Charisma Creates Successful Careers
By Chelse Benham
“How can you have more charisma? Be more concerned about making
others feel good about themselves than you are making them feel about
you.” – Anonymous
Charisma is recognizable in a person who exudes it, but it is elusive to
characterize; discernable when carried out, but hard to identify as one
single or set of qualities. Charisma is a key ingredient to great leadership,
yet charismatic mastery may require years of carefully applied
performance for some people while others seem naturally predisposed to
Dr. Tony Alessandra, applied behavioral scientist and leading expert in the
study of charisma, writes in his book, “Charisma – Seven Keys to
Developing the Magnetism that Leads to Success,” that charisma can be
described as “the ability to influence others positively by connecting with
them physically, emotionally and intellectually.” Knowing how to connect to
others by developing your own charisma is a chief powerhouse skill for
“The business environment has reached a state where change is so rapid
that any organization must foster innovation and fast response at all levels
within the organization. We’re introducing leadership as an important
factor in the development of students in general,” said Dr. David Sturges,
chair and associate professor for the Management, Marketing and
International Business (MMIB) department at The University of Texas-Pan
American. “The newly established leadership minor provides students with
an opportunity to select classes that develop leadership traits applicable to
professional careers. In the MMIB department we are instituting a new
course called ‘grass roots leadership’ specifically to incorporate leadership
development as a component of the business degree.”
Charles Lindholm, professor in the Department of Anthropology at
Columbia University paraphrases, in his book “Charisma” (1990), the
social theorist Bertrand de Jouvenel. Lindholm writes about Jouvenel’s
explication of charisma as “informal relationships in any group where the
product of one individual's ‘naked capacity of mustering assent,’ a capacity
that has nothing to do with position, or power or advantage, emanates
solely from an inherent personal magnetism.”
The words magnetism and charisma are interchangeable. Both describe a
person’s ability to influence the behaviors and loyalties of others. What
has been debated is whether charisma and magnetism are personality
traits limited to people fortunate to be born with them or can they be
mastered through application and practice by anyone with enough
Similar to Jouvenel’s explanation of charisma as being “an inherent
personal trait,” German sociologist, Max Weber, theorized that charisma
was a “gift” that set exceptional figures in history apart from ordinary men.
Both Jouvenel and Weber felt charisma was bestowed on some people,
but not all. Various people it seemed were inclined and predisposed to be
more charismatic than others and thus lead rather than follow. That
perception has changed in recent times. While some people are more
adroit at communicating charismatic charm, Alessandra argues that
anyone can develop the skill.
“You can choose to practice, absorb and master these behavioral skills.
Anyone is capable of doing so,” Alessandra writes in his book. “You
needn’t remain who you are. You can greatly improve your personal
magnetism and be all you’ve always wanted to be: assured, commanding,
stimulating and energetic.”
According to Alessandra there are some persuasive reasons why
mastering the art of charisma is a prudent tactic for advancing one’s
career. He offers the following reasons of how it can help you:
• sharpen your ability to influence and motivate people by projecting
confidence, energy and sincere interest in the goals and objectives
• connect with and empower people of all sorts by learning to listen
to them, empathize with them and support them.
• become more positive by using the tools of positive thinking and
surrounding yourself with optimistic people.
• enhance your personal energy by improving your fitness, both
physical and mental.
• develop a powerful guiding vision for your life.
Alessandra presents seven main components of charisma. These come in
varying degrees in individuals. Rarely are all obtained and demonstrated
to their fullest within one single person, but having a few incorporated in
your personality can help you prosper. The seven keys to charisma are:
1. Your silent message. These are the signals you send out
unconsciously to others. Maybe you look people right in the eye, or
maybe you stare at your shoes when you talk to them. Maybe you
slump your shoulders or square them confidently. Maybe you don’t
smile naturally or shake hands firmly, or you dress in a way that’s
not you. These can all shape your silent message; your ‘image.’
2. Your ability to speak well. You may have a terrific idea, but who
will know if you can’t articulate it?
3. Your listening skills. Rarely taught and infrequently practiced,
listening is nonetheless a key to communicating and making others
feel special in your presence.
4. Your persuasive talent. This is your skill at motivating others to
follow your lead or adopt your idea. No idea, however great, ever
gets anywhere until adopted.
5. Your use of space and time. Again, though it’s often overlooked,
your use of spatial and temporal territories can make or break
relationships. Standing too close or sitting in the wrong place or
touching a person when you shouldn’t can cause tension. Being too
late or too early or staying too long can create negative results.
6. Your ability to adapt to others. Building bridges to others is
impossible without understanding other people’s personalities, then
adapting your own behavior to increase rapport.
7. Your vision, your ideas. In the final analysis, no matter how
strong and persuasive a speaker you are, how adept you are at
building rapport, how well you listen, use your space and time or
send out silent signals, you’ve got to have something to say – or
you’ll just be an empty suit.
Kevin Hogan, motivational speaker and author, wrote in his article
“Charisma: Beyond Irresistible Attraction” about key techniques to utilize
and build one’s own charisma. The following can be found on his Web site
Care about each person in a group
When you talk to an audience, look at people in the eyes. When
you give attention to people at this kind of individual level, you will
begin to capture the hearts and minds of your listeners. No, you
can never get them all to like you. But, you can have empathy for
Walk with certainty
If you are preparing to communicate important information, you can
bet that people will be watching you every step of the way. When
you are walking, people pick up a lot about you on a nonverbal
People who walk particularly slowly are usually perceived in a light
that will not be helpful in the persuasive setting. Walking at a pretty
rapid clip can be seen as someone in a hurry, which is not perfect
either. There is an advantage to walking quickly, though. On a
practical level, people see that you are indeed preparing to do
something important. The ideal walk is a moderate pace, eyes
ahead, greeting people with a nod and a smile and moving on.
Walk with certainty and people will see you as important and give
There is very little in life that is more important than self-confidence.
You must have a sense of certainty about what you are going to
communicate about. You can easily be self-confident when you are
able to speak for hours about something you are an expert in. If you
constantly need notes to read from, you will not only lose your
audience, you will lose credibility and self-confidence.
Melinda Vilas, author and founder of the Web site www.teencoach.com,
adds that developing grace, in addition to building charisma, helps obtain
results. In her article “Add Grace to Leadership and get Results,” Vilas
reiterates the advice of earlier experts and provides additional advice. She
suggests the following:
Use grace in verbal and non-verbal communication.
When you treat others with grace, you say, ‘I respect you’ and that
is a tremendous foundation on which to build any relationship. The
following is an idea of how being graceful in our communications
and interactions with others can have a deep impact.
Idea: When you are at a business-networking event truly listen to the
conversation. You can listen with your whole body: physically face
the person, watch them with your eyes as they speak, nod your
head as you follow the conversation, and be totally present with
them while you are in dialogue. There is nothing as ungraceful and
counterproductive as a person only pretending to be interested in
what you are saying. If you can’t ‘be there’ no matter what the
reason, excuse yourself. Simply say, ‘Please excuse me, I have so
much on my mind…could we have this conversation at another
Ultimately, charisma and magnetism come down to one underlying thing –
the self-respect you hold for yourself and how it is transfers to others.
Charisma is the respect you show people and it is about breaking down
the “us-versus-them” mentality. According to Alessandra this is “The
Platinum Rule” of all relationships and the cornerstone to building
charisma. It begins internally and extends outwardly touching others in its
wake releasing a well-spring of positive feeling between the parties and
shaping those relationships from that point on.
“There is little doubt that a positive outlook propels while a negative one
imprisons.” – Dr. Tony Alessandra, author