The Greeks coined the word “charisma” as “a gift of grace.”
They believed it was a divine gift. Giving birth to the myth is that charisma is innate. What scientists have actually discovered—like many other myths they busted this one—is that Charisma is actually a social skill, and, like many others, it is learned. But this happens so early in life that by the time charismatic people get to adulthood, it all seems to be natural. It’s not.
There’s “authority charisma,” which is the most powerful form of charisma. It’s the one that will get people to listen and obey. However, authority charisma has several downsides, as do the others. With this one, though, it inhibits critical feedback and is a killer for brainstorming. It’s not one I’d recommend bringing into a company or to a team if you want them to be creative.
Then there’s this form of charisma that can make people feel inspired and want to follow you. It’s also great for invigorating brainstorming. But remember, these charismatic leaders are very different in private. Charismatic leaders have a public persona that is very carefully crafted.
Another type of charisma is “kindness,” which is what the Dalai Lama has. This encourages people to reveal their hearts and souls, which is wonderful and flattering. People start bending rules for you or pretending they don’t even exist, but it can also backfire because people start falling in love with you, not romantically. But they can get very hurt when they find that you don’t reciprocate.
Charisma makes people want to want to trust and follow you. Imagine if you knew that the moment you entered the room people would want to know what you have to say. It causes people to have a personal sense of sacrifice and go above and beyond the call of duty to advance the leader’s mission. Employees of charismatic leaders also experience greater work satisfaction, greater personal commitment, and exhibit higher productivity. The companies with charismatic CEOs enjoy higher stock prices, and a charismatic CEO has a particularly strong effect during financial turmoil in raising funds for his or her company.
It’s charisma that helps determine which ideas get adopted and how effectively your projects are implemented. For example, charisma is critical anytime you’re applying for a job. No matter what their position, charismatic people also receive higher performance ratings. They tend to enjoy higher salaries and get more promotions. And they’re viewed as more attractive by their superiors.
In controlled lab experiments it was discovered that people could lower and raise their level of charisma, like turning a dial. More specifically, the MIT media lab looked at how critical your body language is to your effectiveness. They were able to predict the outcomes of sales calls, negotiations, and business plan pitches with 87% accuracy not by listening to a single word of content, but by analyzing voice fluctuations and the facial expressions of the person pitching. Charisma is what enables one sales person to outsell the other five in his district combined.
We can’t fake charismatic body language. Even when we control the main expression on our face, if what’s deeper inside (our Innerwealth) is anti-charismatic, that will come out. That’s because, no matter how well we think we’re controlling our facial expression, micro-facial expressions will still appear. And even if they’re as short as 17-32 milliseconds, people will be able to detect them.
You don’t control your body language consciously. Finally, you control your subconscious mind, which is why so much of my work with leaders is about Jedi mind tricks, like doing visualizations. For example, one way to both feel and broadcast confidence is by imagining yourself puffing up like a big gorilla. Because of the way visuals hit our limbic brain faster than our cortex, it’s one technique that can get your body language instantly to a charismatic state. The secret is to get you into the right charismatic mind to teach you to get a charismatic brain so you then exhibit the right charismatic body language so that then you are charismatic.
Either we’re charismatic or not. It’s that simple. And if we are charismatic, it’s because internally we’re doing the right Jedi mind tricks – or spiritual leaderships. You can get people to do whatever you want them to do. Think about that.
So charisma is perfect when you have to deal with a particularly difficult person and you have to win their trust and rebuild the relationship. You could turn on either focus or warmth charisma, which will enable you to establish an emotional bond with pretty much anyone.
Bill Clinton is one of the few figures who leads with warmth. Most other people lead with power or focus or they’re not charismatic at all. He has all three elements. He’s got presence. He’s fully focused on making you feel like you’re the only person in the room. He’s got power obviously; he’s a high-status individual. And he’s got warmth because that is what he broadcasts. That’s what makes him superstar charismatic.
Are you ready for more charisma?