What does charisma have to do with career success? Just about everything. Even if you’re indisputably in charge at work, getting people to do what you want them to do is more complicated that simply pointing out that you sign the checks (or perform the annual reviews). Being a leader means inspiring people to do their jobs, and do them well.
The good news is that charisma is something you can develop with practice. The first step is to understand what charisma really is.
Charisma is the ability to form meaningful connections with others.
“A charismatic person is able to exert significant influence because he or she connects with others in meaningful ways,” writes Emma Seppälä, author of The Happiness Track, at her blog. “It’s no surprise people often describe highly charismatic people—presidents including Bill Clinton are frequent examples—as having the ability to make you feel as if you were the only person in the room. Given how rare it is to receive that kind of attention from anyone, the ability to be fully present makes a big impression.”
That means learning to really listen to others, but even more than that, it means caring about what you hear. Charismatic people are fundamentally empathetic people. To connect with others, you have to want to understand their perspective.
Most people are terrible liars … but excellent at sensing when someone is being less-than-honest with them. That means that being dishonest will probably backfire on you. It’s impossible to gain trust and forge better connections when people sense that you’re not telling the truth.
Be able to change your mind.
To make good decisions, you need to be able to take in new information and change your position accordingly. To create better relationships, you have to build trust that you’re willing to hear what someone else is saying, and alter your course if necessary. Since leadership is about making choices and connections, intellectual curiosity and flexibility are essential.
Don’t be too proud to work at winning people over.
“Charisma centers on the capacity for a leader to be seen by followers as advancing the interests of the group,” writes LaRae Quy, a mental toughness coach and former FBI agent. “We trust the leader to take us in the right direction and believe he/she is one of us.”
Why do we do that? Because, Quy says, the leader specifically tailors the message to build that trust. In other words, their messages are specifically constructed to win support from their listeners.
Practice speaking skillfully.
Becoming comfortable with public speaking is important for any leader, but effective communication doesn’t stop there. You have to know your audience.
“It is essential to know your audience if you want to make an impact,” Seppälä explains. “The only way to do so, however, is to tune in to them. When you are 100% present with your audience, you are able to understand where they are coming from and how they are interpreting your words. Only then can your words be sensitive and appropriate. When you speak skillfully, you will be truly heard.”
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