emotions in themselves quite strongly, are able to induce strong emotions in other and are impervious to the influences of other charismatic people.
I believe there are several things we can do to develop charisma :
1. One quality intrinsic to the development of charisma is to develop a genuine like of other people, and I believe this can be developed with an attitude of curiosity. We tend to like others who are similar to us, although if we adopt the belief of wondering what makes others tick and enter their world, then we are more likely to build rapport with them and like them despite or in spite of their differences. Most of us have had the experience of some sales people who over use our first name and pretend to take an interest in us and this leaves us, at best disinterested or worst, repelled. A genuine like of other people is the opposite of this. When we genuinely like others this warmth will naturally come across in our interactions
2. Another aspect of charisma we can develop is to exude power. You do not need to be a chief executive to do this if you believe in yourself and adopt a powerful posture, such as open body language and a straight back. If you are a leader in your team or organisation then the more you can build a sense of belief in yourself that you know that you can take the team or company forward the more others will believe in you. This self belief will be reflected in your body language. To cultivate this belief may take time and persistence, and, of course, we are all human and have limiting beliefs which need to be challenged. This is where a coach can help to support, encourage and appropriately challenge you.
3. Where we place our attention is also an important element in the development of charisma. The more we can focus our attention on the other person or people we are speaking to the more special they will feel. This may not be easy in our increasingly busy lives, but the more 'present' you can be with people the more they will like you. One way to do this is to really listen to what others are saying, not just waiting for a gap in the conversation so you can say what you want to say. Really listening to people tends to take more energy and effort than talking, but I believe the rewards to you and the people you are listening to are worth it
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