We all know a person with a charismatic personality when we see one. They seem to radiate a certain magnetism that turns heads when they speak. They know how to command attention with not just their words, but the cadence of their voice and their body language. From celebrities to titans of industry and world leaders, charismatic people just have a certain something that draws others in.
For a long time, conventional wisdom held onto the belief that you were either born with charisma or you weren’t. Psychologists believe that charisma is a mix of nature and nurture. Yes, some people are simply hardwired with more of a charismatic personality than others. The good news though is that, yes, you can learn to be more charismatic and develop the qualities of a charismatic leader.
Before we jump into what those qualities are exactly, it would help to define first what exactly charisma is.
The word is derived from Greek and means “divine gift.” (Admittedly, that doesn’t sound like something that can be learned, but let’s hold out hope.)
Charisma is steeped in a certain amount of mystery, but to boil it down, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure.”
It’s easy to see how “a personal magic of leadership” could be so appealing for a leader and give them a cutting edge over the competition. Having that certain “It” factor might come more innately for some than others, but all successful leaders have at least some of it—even if they learned it along the way.
Here are the characteristics of a charismatic personality and why they’re so beneficial.
Psychology professor William von Hippel, from the University of Queensland in Australia, believes that adaptability is the number one trait that all charismatic leaders possess.
“There are clearly many qualities that enable people to be socially successful, but the fact that what works in one situation often does not work in another suggests that behavioral flexibility may be the single most important attribute for social functioning.”
There’s nothing charismatic about sulking when plans don’t work out exactly as expected. Instead, charismatic leaders find a way to make lemonade with the lemons they’ve been given.
This adaptability was further broken down by von Hippel into several offshoots of adaptability:
- Being quick-witted
- Knowing how to handle subtle changes
- Staying cool amid distraction
According to von Hippel, charismatic people may not always know the right answer to a tough question, but they can come up with alternative answers and choose the one that best works for the situation. They’re also in tune with what’s going on around them in a situation and can quickly modify their behavior to subtle changes to handle any conflicts that may have arisen.
Moreover, charismatic leaders are cool as cucumbers—or at least project that confidence—regardless of whatever distractions there may be. It’s this sort of adaptability that allows them to close business deals and push ahead, even when things don’t go according to plan.
Trust is one of the most important things for leaders to establish with their teams. When a leader is confident and not afraid to take a bold stance, it allows others to relax a little bit and stand behind that leader because they trust them. Charismatic leaders exude confidence almost without falter.
When it’s a celebrity like Bono or Lady Gaga, they call this confidence swagger as it allows them to strut across the stage like they haven’t got a sliver of self-doubt in them. They have a certain confidence about them that can be felt throughout an entire arena.
Showing confidence isn’t always easy, but it can certainly be learned and is paramount for success. Confident leaders are always going to be those who see the glass as half-full, and this sort of optimism can be a powerful motivating tool for those they lead.
Charismatic leaders may have a respect for the past, but they’re not going to be stuck in it. They have a mindset for innovation and are almost always looking for ways of how things could be better. It’s this sort of forward-thinking that made somebody like Martin Luther King Jr. such a charismatic leader. He had a clear vision that he was passionate about and knew how to communicate it (more on that in a second).
Charismatic leaders have clearly defined goals that they’re looking to achieve and combined with confidence, that can be incredibly intoxicating to people. Next to adaptability, this may be the second most important quality of a charismatic leader, and how they go about sharing their vision often results in a strong emotional response from those listening.
If the vision is the far off summit on the horizon, determination is that drive that keeps charismatic leaders pushing forward. If that vision is ever going to be achieved, then milestones will have to be accomplished along the way.
Take Amazon’s vision of having a zero carbon footprint by 2040, for example. To make that happen, Jeff Bezos and his team are going to need unwavering determination and hit certain goals at certain points in this timeline.
Determined leaders don’t give up when they hit roadblocks. Instead, they put their head down, adapt, and push forward. This drive to keep pushing ahead can trickle down and motivate those they’re leading to work harder at accomplishing whatever the collective goal might be.
5. Clear Communication
There’s a reason why crowds will show up in droves to hear a politician speak—the most captivating politicians know how to communicate their vision effectively in a clear manner. Those with an especially charismatic personality often have strong beliefs and can be incredibly persuasive both with their words and body language. To put it rather simply—they’re good storytellers.
Charismatic leaders draw listeners in with good posture, eye contact, and hand gestures that work to help connect their words to the audience. They articulate their words to help convey their vision and deliver their message with the same confidence, whether they’re speaking to a single individual or an audience of 10,000 people.
This sort of clear communication is key for the formulation of new goals and in gaining the trust of those around them to follow.
The economy is changing faster than ever before, and you don’t have to look very far to realize how creativity and adaptability will drive the successes of tomorrow. So, what’s this have to do with charisma?
Well, charismatic people tend to think outside the box and look for new ways of doing things. This, of course, ties into having a passion and a vision. Not only do charismatic thinkers tend to be creative people, but they also challenge the status quo and take risks to make those visions a reality.
The best managers not only think outside the box but also encourage those around them to tap into their creativity and look for better ways of doing things. A charismatic leader rises to meet the challenges that face them and view problems as opportunities for innovation.
To put into perspective just how important this quality is, a global survey of more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries found creativity was the most sought after attribute in a leader. When leaders show that they have a creative spirit, they come across as incredibly charismatic and inspire others to follow that creative lead as well.
The most charismatic leaders don’t just have a vision and know-how to effectively communicate it—they know how to adapt to the sudden changes thrown their way and still be persuasive and motivating.
The truth is, some people may be born with a little more natural charisma than others. Make no mistake about it, though—the traits of a charismatic leader can all be learned and developed.
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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com