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Some people seem to be naturally charismatic. They are people to whom others look when they want to know what to do and how to act. Being around charismatic people can be fun and affirming.  

However, charisma is not magic. The fact is that it can be developed with intention and practice. According to researchers, charisma is largely determined by two factors: affability and influence. Affability refers to how likeable others see us, and influence is how likely we are to enlist and motivate others. The first factor is about relationships. The second is about leadership. 

To be clear, we do not have to have a high level of charisma to be successful. Some of us would prefer to work in the background and not be noticed; we would rather do the work than make decisions and lead the work. Successful organizations are comprised of people with diverse personalities, emotional needs, and aspirations. We need to be our authentic selves. One thing is certain: Trying to be someone other than who we are is a sure way to increase our stress, undermine our confidence, and leave us exhausted. 

On the other hand, increasing charisma may be something we would like to pursue. If so, there are several behaviors and skills we will want to develop to build our affability and influence.  

First, we can attend to our nonverbal behaviors. Our posture, tone of voice, and body positioning all matter. For example, leaning in when listening to and maintaining eye contact with a person can signal attention and respect. Speaking confidently is likely to be read as certainty. Standing straight and walking with purpose communicates self-assurance. 

Second, we can choose to be optimistic. People like to be around those who see the best in others. People want to follow those who see the best in situations and look for opportunities rather than become mired in doom and gloom.  

Third, we might focus on solutions rather than “admiring the problem.” It has been said that anyone can find a problem—leaders focus on how to solve them. When confronting challenges, we can focus on what can be done rather than how difficult the situation is going to be.  

Fourth, we can develop our sense of humor. Appreciating absurdity, finding humor in the ironic, and appreciating the serendipitous can make us approachable. Not taking ourselves and life too seriously can be attractive to people around us and those we want to lead. 

Fifth, we can lift others up over claiming credit for ourselves. This behavior does not mean that we deny the good work we do and accomplishments we earn. Rather, we recognize that few successes are achieved alone; in most circumstances, success is the result of joint effort and mutual support. Of course, in recognizing and giving credit to our team or group, we also give credence to our contributions to the outcome.  

Sixth, we can build and pursue shared purpose. Most of us want to be part of something important that is bigger than ourselves. Inviting and inspiring others to contribute to a worthy cause or join a heroic crusade can be compelling. We may need to provide the stimulus and maybe even frame the vision, but giving others a role and sharing ownership can be powerful motivators.  

Seventh, we need to earn and demonstrate credibility. Credibility comes from building and exhibiting expertise. Further, knowledge and wisdom are key components of credibility. We can be the person to provide reassurance, guidance, assistance, and support when others are uncertain and need someone on whom they can rely.  

Charisma can be a useful addition to our leadership profile. However, we need to remember that charisma is only as worthy as the goals it is employed to accomplish and the benefits it accrues to those around us. 

Thought for the Week

When we understand another person’s perspective, what they are thinking and feeling, we are better able to relate to them and understand their needs.

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