Magazine excerpt: The charisma connection

Nikki Owen explores how charisma can help you engage more effectively with your employees.

Numerous studies, and many different credible sources, show that charismatic leaders outperform their non-charismatic peers by an average of 60%. Our own research with 150 business leader into the link between charisma and engagement revealed that charisma increased a leader’s ability to engage by an average of 19%.

What is charisma?

Charisma is an authentic power that captivates the hearts and minds of others. When you are being true to who you are at your core, you shine in your own unique way. You can’t teach charisma using a behavioural-based approach, because if those ‘pasted on’ charismatic behaviours are out of alignment with your true authentic self, you will appear superficial, fake and inauthentic.

Neither can you develop your charisma by working from the outside, because the authenticity is about reconnecting to the truth of who you really are inside. The Charisma Model identifies the five internal attributes that will determine how much charismatic potential is being used.

  • Self-esteem. How you feel about yourself in different contexts determines how comfortable you feel being ‘you’. If you perceive that you are not good enough, not worthy enough, or lacking in some way, then this drains your confidence and dilutes your charisma.
  • Sensory awareness.Your emotional intelligence and the ease with which you can access your emotions means that you can utilise heart-centred communication. Most people will present their ‘superficial’ face to the world. The charismatic individual creates emotional depth that draws and attracts a depth of response from within others.
  • Compelling vision. In a work context, how exciting is the vision you have for your future within the organisation? Does it excite and stimulate you? Is it personal rather than organisational? Is your vision aligned with the organisation’s vision? When you can convey to others an exciting vision for their future, you awaken their potential and power up their performance.
  • Driving force. When you have a powerful vision, you naturally ignite your motivation and drive. Does your work have meaning? Do you feel enthusiastic about the work you do? Does your work satisfy your most important career values? Charisma requires the fuel of passion and motivation to ignite the passion within others.
  • Balanced energy. Your thoughts determine how you feel and this in turn expands or drains your energy. Charismatic people have high energy levels because their thoughts create mainly strong positive emotional reactions. When a charismatic individual walks into a room, you can almost feel their energy.

Energy flows where attention goes. When you balance your awareness equally between self and others, then you stimulate a two-way flow of energy within all your interactions with others. 

We’re born with it

Everyone is born with charisma. Just think about the attention a tiny baby receives. They express their desires honestly and clearly. They cry if they are hungry and they gurgle when they feel content. As you grow from infant to adult you experience that life can be cruel, hurtful and challenging.

You trigger a primal need to protect yourself from further pain. You build invisible walls of protection and your personality struggles to shine.

Building walls

Walls are a survival strategy for people who want to protect themselves from harm, fear, embarrassment and a host of other negative experiences. Many people may not even be aware of their own protective walls, yet they can prevent a person from performing well and reaching their full potential.

These walls are often built up over many years and are therefore brought with people to their work environment. The reason many employees put up their protective walls is usually because one of their childhood memories has been inadvertently triggered in the workplace. This negative programming is likely to dilute a person’s charisma.

Within organisations, the majority of employees, including the leadership team, are operating with these protective walls in place, serving as a barrier to communication. And if employees feel disconnected from their leader, the protective walls they build may be perceived as resistance.

Protective walls come in all shapes and sizes in a corporate environment, and as a result of a range of negatives experiences. Working for a leader with low tolerance for mistakes, or one that is ruthless and cold, are just two examples which can impact negatively on an individual or team.

A leader’s authority and status means that their own emotional state has a huge impact on employees, the organisational culture and the bottom line. Research by Sigal Barsade at Yale university and published in Harvard Business Review 2016 demonstrated that individuals and groups ‘catch’ the emotions of others.

According to research by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, authors of Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, a leader’s emotional style drives everyone else’s moods and behaviours through a neurological process called ‘mood contagion’.

It is therefore important to break down everyone’s protective walls in order to develop charisma at all levels within an organisation.


About the author

Nikki Owen is charisma expert at Full Potential Group. Find out more here 


This is an abridged version of a feature from October’s TJ Magazine. To get the full story, subscribe to the magazine here


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