What exactly is charisma? It's an attraction factor, an identifiable magnetism. Charismatic people, like Gandhi, Clinton, Jesus, Martin Luther King and Churchill, all have lots of loyal, devoted followers to this day. Yet, each of these people are vastly different from each other. One common thread is the ability to connect to others. And, they are/were all public speakers.
Connecting to others in their cases is largely based on the context of the time. Whatever they were expounding on was what people were wanting and has stood the test of time. For Gandhi, he was standing up for people's much needed freedom. As President, Clinton represented the middle class who felt abandoned. President Clinton still has charisma and is even more popular with his Clinton Global Initiative which is addressing globally recognized and important humanitarian issues. Jesus was freeing people from the bonds of the temple priests and showing them a new and much needed way. King was passionately galvanizing support long overdue for civil rights. Churchill's military brilliance and superb oratory skills were exactly what people needed during World War II. Each of these men were excellent and persuasive in their presentation skills.
Connecting with people is the single most important element in having charisma. Without connection, there is no charisma. So, does that mean that charisma is simply connection. In a way, yes. But there are things that amplify that connection such as the X-factor. People with charisma are exceedingly attractive and looks aren't necessarily a part of it. It's what comes from within. They are confident without coming off arrogant. And, confidence is highly attractive. But, it's more than that.
In my research, I came across several characteristics that I believe are key for anyone to develop charisma:
1) Confidence - nothing is more attractive or compelling than confidence. When you are truly confident about something, you are unshakeable. Public speaking success is all about developing confidence. The more you truly know something, have experienced it, practiced it, lived it, the more confident you become. False confidence is an oxymoron. You are or are not confident about something; there is no middle ground. Anyone can build confidence in any area and develop their own charisma.
2) Passion - true passion is an all consuming drive for something. It inspires you and when you are truly passionate about something, time seems to stand still. It's your true joy; your truth. It's something that you are authentically enthusiastic about. Enthusiasm comes from the Greek root of in - theos meaning God within. You could say that enthusiasm is a God thing which is powerful. "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm," a truth quoted from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Charisma and passion are understandably interlinked. People with charisma typically have strong emotions and cause them in others; yet they are not easily influenced.
3) Eye Contact - President Clinton is said to have incredible eye contact where when you meet him, he makes you feel that you are the only person in the room. I read a story where women were lined up to meet him and as he shook each person's hand and spoke with them, his eye contact was sincere yet not invading. And, when he went to the next person, he would look back at the last person for one more glance, making that person feel that they were important to him. It is said that Clinton has that attraction factor with all people however.
4) Authenticity - Being authentic, saying what's true and being transparent about your objectives creates an atmosphere of honesty and vulnerability. People relate to vulnerability although we typically do not like to show it. When someone does show it, it engages us and endears us to them. When you are authentic, It shows that you are courageous and daring which is more of that attraction factor.
5) Be About Change - Charismatic leaders stand for something that has to do with being different or changing something. They are authentic, passionate and confident in their stand. Charismatic leaders are not about the status quo; they defy it.
6) Strong Speaker Skills - All charismatic leaders today and in history have/had strong oratory skills. They exude confidence, are well-prepared, persuasive, authentic and passionate.
7) Care About Making a Difference - Charismatic people don't try to be charismatic. They care about making a difference; they want to matter and typically have a strong drive to help others. I think about Marilyn Monroe. I don't believe she wanted to make a difference so much as she wanted to matter. She is said to be one of the most charismatic people; but, probably she simply had a huge dose of the X-factor, the attraction factor.
There is really no magic about charisma. It may be something some people are born with or born to have, but anyone can develop their own attraction factor and magnetism. Some people seem to have it more easily. It would be wildly interesting to be in a room with the most charismatic people of all time. Imagine being in a room with Martin Luther King, Gandhi, President Clinton, JFK, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Margaret Thatcher, Jesus, Churchill, the Dalai Lama and all the rest.
Yet, we all have the potential to develop our own charisma by being our most authentic selves.