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Charisma – can it be learned?

Posted By on July 16, 2009

If asked what makes a popular leader, people often put charisma at the top of their list. But can charisma be dangerous? According to Ronald Heifetz,  US leadership guru and Harvard’s lecturer at the Center for Public Leadership, yes it can.History proves that a person in a position of authority who oozes charisma will easily attract a devoted following (Hitler, Kennedy, Churchill, Obama, to name a few). Heifetz reminds us, particularly in times of uncertainty, to be cautious of compelling leaders who use their powers to influence our actions. The more magnetic their personality, the more we act like sheep. We follow our leader blindly, failing to exercise a degree of robust questioning of what is being demanded of us. And the thing is, we often don’t even realise what powers of persuasion they have on us. Rather than tapping into our personal resources to tackle a problem or come up with our own solutions, we simply defer to our leader, swallowing their every word – hook, line and sinker.

In the workplace, those blessed with a commanding presence, exuding charm and magnetism, are the ones who more often than not attract our attention. We walk in their footsteps, do as we’re told, and look to them for the ‘right’ answers, without asking any questions. Dangerous, perhaps – especially when we look at what’s happened recently in the big financial firms. Admittedly though, not a bad way of ensuring things get done.

Leadership aside, are there any siutations when having an extra bit of v-v-v-voom can be a good thing? What if you’re going for a job interview or making a sales pitch and have just one precious opportunity to win them over? We’d all agree that in these instances we need to dig deep and draw on anything within our personal arsenal of talents to make the best possible impression and get the outcome we want.

Dale Carnegie, way back in 1936, wrote about charisma and the powers of attraction. His books have been bought by millions wanting to discover the secret of winning friends and influencing people. He taught us the importance of making a brilliant first impression (you never get a second chance!), how to hold someone’s attention, keep them entertained and, eventually, gain buy-in and agreement. In a nutshell – how to be a great conversationalist, someone people want to be around.

I’m curious to know what you think about charisma – can it be learned?

[polldaddy poll=1787605]

If, like me, you’re torn between options 1 and 3 in the poll, then you may be curious to find out what it takes to inject some charisma into your communication style. Our workshop on Monday evening, 20th July 2009, will introduce you to some practical techniques that you can apply immediately and begin getting the results you want. Hope to see you there – there’s no danger in learning!

Charisma Workshop – 20th July 2009, 6.30-8.15pm in Central London

Kathleen

KS Coaching

One Response to “Charisma – can it be learned?”

  1. Phil Bolton says:

    Great post Kath. Charisma is a fascinating topic and can be a powerful but potentially dangerous thing. It really comprises a series of behaviours which can be learned, like any others. Some people may more naturally be apt to display them, however with work we can all develop ourselves to be more charismatic.

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