5 Reasons Charisma Makes More Effective Leaders

August 28th, 2017 by LaRae Quy

Charisma is seldom used to describe a necessary skill for effective leadership. Personal charm has its place in society, but is it needed in the boardroom?

People with charisma get their message across. It’s a trait that can be hard to define but easy to spot.

Several of the FBI agents with whom I worked had charisma. They had the ability to captivate and motivate other people. The audience could be a single person who gives their testimony. Or, it could be a room full of venture capitalists who learn about economic espionage.

As a leader, entrepreneur, or business owner, charisma will help you reassure your stakeholders—whether they are investors, employees, or clients. If you have charisma, it helps you to communicate that, as the person in charge, you have what it takes to make the vision happen.

Charisma is so powerful because it is rooted in values and emotions. To persuade others, or to motivate them, we need to use compelling language to rouse followers’ emotions and passions. This allows us to tap into the hopes and dreams of our employees, clients, and investors. The truly charismatic leader knows how to give his people a sense of purpose and inspire them to achieve great things.

Politicians know the importance of charisma, but few leaders or managers make an attempt to develop it. While a knowledge of technology and operating procedures is essential in today’s marketplace, the most effective leaders add a layer of charismatic leadership on top.

Recent research suggests that charisma can be learned. Scientists who study it say it’s less a natural gift and more a set of behaviors that anyone can learn.

Research was conducted with a group of midlevel European executives trained in charismatic leadership tactics. Researchers found that their leadership ratings rose by 60%. The researchers then repeated the charismatic leadership training tactics in a large Swiss firm. Overall, they found 65% of people trained received above average ratings. In contrast, among people who had not been trained, only 35% received above average ratings.

Let’s take a look at some charismatic training that can make you a more effective leader:

1. Empathize

Put yourself in another person’s shoes. Empathy is the ability to see things from another person’s perspective and to understand how that person is feeling.

Using a phrase like, “I feel your anger,” is much better than “I can relate to that.” Establishing an emotional connection with people is always a good idea, even in a business setting.

I often use the phrase, “I sense that you are disappointed.” It lets the other person know that I understand what they are going through without making it seem as though I feel sorry for them.

2. Focus

If charisma is making the other person feel understood, it’s important for you to turn off your inner voice and focus on them.

We tend to focus on what we’re going to say next or how the other person’s message will affect us. As a result, we fail to hear what is really being said. While we may hear words, their meaning might get lost.

Focus on the other person when they speak. You may forget how you wanted to respond but so what? It’ll come to you later. Your real goal is to let them know that they connected with you.

3. Listen

If we focus and turn off our inner voice, it is much easier to listen to the other person. Listening is another behavior that can be learned. When you listen to what the other person says, you can reflect back what you heard.

I often use a phrase like, “This is what I heard you say….” and then rephrase the conversation in my own words. This lets the other person know I was listening and that I care about what they said.

4. Enthusiasm

The ability to uplift another person through praise of their actions or ideas is an essential leadership skill. Enthusiasm is difficult to fake but if you need to at first, go ahead. Enthusiasm is contagious but it is most potent when you sincerely engage with what someone else is saying or doing.

One of the easiest ways to generate enthusiasm is to smile and ask questions. Even if you don’t agree with what the other person is saying, ask questions to deepen your understanding of their position. This doesn’t mean you become a “yes person,” but do try to show a bit of real enthusiasm when an idea is presented. Give them their 15 minutes in the spotlight. Later, you can go back to them with specific reasons why the idea won’t fly.

5. Eye Contact

Eye contact is a powerful form of human connection. When someone’s gaze shifts away from us, we sense that their attention has also shifted away.

If you practice empathy and demonstrate good listening skills, people will want you to look at them. Remember eye contact requires you to meet and maintain another person’s gaze.

6. Expression

Stop the botox injections so that your face can show expressions. Show others that you are feeling empathy with their situation by being more expressive with your face.

The flipside of showing emotions in your face is knowing how to control them as well. Mental toughness is the ability to control emotions that can sabotage you when you’re not paying attention. Don’t let others see that you are angry or exasperated with them. Moderate what people see by being in control of your emotions.

To understand how you come across to others, practice having a conversation with yourself in front of a mirror. Notice how you express emotions in your face. If in doubt on how to act, watch charismatic people on TV and then mimic their expressions.

7. Stories

The Harvard Business Review reported that researchers have found that stories make our messages more engaging and help listeners connect with as the speaker.

In one example, a manager motivated her employees during a crisis by comparing the current situation to her experience climbing a mountain during dangerous weather conditions. She told them how working together saved her and the team on that mountain. Pulling it all together, she motivated her employees to work together so they could turn their immediate situation around as well.

8. Three-Part Lists

Three-part lists are good way to summarize your message into key takeaways. Most people can remember three things so make your pitch pithy and memorable. For example:

First, we need to look back and see what we did right. Next, we need to see where we went wrong. Then, we need to come up with a plan that will convince others to give us the resources to get it right next time.

When you are direct and spit out your message in clear and precise terms to your audience, it shows that you respect both their intelligence and their time.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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3 Responses to “5 Reasons Charisma Makes More Effective Leaders”

  1. Terri Klass says:

    I never thought about training for “charisma”! But it makes perfect sense using all of the strategies you talk about. I especially like the idea of empathize. When we speak with others it is so impactful if they see we understand their concerns completely. If people see we honestly feel their pain, they are more likely to be open to what we have to share. Charisma can often be the difference between leading a team ahead with commitment and just moving people along.

    Thanks LaRae for a wonderful post!

  2. LOL! Stop the botox! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Seriously – I am with Alli – I have heard that you can’t teach charisma. Very interesting and cool to consider that you can.

    The eye contact tip struck me – because of some repeated behavior I’ve been witnessing since arriving back on this side of the world. More than once I’ve noticed people at a table. One turns their body towards the other, prepared to engage and reflect with the other. Instead of taking a similar posture – the other angles their body, their face and their eyes in a perpendicular line, which makes it easy to rarely make eye contact. Each time I’ve seen it – with different people I’ve come away with different thoughts about why this is happening.

  3. Alli Polin says:

    Fascinating! For a long time, I’d always heard “you can’t teach charisma!” Clearly, that’s not the case.

    When I picture the most charismatic leaders I’ve worked with they’ve always made me feel like while they were speaking with me, I was the most important person in the room. That’s something we can all do better when we sincerely give people our time and attention.

    So glad you shared this research and tips too!

    Alli

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