More Charisma … Who, Me?

ChrismaPeople who seek executive coaching are generally looking for advice or training on how to exude charisma. “Charisma” entered the English language in the middle of the 17th century via ecclesiastical Latin, based on the Greek word “kharis,” meaning “favor” or “grace.” It originally signified a God-given talent. This could be the reason many people still believe that charisma is something you’re born with.

Today, charisma means a compelling presence or charm that translates into influence. The Harvard Business Review defined it as “the ability to communicate a clear, visionary, and inspirational message that captivates and motivates an audience.”

True charisma works as well on a single person as it does on a roomful or audience. As a leader, you have two practical tools: transactional power, which is the control of rewards and punishment, and instrumental power, which is the control of tasks.

These two powers can be exhausted quickly. But with the addition of charisma, you can get people to do what you need them to do because they trust you and are inspired by you.

Charisma consists of two prerequisites and half a dozen behaviors. Most people already have the two prerequisites of expertise and mastery of the materials at hand. You must have expertise so the audience feels you know what you are talking about. If you’re in the healthcare business, you need to have healthcare expertise. If you’re in the insurance business, you need to have insurance expertise. Second, you need to have complete mastery of the material at hand, so you can deliver your message without stumbling or fumbling.

If you have those two prerequisites, then you just need to refine these six behaviors:

1. Hold your head up
2. Keep your arms comfortably open at your sides unless you’re gesturing
3. Gesture a lot, and do it expansively, with your whole arm
4. Project your voice to the back of the room
5. Make steady eye contact
6. Look sincere

This is a simple matter, but simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. Many people find the posture and gestures of charisma unnatural. Nevertheless, anyone can learn these behaviors. The more you do them, the more natural they become.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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