When you think about charisma, who do you think about? Bill Clinton? Martin Luther King Jr.? Steve Jobs?
What about you? Do you have charisma?
Many speakers and non-speakers hold the belief that charisma is an innate gift — either you are born with it, or you aren’t.
But can you learn charisma? Recent research suggests that you can!
Charismatic Leadership Tactics (CLTs)
Researchers at the University of Lausanne have identified 12 tactics demonstrated frequently by charismatic leaders. These charismatic leadership tactics (CLTs) include 9 verbal and 3 non-verbal tactics.
- Demonstrate moral convictions.
Link your messages with underlying moral principles and state your intention to “do the right thing.”
- Reflect the sentiment of the group.
Listen to the concerns of your audience, and emphasize shared history, struggles, or desires.
- Set high expectations.
Set daring goals for both yourself and your audience.
- Communicate confidence.
Assure your audience that the high goals can be achieved.
- Tell stories and anecdotes.
Engage your listeners and wrap lessons in real-life stories.
- Use metaphors, similes, and analogies.
Help your audience understand your messages in terms of concepts or experiences which they already know.
- Employ contrast.
Define yourself (and your ideas) clearly by emphasizing what you (and your ideas) are not.
- Organize content into triads (three part lists).
Leverage the magical rule of three to make your messages easier to remember.
- Ask rhetorical questions.
Engage your audience with questions that prompt them to get involved cognitively.
- Gesture naturally.
Punctuate your words with appropriate symbolic gestures.
- Speak through facial expressions.
Express the emotion of your words consistently with your eyes and face.
- Animate your voice.
Vary the volume, tone, pacing, and pauses to emphasize your message.
In the first study, 34 managers were rated on their charisma and how much they behave like a leader. Half of the managers were then trained in the use of charismatic leadership tactics (CLTs), while the other half were a control group. Three months after the training, the 34 managers were again rated. Managers who received the CLT training experienced significant growth in their charisma ratings, relative to the control group.
In the second study, a group of 41 MBA course students delivered speeches before and after CLT training. The before and after speeches were then evaluated. Speakers who demonstrated more CLTs received higher ratings on trust, competence, influence, and leadership.
This is compelling research, but keep in mind that it’s not these tactics which define one as a charismatic leader. There is no recipe for charisma. Having said that, all twelve tactics mentioned above will make you a more effective and persuasive speaker, if incorporated with moderation.
Here’s the original research paper on which this article is based:
- Antonakis J., Fenley M. & Liechti S. (2011). Can charisma can be taught? Tests of Two Interventions. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 10(3), 374-396.
If you don’t want to wade through the academic research, an easier-to-read overview written by the authors is also available. Harvard Business Review requires you to register to read the whole article, but it is free to do so.
What do you think?
Can charisma be learned? Please share your thoughts in the comments.