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the 13 characteristics of charisma

By pa360, Feb 23 2019 12:59PM

Last week, I attended a leaving party for my dear friend, former colleague, and current Believernomics business partner. It was a terrific event, not just for the turn out of well-wishers, the genuine sentiments expressed by all present, but also for the sheer power of my friend's charisma. I had always known him to be charismatic and had told him so, but I did not fully appreciate the scale nor the extent of his wonderful gift. In fact, so impressed was I by what I observed, that evening, that I felt inspired to write this blog to deconstruct the key characteristics of charisma.


So, why should anyone care about charisma? In simple terms, it is often the 'secret sauce' of success and the key ingredient for a powerful personal brand. It can be the difference between being heard and being believed; being one amongst the many and standing amongst the few; following and leading. Let us be clear, charisma is not like other personal brand characteristics such as reliability, integrity or courage. Quite unlike those characteristics, charisma cannot be acquired, learned or taught. You either have it or you don't and for those that don't have it, you will know it when you see it. So here is my take on the 13 key characteristics of charisma.


1. it attracts others

People often conflate charisma with celebrity, but they are not the same thing. Celebrity can attract others, but if you take away the underpinning activity or event that creates celebrity, the attraction of it will invariably fade as well. By contrast, people with charisma attract others through their affability, manner or other personality traits. As such, the underpinning characteristics of charisma reflect who you are, not the status or position that you have achieved. Another important aspect of the way in which charisma attracts is through the universality of its language. In other words, the language of charisma cuts across demographics and boundaries.


2. it keeps others

With charisma, whilst the ability to attract people is always a very strong measure, it is the ability to 'keep' those you attract that is the higher standard. The relationships that charismatic people cultivate are rarely transient and more likely to be long-lasting and give expression to intense personal loyalty. This ability to maintain enduring relationships ultimately speaks to the quality of those interactions and by extension, the regard to which charismatic people are often held.


3. it is effortless and authentic

Charisma comes naturally and is not something that you can fake, because you either have it or you do not. In that way, I would liken charisma to humour. People who have a natural sense of humour never need try to be funny, they just are. They seem to have an innate sense of what makes people laugh and do it effortlessly, without preparation. So it is with charisma, it requires no effort, because it is not what you learn, it is what you have, because it is who you are.


4. it needs no introduction because it announces itself

Much as you might tell someone that they are charismatic, you are only really stating the obvious to them and others. The point to note here is that charisma speaks for itself; it is the presence that fills the room and the energy that causes others to gravitate towards it. If you have charisma you do not always have to be the most articulate person in the room, nor the one with the most powerful oratory. That is because, charisma also communicates though non verbal cues such as mannerisms, dress sense and idiosyncrasies.


5. it is influential

Charisma is an effective measure of influence and influence is evidence of soft power. Given that charismatic people are in their element when in the company of others, the scope for leveraging influence over them can be far-reaching. In a positive context, charisma can create highly productive relationships and drive change across wide spans of control.


6. it cannot be easily explained

Anyone who says that they can fully or properly explain how charisma works, really does not understand it at all. We often see the effects of charisma and can therefore witness it at work; but there are various intangibles that make it work. These are the things that are often described as the 'X-factor' (ie: the things that you know are there, but cannot see, weigh or measure). If that were not the case, then everyone would be charismatic and all anyone would need to do, to exhibit it, is follow the formula and apply the science.


7. it makes the difference

The fact is that a compelling, well-evidenced argument is often the most effective way to secure a favourable decision and drive an agenda forward. However, in truth, even that may not be enough. By contrast, with charisma, it is often the case that people choose to trust you because they want to trust you and are willing to do so, even when they disagree with you. Truly charismatic people understand this and use this brand 'super-power' effectively to build momentum and get things done.


8. it is mobile

Few brand characteristics are as transferable, or as mobile, as charisma. As a case in point, when people work for a new employer they sometimes worry about the challenge of starting again and the uncertainty associated with forming new relationships and establishing their reputation in a new place. However, this is not something that charismatic people often worry about. The reason for that is because charisma doesn't just work anywhere, it works everywhere.


9. it exudes the 'feel good factor'

At its most potent, charisma has the extraordinary capacity to make people who experience it, feel good or better about themselves. It is impossible to describe the mechanics of this, other than to say that charisma connects with people at an emotional and psychological level and is as much non-verbal as it is verbal. People want to and enjoy being around those who make them feel positive and people who make others feel positive, can much more easily build strong relationships.


10. it leaves a footprint

One of the most common characteristics of people who are charismatic is that they are memorable. Long after the event or interaction, 'charismatics' tend to be remembered by those they come in contact with. Notwithstanding that the interactions themselves might be mundane or uneventful; charisma can make those experiences memorable. With charisma, you will always know where it has been, when you see what it has done.


11. it is spontaneous

The ability to 'freestyle' and think on your feet is an impressive talent. There are some who can do it very effectively, but most cannot. However, it is one of the things that charismatic people do very well. This is because those with charisma are naturally good with people. The bigger and the more diverse the audience, the better they like it and the more comfortable they will be. The capacity to be spontaneous means that people with charisma will be utterly at ease in the presence of strangers as much they are in the company of friends.


12. it has a presence and an aura

If you have ever been in the presence of someone with charisma, you may sense that they have a certain aura about and around them. This is more likely to be evident when they are in the presence of others. An aura, is one of the most important and impactful non-verbal cues of charisma. It is intangible, but can you can feel it; it is invisible, but you know it is there.


13. it listens

One final thing that I have realised from observing my friend, over the years, is that truly charismatic people are also very good listeners. The ability to listen underpins the capacity to learn, Willing listeners are active learners who are better placed to harness and maximise the value of their gifts and talents. This is important because charisma is a brand characteristic. If you do not know what you have then you will not know how to use it and if you do not know how to use it, then it will likely go to waste.


In conclusion, by itself, charisma is not unique. Many people have it and we see evidence of its deployment in politics, business, the media and in everyday situations. Nor is charisma always used positively, by those who possess it, to impact the lives and life experiences of those around them. However, what is beyond dispute is the potency of charisma in establishing a powerful personal brand, a mechanism for inspiring others and a platform for leadership influence.

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