Charisma is the stuff of legends, it captivates others, it makes little people powerful and managers stars, it gives people a magical aura and enormous radiance. Some people are distinguished by their charisma and manage to outshine all others with their charisma.
Yet charisma is hard to grasp or describe. There is something special, almost magical, about charismatic individuals. We show what’s behind charisma and what tips you can use to improve your charisma…
➠ Content: What you can expect
Definition: What is Charisma?
Charismatic people are the shamans of modernity. They have that certain something, an Wow-Effect, the gift to enchant others. A privilege that immediately puts them in the center of attention. Synonyms for charisma are a particularly strong charisma, radiance or even the presence of a person.
For the sociologist Max Weber, it was the people who, after the disenchantment of the world by science, enchanted it again. Weber interpreted charisma as that which is "exceptional, extra-ordinary and not accessible to everyone," which leads people to a "very personal devotion".
The term itself, however, was originally coined by Christian theologians. They introduced the concept of the gift of grace almost two millennia ago and used it to describe people inspired by the Holy Spirit who possess wisdom, knowledge and faith to a special degree.
Today, and especially in management, charisma tends to be seen as a special charisma, a gift and spirit of managers with a special impact, a mysterious part of their personality that gives it an almost magical and irresistible aura. It makes them a brand (read our free PDF on personal branding).
The book author and charisma trainer Julia Sobainsky says, however: "Charisma is an attributed quality. One cannot say of oneself: I have charisma. This is what others do."
The only thing that is certain is that charisma makes people popular. Charismatics act extraordinarily, think outside the rules and are independent of the opinion of others. Numerous politicians and personalities are said to have this gift and charisma. Nevertheless, charisma remains an elusive quality. Almost mysterious charisma has an effect on others who simply cannot detach themselves from it. It cannot be put however exactly the finger on that, which constitutes Charisma. Thus, the business magazine "Fortune" already orated: "You feel it when you see it".
The 4 Types of Charisma
In her book "The Charisma Myth", Olivia Fox Cabane distinguishes four completely different types of charisma, which have an equally different effect on people:
- Focused charisma (Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi)
Charismatics of this type radiate a tremendous presence. They appear wide awake, listen carefully and understand quickly. People with focused charisma immediately fill the room. Our reaction to it: admiration.
- authoritative charisma (Barack Obama, Margaret Thatcher)
This form of charisma is based primarily on strong self-confidence. The self-confident charisma captivates others and gives the bearers high status and influence. Their environment feels above all recognition and awe.
- Visionary charisma (Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King)
People with this charisma have a strong faith or a great vision of which they are deeply convinced. It inspires others and spurs them on to outstanding performance. Visionary charismatics motivate and inspire.
- Friendly charisma (Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa)
Friendly charisma cannot be trained – it is an attitude. Deeply authentic, warm and empathic. People in the environment immediately feel accepted, loved and secure. The relationship giants among the charismatics.
Can charisma be learned?
For a long time it was clear that charisma cannot be learned, it is innate. You have it or you don’t. But this is a mistake. Charisma is not an innate trait, but, as mentioned above, an external perception. Others than ourselves decide whether we have it or not.
Whether charisma is (in part) in the genes continues to be controversial. After all, science has now researched the phenomenon more intensively and condensed five essential characteristics that distinguish charismatics:
- Inspiration, that motivates;
- Individuality, that impresses;
- Intellect, who encourages;
- Idealism, reassurance.
- And one Body language, who appears as mysterious as sovereign.
You can already see that much of this is related to a strong sense of self-worth. The charismatic aura that so attracts and animates us all is the intense and seemingly unshakable self-assurance that someone possesses, no matter what he or she is doing.
"Courage in particular is one of the most important qualities of a charismatic person," says charisma trainer Julia Sobainsky. They break new ground, pursue their visions. To do so consciously is a testimony to creative creativity, idealism, perseverance, conviction. All of which are qualities that make people charismatic."
The good news about it is that much of it can be learned, trained and refined through practice.. Everyone carries some charisma in themselves and can strengthen it through training.
