Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Science of Charisma

Sir Isaac Newton's Third Law Of Motion says for every action there is an equal and opposite re-action. Energy is neither lost nor destroyed, merely transferred from one state to the next. This notion correlates with the energy/passion of charismatic leaders. Through the passionate energy of charismatic communicators, one is moved to heights of exhilaration and action or repelled by the seemingly idiocy of the emotionally expressed message. Nevertheless, an emotion is being elicited by the charismatic. Eminent communication expert, Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA stated:

-7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.

-38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).

-55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.

The emotional momentum created by charismatic communications mixed with the non-verbal affects of effective communication is a recipe for why charismatics are able to persuade and influence so effectively. If this is part of human "hard wiring," it behooves aspiring charismatics to use the science of energy and effective communication to bend the world to her will.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

The Indispensability of Charisma

On August 12, 2000, my father died. But before he passed, he revealed some hard-won secrets to how, through his charisma, he was able to live life on his terms. When I say that my father had enormous charisma, it doesn't come from a doting, overly idealistic son. No, he consistently had scores of men and women around him feeding on his every word. The singers of the R& B group, Temptations, were regular guests at his home. And he had a bit part in the 1972 Blockbuster film, Superfly. It would not have been unusual for him to hold court with the likes of Adam Clayton Powell in New York City nor Shirley Chisholm as she ran for the presidency of the United States. When I speak of his charisma, I would say it was UNREAL, if I hadn't witnessed it for myself.

In retrospect, it was the result of a carefully cultivated personality, but moreover, it was a result of earlier experiences fraught with pain. Whether you are a child trying to fit in with peers or an adult trying to overcome the consequences of ill-fated choices, we all are attempting to overcome some deep-seated insecurity. To be a human being is to be insecure! My father was no different. He came from a world where men had to exemplify great physical and mental strength to gain the respect of not only other men, but women also. He became a master at understanding human nature by consistently studying the true motivation of human beings. He got so good at it that he had to be careful about the words he chose. One false move could crush a person's entire belief system. It would be easy to relegate these followers to mindless simpletons, but that would be a huge mistake. They were the same kind of people you meet every day. No one is immune from the influences of certain personalities. In fact, suffice to say that something or someone influences us all. If you think any differently, you are deluding yourself. The model car you drive, the house and location you live, the people you engage with and the church you attend, all stem from the ideals you've embraced based on some form of persuasion.

As I travel around the country and throughout the world spreading the gospel of charisma, largely from the lessons taught by my father, audiences consistently agree that style in many arenas has come to overtake substance. Maureen Orth in her book, The Importance of Becoming Famous…speaks about the Celebrity Industrial Complex. In her analysis, society has become enamored with the spectacle of celebrity and personality. It comes in two parts: the celebrity as the spectacle and the audience as hungry onlookers yearning for more. As the world continues to expand through the Internet and multi-media, the individual is becoming smaller and smaller. In fact, he is feeling smaller and smaller. Contrast this diminutive feeling with the human need for recognition and you see the emerging emotional gap. What will you do? How will you create the illusion of indispensability within your company? Are you considered the "go to" person?

You need charisma now more than ever to maintain your self-esteem as well as your livelihood. Unfortunately, saving yourself only becomes important when your back is against the wall. Guess what? Not only is your back against the wall, you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. To survive, you must become famous, indispensable and a master at maneuvering on the stage of life. Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage and we're mere players." What part are you playing? And are you playing it well?

Related: Charisma

Monday, August 17, 2009

Building Charisma Through Confidence

It is safe to say that individuals who convey great charisma are extremely confident. They exude a self- assurance that transcends the challenges that ordinary people face. We all have track records where incidents occurred where we were uncertain about the outcome, which caused anxiety. The fact that we persevered, never giving into the fear of the unknown, created a pattern of confidence. This pattern of successes paved the way for greater confidence and eventually greater charisma. Catching the winning touchdown in football, scoring higher than anticipated on a standardized test and asking that extremely desirable person out on a date are all part of your track record for building confidence.

