The skills that actors use to inspire and influence have hugely powerful applications in the world of business.
The business world is moving faster than ever before with innovation and continual change now the accepted norm. To keep up with this ever-shifting and complex landscape, it is imperative that business leaders, entrepreneurs and all forward-thinking change-makers learn to communicate much more powerfully. If leaders are to have any hope of standing out in a noisy world where so many compete for attention, they must learn to relate to others with conviction and passionate authenticity. These are the essential ingredients of charisma, without which leaders will struggle to leave any lasting legacy.
Genuine charisma is tough work. Few people take the time to sculpt charisma’s underlying conviction, resilience and depth: hence charisma’s elusive nature in our current age. In fact, much of what masquerades as charisma is often seductive yet hollow charm.
If you hope to be at the top and if you want to influence your clients, customers, staff members and colleagues, you must develop charisma and empathy as part of your leadership strategy.
So, let’s look at how we can begin to grow our personal magnetism. Far from being a magical and inexplicable trait, charisma can be broken down into a set of concrete, largely nonverbal behaviours that can be learned, practiced, and made natural.
Here are some of the ways:
1. Listen Openly to Your Team
Charismatic business leaders are magnetic because they listen empathetically to their teams and colleagues, regardless if they like or dislike what they are hearing. If you can stay calm and show equanimity regardless if the news is to your personal taste or not, then you have the markings of a truly charismatic leader.
When managing a team, it is your responsibility to approach your employees and ask them how they are doing. Do not wait for employees to come to you with praise or complaints. People don’t always feel confident about approaching a manager or leader to express their feelings. So, it’s up to you as a leader worth your salt to check in with them regularly. A happy team is a coherent team.
Don’t keep your team at arm’s length. If you put up a defensive wall, you cannot expect others to trust you. Paranoia breeds paranoia. Genuine charisma is rooted in trust. You need to be able to tolerate dissent without being triggered into emotional reactivity. Otherwise, you may as well surround yourself with sycophants and rule through fear. This is not the basis for charisma, but is instead the basis for tyranny and negativity.
2. Know Your Customers and Clients
It is also crucial to check in consistently with your clients and customers — even those who might not have good things to say. When you ask your customers for their input and listen to their feedback, you can adjust your product or service accordingly. You also show people that your business serves them — and isn’t just about you.
A charismatic leader makes a great impression on their clients and customers by learning about their individual tastes and preferences. It isn’t possible to cater to all, and some people will always be disappointed no matter what. However, when interaction feels more personal, customers will be drawn to your brand not just for its product, but also for its people. You won’t get it right all the time, but the empathetic touch will forge lasting bonds that are priceless.
3. Listen More Talk Less
As a business leader, it’s important that you don’t just feel empathy, but that you show it. Empathy results from an action you take.
You increase your empathy by making listening, rather than speaking, the focal point of your interactions. As a leader, you must often be the one to start the conversation. But you must also be the one to do most of the listening once the conversation is underway.
A good way to prioritise listening is to ask people about their feelings and opinions before you talk about your own. This is something you can do, not only with customers, but also with your staff and colleagues. And the most inspiring leaders listen to understand as opposed to listening simply to reply: they do not need to hear the sound of their own voices.
If your team feels unheard, they will feel invisible. Work becomes intensely lonely and productivity inevitably suffers. Any leader in such a scenario will rarely leave a favourable impression.
Charisma is imperative. Listen to your teams. Give each and every team member the respect they deserve. It does not mean you always have to agree. But it does mean you have to make everyone feel as important as you are deemed to be. People inherently want to do well. And for this to happen, they need to feel acknowledged. It is up to you as the leader to ensure this.
4. Be Purposeful Even When You Don’t Know
Another part of what makes people charismatic is their level of clarity and conviction. A confident business leader communicates their ideas clearly and succinctly. If your explanations drift on for hours, you will come across as vague. People will assume you either don’t know what you’re doing or, much worse, have something to hide.
Likewise, it’s important to have the confidence to admit when you simply “don’t know”. A leader is human and can’t know the answer to everything. There is great humility and emotional intelligence in the admission that we do not know right now. People appreciate such honesty and will be more inclined to have faith in your leadership, as long as you commit to finding a solution.
Even more powerful is a leader who can admit when they have made an error in judgement. As long as you are determined to find a positive way forward, this is all that matters. Such authenticity is rare in a world where so many hide behind bravado and facades to cover up their flaws. A humble leader is a charismatic leader.
5. Develop Your Substance
Leadership without empathy is narcissism. Those who are all charm without substance come across as arrogant, self-centred, and disingenuous.
Grandiose, actively self-promoting, skilled orators definitely have vision and also an ability to attract and inspire the weakest in the work community.
