In this post, I will give an overview of the three key ingredients to charisma as presented in The Charisma Myth by executive coach Olivia Fox Cabane. In later posts, I will discuss some strategies from the book to help you develop your own charisma as well as my ideas on bringing charisma to your business.
Charismatic Behaviors You Can Learn
Ingredient #1: Presence
According to Olivia Fox Cabane, people who have met Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and the Dalai Lama have noted their tremendous sense of presence. She also mentions that Bill Clinton is so strong on presence that even Republicans liked him when they met. I have heard women who met Bill Clinton remark on his attractiveness in person. Significantly, these same women noted his keen attentiveness to them in the brief moments they spoke.
Think of people you know who have affected you with their notable sense of presence. How did they act when you were with them? How did it make you feel?
Ingredient #2: Power
You can have influence through wealth, knowledge, expertise, rank, or intelligence. We observe appearance, dress, stature, and posture, for clues to the power status of people we meet.
Voice and body language communicate power effectively. According to Fox Cabane, the MIT Media Lab accurately predicted the outcome of observed sales calls, using voice fluctuation and facial expression of the person pitching – they didn’t need to hear the words.
You may have noticed that people you deem powerful appear to take up more space. It is not just that they are taller or more muscular, but that they present themselves so they literally do take up more space. They stretch out an arm over a chair and rest their feet on a desk. They may stand with their hands on their hips and their feet wide apart.
Remember the 80s' shoulder pads in women’s suits? The broad-shouldered jackets with long wide skirts, voluminous scarves, large earrings, and, of course, big hair created a feminine, but formidable look. This fashion broadside coincided with women expanding their influence in the workplace.
I wonder about the trend now for women to carry big purses – is the desire to make a woman seem smaller physically in contrast, or to take up more space to look more powerful?
When I was teaching at an alternative middle school, I remember the most powerful teachers were the largest ones physically. These teachers not only commanded obedience, but the devotion of many students. One particularly influential, and likable, teacher, could easily up pick a sixth grade boy by the legs, delighting the boy and his classmates, while showing his dominance.
Think about powerful people you know personally. Who has the most influence in your family or in organizations you belong to? What business leaders do you know who exhibit power? What behaviors do they practice that exude that influence?
Ingredient #3: Warmth
Because warmth is sensed more directly than power, it has to be based on reality. Warmth is conveyed through numerous subtle cues of body language that cannot all be consciously managed. It takes only one quick expression of your eyes or mouth to shatter an illusion of warmth.
People with charismatic warmth must believe they like someone and are willing to help them for it to come across as authentic. So, to develop warmth, if you don’t already have it, you need to change your mind set, or, according Fox Cabane, even your brain chemistry.
Think of those you know in your personal life and in business that show warmth. Do you recall when someone you thought liked you and would help you, revealed suddenly through body language that they could not be trusted?
Charisma and your business
If you have employees who sell and serve your customers, imagine them with these attributes? How would they relate to each other and to your customers if they had charisma?
Now, imagine what it would look, sound, and feel like if your entire business had presence, power, and warmth?
If you want to sell your business one day, think about how a business with presence power, and warmth would appeal to a potential buyer?
In my next posts, I will be discussing each of these aspects of charisma. I will address how you can develop them as personal attributes and in your business, so that your business can retain magnetism without you at its center.
If you haven’t already done so, read Olivia Fox Cabane’s book, The Charisma Myth, to get a head start on developing charisma.
Please comment on this post below and share it with business owners and others who might be interested in this topic.
Be present, be powerful, and stay warm!