What’s the difference between the people who get the job, get the promotion, or get all the attention and the ones who don’t? In many cases, it’s charisma. You may not know how to define it, but you definitely know it when you see it.
The official definition of charisma is “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.” The word comes from the Greek for “gift of grace.”
You may think that charisma, like good looks, is something you’re born with – you either have it or you don’t. But it can improved through practice, and the results are worth the effort.
Charlie Houpert is the 20-something author of Charisma on Command: Inspire, Impress, and Energize Everyone You Meet . He describes himself as charisma-impaired in his early life. He was voted “Most Likely To Break Out Of His Shell In College” in high school, but, he says, it wasn’t happening. He struggled to connect with people (especially girls) and thought he was doomed to be the male equivalent of a wallflower forever.
He decided to take a break from his life. He moved to Costa Rica to study abroad and reinvent himself. He spoke almost no Spanish, but managed to make friends and finally, break out of his shell. When he returned to the States, he methodically studied what made some of his friends charismatic. He began a deliberate practice of imitating them and building his confidence and skills.
He and his friend Ben Altman run Charisma on Command, a site that brings the best of what he’s learned to “teach you how to take your confidence and charisma to the next level in the situations where you need it the most.” The book breaks down the elements of charisma and does a good job of explaining why they work. It delivers practical tips and techniques to build your ability to connect with people and command a room.
Here’s his formula for success: Charisma = Conviction + Energy + Presentation
The first element of charisma is conviction. You have to believe, Houpert says, or you’ll never get anyone to believe. He cites the legendary Steve Jobs story as an example. In 1983, Apple is just four years old. Steve Jobs is a brash wunderkind with big ideas but without the business expertise to take them to market. He approached John Sculley, the youngest ever President of Pepsi. He has the training, experience, and relationships Jobs needs to market Apple’s products. He is Steve Job’s number one pick to be Apple’s CEO. And he says no.
Houghton writes: “Steve is dressed in his signature turtleneck and running shoes. He glances at the floor then up at Sculley, who just rebuffed him. He looks straight into Sculley’s eyes and asks: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
A few weeks later, Scully was Apple’s CEO. He could have had any job in corporate America, and Apple was by no means a sure thing. But Scully said that one, unsubstantiated sentence rocked him to the core. In his own words, “I just gulped. I knew I would wonder for the rest of my life what I had missed.”
Turns out it was a pretty good move. But it was based initially on Steve Jobs’ conviction and charisma.
You may never be Steve Jobs, but you can become more charismatic. Houpert provides tips at his YouTube channel for becoming better at all of the aspects of charisma, including humor, competence and sex appeal.
Would you like to have more power in your career? In future posts, we’ll explore how to build your charisma.