Three Tips for Leading with Charisma

Charisma. Is it about self-assurance, or swagger? Is it about how you present yourself, or how you interact with others? How do you view charisma, and is charisma an important characteristic in a leader?

Several of my teammates and I have been discussing the idea of “charisma” over the past few weeks in regards to what we think it is, what it looks like, and how leaders live it out. A few colleagues who say they struggle with exhibiting charisma wanted me to share what charisma means to me and some ways that I intentionally try to convey it. Connecting with all kinds of people is something that comes rather easily to me, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t purposefully make an effort at it.

Here are some ways that my teammates define charisma:

  • The ability to lighten a room or situation. A charismatic leader can think on her feet and see the positive in every situation.
  • When things get tense, charisma allows a leader to turn a situation into a positive, often with humor.
  • Appearing confident without coming across as arrogant.
  • Making other people feel validated so that they’re glad they offered their input or perspective.
  • Lowering others’ defenses and making people feel comfortable in your presence and that you are “for” them.

If you consider these definitions, it’s clear that charisma isn’t really about how you “appear” to others; rather, it’s about the impact you have on others. Charismatic leaders have the ability to bring out the best in other people. They enjoy the process of making others comfortable. With that idea in mind, here are three tips for leading with charisma:

Create a connection.

Because I care about making other people feeling comfortable, I challenge myself to figure out how I can create a connection between me and the other person or between many people in a room. I believe that others perform better if they feel comfortable being around me and in their work environment.

Tips for creating a connection:

  • Ask about them instead of talking about yourself.
  • Find something you both have in common and focus on that shared connection.

Balance the room.

If the room is too tense I’ll figure out how to lighten it up so people aren’t so rigid and serious. On the other hand, if it feels like productivity is lacking, I’ll work to bring things back into focus. It’s all about balance and creating a work environment that is both fun and productive.

Tips for balancing the room:

  • Humor is great for lightening things up. Share a story that makes you the victim of the humor. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.
  • If I need to bring some seriousness back into the situation, after a few laughs I bring our focus back by asking some production-driven questions like, “How will we know if this meeting has been successful? What do we want to accomplish in the next hour?” This immediately gives us boundaries for success. Wasteful meetings are frustrating to everyone, so quickly define where the focus should be.

Encourage Ideas.

I realize I have a high level of confidence, and I never want my confidence to make those around me insecure. I want teammates to speak up, so I’m very vocal about wanting to hear their ideas. I believe their ideas will make me better, so I consistently reinforce that what they have to say is important.

Tips for encouraging ideas:

  • Position yourself in meetings as just another teammate, not the vice president of such-and-such, to level the playing field when you’re involved in team projects.
  • Find the value in the opinions and insights your teammates bring to projects and vocally reinforce the insights that add value.

Of course, there are many individuals who find charismatic leaders intimidating simply because of their outgoing upfront personalities. So, how can you use charisma to remove those barriers that prevent you from connecting with others? Check back on Thursday when we’ll continue the conversation on charisma.


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