The most charismatic leader I have ever met was an FBI supervisor who had a powerful personality, a powerful sense of humor, and a powerful ability to motivate the agents who worked for him.
Many of our most effective leaders are labeled charismatic and yet it was not something they were born with. They acquired it through knowledge and practice.
Like learning effective leadership skills, charisma is a process of learning how to motivate others to help achieve group goals. We are not born with a natural ability to win the hearts and minds of others.
Many people confuse charisma with likability and while likable people can be persuasive, charismatic leaders have thoughtfully fine-tuned their public image into one where they are seen to be advancing the interests of the group they are representing.
Charisma is not something possessed by a leader; it is foisted upon the leader by followers. It is a gift bestowed by the group because the leader has conveyed to the group that they all share the same sense of worth, vision, and goals.
German sociologist Max Weber did not believe charisma was a rare quality possessed by certain lucky individuals. Instead, he said that what is important is how the individual is regarded by his/her followers. In other words, followers distinguish the leader from others and confer charisma on him or her.
A charismatic leader is someone who is emotionally competent—a core component of mental toughness.
Here are 6 ways to become a charismatic leader:
1. Win The Hearts Of Followers
Charisma centers on the capacity for a leader to be seen by followers as advancing the interests of the group. We trust the leader to take us in the right direction and believe he/she is one of us.
It’s important, however, that the group feels on equal footing with the leader, so find ways to confirm in their minds that you are all in it together and that your self-worth is tied to their best interests.
The inaugural addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy represent charismatic leadership. FDR spins a tale of overcoming adversity while JFK reminds us of youth and opportunity. In neither case was the charisma that flowed from their speeches self-evident. Rather, both were constructed to win over their followers.
2. Make People Feel Special
No matter who you are, take the time to make the person across from you feel important and fascinating. Make them feel as though you are completely with them and following their conversation.
- Nod occasionally, not frequently.
- Ask questions, even if it means interrupting them. It shows you are genuinely interested in what they are saying.
- Don’t let your eyes wander; stay fixed on their face.
3. Use The Right Pronouns
Solidarity in vision and direction of the company inspires people and increases group optimism for the future. When group identity is strong, there is more likelihood of referring to the group as “us.” Use words like us and we rather than me and I.
When you’re dealing with diverse groups, divide and conquer. Find ways to use the words us and we when talking to each group separately. Each group needs to be left with the impression that you are on their side.
But here is where charisma becomes more of an art than a science—never let others feel that you are not genuine in the way you reach out. Show diverse groups that you understand the unique struggles they face, and that by advocating for one it does not imply you are abandoning the other.
4. Tell Our Story
A charismatic leader is someone who clarifies what we believe rather than telling people what they believe. They are able to lead their audience to draw the conclusions one desires rather than spelling out those ideas for them.
When President Reagan was asked what voters saw in him, he responded, “I think they see themselves and that I am one of them.”
5. Conceal Your Craft
The act of charisma is subtle and not obvious. It is rarely productive to bluntly say, “This is who we are” because it can often be met with a “No, we’re not” retort. Instead, a charismatic leader allows their story to unfold rather than issue an order or proclamation. This allows followers to make up their own mind.
In doing so, you’ve implied that you rely on your followers to use their own intelligence and experience to draw the right conclusions.
6. Create A Strong Persona
A strong persona does not require great physical strength or ego; however, it does require two things:
1) full display of core competencies such as intelligence, kindness, empathy, etc.
2) warmth of personality
A strong persona means that you are confident in your abilities but not puffed up because of them. It also means that you have no self-doubt about your talents and skill sets.
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