Qualities that make you more charismatic
The above qualities are essential for any charismatic personality, but there are other characteristics that contribute to charisma, captivate the environment or fascinate listeners and interlocutors. Some of these are deeply ingrained in character, most can be learned or specifically strengthened:
- Sense of justice
- Sense of responsibility
- A spirit of adventure
- Motivational ability
We have listed other aspects that make a person charismatic for you in this free PDF!
Charisma: 15 exercises and tips for more charisma
It is difficult to judge one’s own charisma. After all, it’s all about external impact, charisma, and how others perceive you – so who says I am extremely charismatic, perhaps expressing a wish rather than a reality.
After all: Charisma can be learned – in part. First of all, it takes understanding that charisma flashes and doesn’t shine 24/7. To use your charisma, it’s not about getting up in the morning, standing in front of the mirror with a captivating look, or enchanting behind closed doors with your aura. It is important to get to the heart of your charisma and use it when it can have the greatest impact: In front of others, in critical or difficult situations. It is certainly not easy, but with practice you can master this art. With these tips you can improve your charismatic charisma:
Work on your self-confidence
It is the basic framework on which charisma can be built. If you lack self-confidence, you won’t be able to come out of your shell and be open with others. Instead, you withdraw more and more into the background, try to hide and instead of captivating others, you become almost invisible. You take an important step when you learn to accept and love yourself as you are – including all your strengths and weaknesses. From this certainty you can appear with great confidence, which is also felt by all others present.
Amateurs who want to become more charismatic want to appear greater themselves and be admired for it. Mistake! The trick of the true charismatic is to make others around them feel like they are the star. Charisma is the art of enchanting others, not miniaturizing them. Make others feel like they can become greater, build people up, be positive (without sucking up) – and you automatically develop a center of gravity.
When facing a challenge or solving a problem, you should be convinced that you can do it. Only with this attitude you can radiate charisma. Otherwise, you just seem insecure or even desperate, which is certainly no one will notice positively. Practice looking at things optimistically instead of just badmouthing everything. If you approach tasks with the right attitude, this will also show in your charisma and effect on others.
There are two different factors at play here. On the one hand the classic dress to impress. In shorts and a T-shirt no one develops the same external effect as in a well-fitting suit. You will immediately receive more attention, you will appear more serious, more impressive, more important. These are all psychological effects, but their impact should not be underestimated. However, you should also feel comfortable in your skin – and clothes – and the appearance must still suit you. If you feel that a suit is not the right choice for you, find another outfit. There are many elegant and impressive alternatives.
Remain honestly curious
Feigned interest is quickly unmasked as such. True curiosity and a sincere interest in others, on the other hand, increase charisma. You build trust more quickly, appear approachable and radiate sympathy. Hardly anyone can escape such an aura.
Work on your body language
A lanky gait, drooping shoulders, wobbly knees – people have a good sense of another’s body language. Even the smallest details are unconsciously perceived and interpreted. If you want to develop more charisma, you need to include your body language. Maintain body tension and use gestures and facial expressions. How strong the effect can be, you can see, for example, in lectures or speeches. Those who speak confidently and with body tension, while at the same time using grand gestures to punctuate their words, come across as much more engaging, convincing and ultimately charismatic.
Show yourself authentically
If you pretend and play to others, you will not develop charisma. It is much more charismatic if you appear authentic and show yourself as you really are. Do not force yourself into a role that you are not. This does not come across as charismatic, but dishonest and is very quickly exposed by others as a fib.
There are people who constantly tell you how busy they are, how stressed they are, how perma-active they are. Do such types have a charismatic effect on you? Just. The one who captivates us is rather the one who keeps a clear head and radiates complete calm in all the hustle and bustle. Strong words, firm voice, slow movements – such personalities reassure us, give us security and prove what they are: a sovereign in the literal sense of the word.
Pursue a clear goal
If you change direction every time you encounter resistance, you will not appear very charismatic to others. If, on the other hand, you have a clear goal in mind and are constantly working towards it, you radiate much more charisma. Determination in spite of difficulties has a tremendously impressive effect.
Work on your rhetoric
Charisma can be perceived by a single glance, but speech can be equally charismatic. Charisma and rhetorical skills often go hand in hand. If you understand how to use your words correctly and how they affect others, you will be more convincing, you will be able to transfer your opinion to others and motivate people to join you.