To be more confident and thus increase your charisma, it is imperative that you begin listing the major successes in your life. This is not an exercise merely to engage you in activity, but a reminder of what is necessary in gaining the charisma that you seek. One of the biggest maladies that individuals suffer from is amnesia. We often forget our successes opting to focus on the times when we experienced fear and setbacks. We can easily remember the times when things did not go our way, the times when we were disappointed for not performing at our peak level. Amazingly, our mind has a vivid memory of these shortcomings, but experience ambiguity when remembering our successes. The mind as a life preserver seeks to protect us from impending danger. Quite often, those closest to us, in their attempts to protect us, also influence us to be fearful. These messages do not come infrequently, but constantly. The difference between those who feel the fear and are debilitated by it and those who overcome it lie in their ability to act courageously. Thus feeling the fear and persisting in spite of it.

In mathematics, we learned that one plus one equals two. In the concepts that lead to great charisma, the equation is experience plus courage equals confidence. It takes courage to step away from mediocre thinking in creating the person you want to become. We are often plagued by childhood fears, which play out in our adulthood. Most often, we can trace any insecurity, inadequacy or fear to an experience that left an indelible mark in our minds. In coping with traumatic experiences, we push the negative experience deep into our psyche, which comes out in some form of behavior. Courage allows us to face our personal challenges and override the messages we have internalized as well as put situations that were out of our control into proper perspective. The charismatic person is not devoid of these experiences or more than human, but he or she has become proficient in dealing with internal and external challenges deliberately. It is this ability to be bold and courageous that increases their charisma. How many times have you heard a speaker, businessperson or facilitator reveal a personal experience that you felt you could not reveal to a room full of strangers? How did you feel about her candor? Under most situations, it drew you closer to her because she was allowing herself to become vulnerable. Western culture has a scattered viewpoint about sensitivity and vulnerability, because we mistrust the next person to act according to their higher selves and our best interest. Couple this with our unwillingness to take risks and remember past successes and we have the making of an individual who has handicapped herself from becoming charismatic.

The predominate reason you need confidence to become more charismatic is because you have to embrace vulnerability in order to connect with others to inspire them to act. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey is popular and is characterized as charismatic because she takes her audience through a range of emotions when sharing her vulnerabilities. Your inner strength increases by directly facing potentially embarrassing experiences without expending unnecessary energy on who might find out. Vulnerability allows you to take control from others and maintain it for yourself.

Related: Charisma

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Charisma - do you have it?

Charisma comes from the Greek root word, 'Charis', which means 'grace or gift'. The belief is that the gods breathe into you, a special spirit. Charisma is an energy that can have a positive effect, or a highly disruptive negative impact. It attracts jealousy, and in extreme cases even loathing, from those who don't have it. If it's resident as a spark, it can be fanned into a flame. If it's not there ' well, it isn't ever going to be!

I was talking about charisma on radio one night. Saying pretty much what I've said here. Someone called me on my mobile phone literally the minute I left the studio, to ask, 'Do you think I have charisma?' I obeyed the Eastern dictum of 'tell the truth in the way that commits least injury', and replied with a non-answer, along the lines of, 'Your patients love you ' you must have some charisma.' What went through my mind though, was that if as an adult, you have to phone someone to ask if you have charisma, the answer is pretty self-evident.

You may however, like my young goddaughter, be unaware that you have charisma. And like her, be sincerely amazed at the degree of competitiveness, antagonism or hostility your energy-shifting presence causes in some circles. When people are deeply conservative, intellectually or emotionally constrained and restrained, they will frequently, if not always, interpret the impact of your charisma as a negative, threatening, dislocating force.

Good leaders all have charisma. It's what attracts people to them. 'Spellbinding, enthralling, captivating, riveting', are words that are often used to describe a charismatic person. Repelling people is the occasional opposite and negative effect of charisma.

