Sunday, June 27, 2010

Charisma: A Random Experiment on Influence

Recently, I gave a seminar titled, "The Principles of Charismatic Leadership” at the 2010 Power Networking Conference held in Downtown Atlanta at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The seminar was filled to capacity, much to my surprise. There were several other seminars going on at the same time, which made the attendance even more special. I gave an overview of the philosophy behind charisma and asked the audience, “What problems or challenges does charisma solve?” I favor the Problem Based Learning Model, which essentially is solution oriented in its mechanics. The solutions I received that charisma addressed ranged from moving up the corporate hierarchy using advanced interpersonal skills to persuading and impacting audiences to fulfill a mission.

Shortly after, I divided the room into two groups and asked participants to choose a candidate for President of the United States. After some internal campaigning within both groups, two men were selected (the groups were nearly equally divided with women and men). The two candidates had to give a stump speech at which the audience would vote collectively for the next President of the United States. The two men did not have a platform of issues and were relatively unknown, until that day, by the general audience. Guess who won?

Without much information, contact or questioning, the audience chose the candidate who aroused the greater of emotions, spoke about the difficulties ahead, and talked about the interest of the audience’s children and grandchildren (sound familiar?). The same “hot buttons” that real politicians use to get elected worked during a staged, impromptu election.

Can the tools and machinations of charisma work in situations where an individual has to go in “cold” without any knowledge of the people he or she has to influence? This random experiment suggests they can when they know the common motivation, interests and desires of the populous.

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