Maintain eye contact
Sometimes it’s the little things that can make you more charismatic: As simple as it sounds, just looking the person you’re talking to in the eye or making and maintaining eye contact in front of a group during a presentation can make you more charismatic. Your statements are better received, you give the impression of deep honesty and establish a bond with everyone present. The same is true even if you do not speak yourself. Show your sincere interest in what the other person is saying by maintaining eye contact and not looking around the room bored or even annoyed while waiting to finally speak again yourself.
What is meant here, of course, is not the physical presence, but the mental presence. Quite a few people with whom one converses drift off in thought at some point and are completely elsewhere in spirit. And let’s be honest: We notice that. Everyone notices that. Charismatic people, on the other hand, always listen intensively, are fully concentrated and completely focused on the task at hand. But not only does it make us feel more valued, the presence gives our counterpart a magical aura.
Remain willing to take risks
The easiest and safest way can be tempting, but it is not the approach you use to impress others and we make the charisma seem rather boring. Inspiring and engaging? Hardly, if you are not willing to jump over your own shadow and take a risk to achieve something. At the same time, this does not mean attracting attention by acting rashly or jumping to conclusions. Risk-taking can have a very attractive effect on a person’s charisma – if it is under control and used consciously. Anything else comes across as reckless and off-putting, rather than encouraging you to follow suit.
Do not be afraid to polarize
Whether you tend to be a Jack Welch type of tough guy or a team player with integrity, stay true to yourself and don’t be afraid to be polarizing. Yes, read that right: Try not to everybody’s darling to be! People who are addicted to pleasure never have charismatic charisma. If you can’t stand it, you can. While the majority conforms and goes with the flow, this categorical independence allows charismatic people to stand out from the crowd. Either you admire them for it or you can’t stand them. But because they don’t seem to mind at all, they are admired even by their adversaries.
Don’t get hung up on charisma
"I must have charisma!" – Who thinks like this, will probably not make it. You put yourself under pressure and do not appear charismatic to those around you, but merely uptight. You can work on your charisma, but you can’t force it from now on. Focus on the above tips and the qualities and skills they contain. Your charisma will then unfold all by itself.
We have also made the 15 tips for charisma available in this free PDF for you to download.
Charisma is not a permanent condition
When we see a person whose charisma immediately catches our eye, it is hard to imagine that he or she could act timidly, insecurely or even reservedly. The charisma is simply too overpowering and eclipses everything else for the moment. What we see, however, is only a snapshot.
A person who brims with charisma at a lecture does not necessarily do so on other occasions. A simple example: a project manager can charismatically lead a large team, inspire everyone involved to perform at their best, and set an example in terms of commitment. If he then applies for another position, his charisma may suddenly evaporate in the interview.
Instead, he seems nervous, doesn’t quite know what to do with himself, and has a hard time convincing the recruiter of who he is. A person who behaves in opposite ways in different situations. In the job, he is in his element, he feels comfortable, thrives, knows his strengths and how to proceed. The candidate situation, on the other hand, is new, an unfamiliar role that does not suit him or her.
Charisma is at its greatest when we are really sure of something, feel comfortable and trust that we have everything under control. Great self-confidence helps make this happen in a variety of areas, but for many charismatics, it’s not a permanent condition.
The downside of charisma
Of course, such an aura also holds dangers. Usually charisma is always associated with something positive. Looking at politicians and rulers, however, one must note that there is a negative side as well. Charismatic despots like in Germany at the time of the Second World War knew how to seduce masses with it. Charismatic rule can mean that a psychosocial illness is present. This is accompanied by the loss of a sense of reality and hubris, even delusions of grandeur. In the Nazi era, this also revealed the quasi-religious veneration that can be typical of charisma.
This was most clearly seen in the swastika, the swastika. It is by no means a Nazi invention, but was considered a religious symbol in many ancient cultures from India to China to South America. Anyone who gives too much weight to the charisma of such people opens the door to jugglers and hasbarians. Critics, such as Swiss management consultant Fredmund Malik, warn that charismatic people can be good leaders, but because of their seductive effect, they are always subject to great temptations and therefore pose a high risk for social groups and organizations.
Guide or seducer? Everybody has to decide for himself. But steered in the right direction, charisma becomes a success driver for yourself and others.
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