Charisma As Something You EARN…


My students learn about charisma when we discuss delivery.  Some scholars have found that delivery influences audience’s perceptions of charisma more than any other factor (such as content).  Some people buy into the idea that charisma is a gift bestowed on the precious few.  I firmly believe in this idea that charisma is an action, something we do, something we work toward and develop through our interactions with people over time.

We can have a nature versus nurture debate all day.  Certainly, yes, some people learn at an earlier age than others how to appeal to the needs of people.  Even so, I believe a personality trait is something we can all grow over time.  While we may never all be at the same level – the pinnacle of “charismatic,” we can work to develop our charisma over time.  Therefore, I believe charisma is a combination of both nature and nurture, and I believe it is something we can develop.


The BBC News recently published an article about charisma.  Researchers claim that charisma boils down to three things: 1) showing passion, 2) inducing passion in others, and 3) avoiding the influence of other charismatic people (Source).  Researchers also claim “charisma” is 50% nature and 50% nurture.  While I don’t know that we can specify charisma as 50/50 in every single case, I support the idea that we can grow our charisma.

Jeff Haden discusses charisma in “How To Be More Charismatic: 10 Habits Of Remarkably Charismatic People.”  I like Haden’s approach.  He says charisma isn’t something we are but is something we do, a collection of people-centered actions.  He describes 10 ways we can be more charismatic.

First, we can listen more than we talk.  Second, we can really hear people and listen closely to their needs.  Third, we can put our “stuff” away – our devices – so that we really connect with people.  Fourth, we can give before we receive and sometimes never receive at all.  Fifth, we can stop acting as if we are self important.  Sixth, we can make other people feel important.  Seventh, we can shine a spotlight on others.  Eighth, we can carefully select our words.  Ninth, we can stop discussing the failings of others and gossiping about people.  Tenth, we can readily admit our own personal failings (Source).

Even if we weren’t born charismatic, using Haden’s tips, we can make a choice to grow and cultivate this personality trait in our everyday lives.  After all, haven’t we already learned from Amy Cuddy that we can fake it ’til we become it?

What are your feelings on charisma?


5 thoughts on “Charisma As Something You EARN…

      • jamestollefson

        Well, I think you’re absolutely right that charisma is something you can learn. The second of your three claims, that inducing passion in others is a key to charisma, reminds me of Aristotles lengths discussion of how to incite emotion in people in his book Rhetoric. He talks at length about a variety of emotions, discussing how those emotions can be evoked and what they are useful for. I think that is exactly the kind of rational approach that someone who is not naturally “charismatic” can use to get people motivated and impassioned about something.

  1. Thanks so much for the link to this article, Alex. Charisma is something I’d like to be better at. I think about people like Cesar Millan (the dog whisperer) who just have an amazing physical presence in addition to charisma. It’s almost magical what effect those kinds of things can have on your influence. I think both are things some people might have been born with to some extent but can absolutely be learned as well, and how valuable to have them when you get up to present.

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