Charisma isn't necessarily explicit, loud, vibrant or visible. It may be a quiet, compelling force emanating from someone with unobtrusive behaviour, speech or mannerisms. I'm reminded of a worldwide ad agency group CEO, speaking to us years ago on a training program. His was such a quiet but compelling, presence. He spoke softly - sometimes so softly you almost had to strain to hear him. But you absolutely couldn't ' and didn't ' want to ignore him. Not because of his position, or power, but because of his presence.

Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu has it. Nelson Mandela's birth name reflected in advance that he would have it ' Rolihlala in isiXhosa, means 'he who stirs up trouble.' In this case of an extremely positive kind! 'Brother Leader', the quixotic and seriously daft Muammar Gaddafi, has it. Adolph Hitler had it in evil bucket loads. Clinton has it, Tony Blair hasn't. Maggie Thatcher has it, John Major doesn't. Golda Meir had it, Ariel Sharon doesn't. It's something that leaps out of your television set. Love 'em or hate 'em, you'll notice when they have it.

Tim Sikyea, a native Canadian medicine man, described the gift of healing being given to someone, like this: 'When you are given the gift of healing, the Wise Ones put a beetle in your stomach. The beetle feeds on the pain and suffering of other people. The day you stop feeding the beetle with the suffering of others, it starts to consume you.'

What we often see in charismatic individuals is that they forget the gift is in trust and for the benefit of others. Accompanying personal magnetism, comes great responsibility. When people use the force for self-adulation, the beetle starts its slow work. The gift will drive them mad, or it will become a force for evil. You will remember the medium, and miss the message.

If you're aware that you have charisma, treat it like a radioactive isotope that has been put in your trust - with respect and awareness of its power to heal or harm ' depending on how it is applied.

Charisma doesn't require good looks, height, a great voice or some other distinctive feature. It is its own driving force ' independent of other attributes, which often have to function in concert, to have an impact.

Many organizations and corporates pay lip service to respect for diversity. But it's almost a given, that the day someone with charisma walks through the door, the organization will mount an 'immune system response'. It sets out to crush or kill the 'invading' foreign organism or bacterium, overwhelm it, and pull it into line with 'normal' cellular function. It takes deeply insightful leaders to accept and nurture charismatic employees. Most commonly the charismatic ones give up the fight against mediocrity, and go off and do their own thing.

About the author: Clive is a marketing and communications strategist. He helps people and organizations make sustainable change.

Author: Clive Simpkins

Related: Charisma

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Is the Price Right?

I want to put to rest the mistaken virtues of a balanced life. The illusory life of everything completed, everyone is happy and you make the most of multi-tasking with countless "balls in the air". Every self-help book, consultant and yoga guru speaks about the means of de-stressing and finding a balanced life. Faced with the many challenges life throws our way, we are on a relentless quest to have it both ways. We want material success and security and yet put our focus and energy in places farthest from our goals. Proponents of the "you can have it all" school of thought rarely stop to count the cost for the desirable things in life. Every endeavor comes with a price on the front end and has a downside. The professional skills that necessitate climbing corporate ladders and founding great institutions, do not lend themselves to warm, caring, loving parenting skills. James Allen said, "A man is what he thinks about all day." Loosely translated, you get out of life what you focus on most intensely. How can you be great at a thing with unfocused attention? Multi-taskers boast about being able to juggle several projects at once claiming victory for its success. However, where is the success? Can you claim that you have achieved a level of excellence? Of course, you can't!

Since the dawn of humanity, every accomplishment, contribution or great feat occurred through a heavy price and great sacrifice. There is no balance associated with focused attention. By its very nature, it is slanted towards the object of its affection. The price for a focused endeavor requires time, resources and at time-friendships, whether it is building empires or being a supportive parent. Decide what you want and stick to the plan. In addition, most of all pay the whole price without complaint.

Ultimately, focus on the things you want and pay minimal attention at attempting to be all things to everybody. The selfishness of individuals is endless and you invariably lose yourself in the process. Even if you could have it all, you can't have it at the same time. Every choice comes with a price.

Related: Charisma