This is the worst kind of leader. Their true aim is not to unite people but to divide and conquer. They deliberately split consensus and often take great pride in being both loved and hated at the same time. Such leaders do not leave a lasting positive legacy. They are inherently weak, and as much as they would like to influence, they will always fail long-term.
To be a truly brilliant leader, the aim is to be confident, not arrogant. A great leader needs to be more concerned with contributing to their employees’ lives rather than gaining validation, admiration and an army of mindless followers. Ironically, the less we chase validation, the more validation we receive simply as a by-product of our generous endeavours.
A charismatic leader thus uses their power responsibly. They have been gifted a position of great prestige and know they must use their power wisely and magnanimously.
I will close with a key point. If you remember anything from this article, remember this; that true charisma belongs to the one who does not ever follow but forges his or her own path through the mystery of this one life, always staying open and hungry to learn from their own unique mistakes, helped along by a generous dose of humour in an ever unfolding journey to their truest self.
Much of how women (and men) are perceived as leaders is tied absolutely to the way they communicate. In a male-dominated environment, particularly at senior management level, it is imperative that women learn to speak up and demand their place at the table. Without killer communication skills, women will fail to distinguish themselves.
Enter Executive Presence….
Ifyou are a woman and want to be a leader, executive presence is crucial as it is the only thing that will drive you forward.
But what is it exactly?
People often refer to executive presence as charisma or the X-factor, or they sometimes refer to historical greats who are famed for attracting popularity through their presence alone. However, none of this is helpful.
So, how do we begin to embody charisma when it’s such a vague term and could mean different things to different people?
Executive presence is an art, like negotiation skills or acting. It’s fundamentally about developing your own original voice. It’s an art because it is deeply personal and must be refined and mastered over time through experimentation, failure and repeated execution.
9 Practical Tools to Increase Executive Presence:
1. Embrace Your Unique Value.
Nail your mind-set. Do not go into meetings doubting your own value. Prepare in advance; develop your own unique perspective based on your individual, hard-won experiences. Then walk in knowing you are an asset to be treasured. Without you, this company would suffer a great loss. Know that.
2. Be Self-Aware.
Nail your body language. A killer pitch can be destroyed by lousy non-verbal communication. Don’t slouch. Don’t wave your arms about like you are drowning at sea. Stand upright and poised. Breathe deep, slow and regular. Look people in the eye and genuinely engage. And be calm and purposeful with your hand gestures. All of this engenders trust. You look like you can handle anything. And you can.
3. Think Before You Speak.
Most people waffle on without a thought for whether they make sense or are saying anything truly useful. So, cut out the preamble and meandering piffle. Consider your ultimate objectives and choose your words carefully to meet your needs. Don’t hurry to deliver the message. Take your time, be deliberate, and say much less than you think you need to.
Take deep breaths, deep into your belly, both before and during your presentation. This will relax you, increase your poise and calm the jumpy mind. Also sigh before you enter any high-pressure scenario. It works, as a deep, gut-felt sigh gives you permission to let go of any pent-up tensions that may have built up. When you sigh away tension, you release both physical and emotional repression, even if just for a moment. And, as you let go, your mind clears, your body relaxes and you become more relatable.
5. Use the Power of Silence.
Silence is an incredibly powerful tool and should never be underestimated. However, most of us feel awkward in a silence and are thus compelled to fill it. When you dare to pause, it puts you more in charge because suddenly you’re not the one making so much effort to drive a conversation forward. By taking a more detached role, you give the impression of authority.
A well-chosen pause also allows the listener to digest your message. At the same time, you give yourself the opportunity to assess your listeners’ behaviour. When you do that, you can tailor your words and actions accordingly and you became a class negotiator.
6. Meaningfully Engage with your Audience.
Powerful communication is far more than one-sided delivery. You need to relate and engage with others. You need to make the audience feel like they matter to you. And you do this by asking questions, gathering feedback, listening to what your audience says, reading their verbal and non-verbal cues and discerning what response to choose in light of these complex factors. When you do that, you become a rare leader.
7. Assert Boundaries.
Know where to draw the line. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to assert boundaries and refuse to people-please. Not everyone will like you but you will be OK with that. To a degree, you have to stop caring what others think, as no one gets anywhere in life wasting time on other people’s negative or destructive criticism. However, stay open to constructive feedback: just shut out all the rest.
8. Employ Wit.
Never forget your sense of humour. I’ve often heard women say they are afraid to be playful at senior level in case they won’t be taken seriously. Yet this can backfire, as people who take themselves too seriously are ironically taken less seriously by their peers. A study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humour.
Your sense of humour is a reflection of your wit and intelligence. If you feel you don’t have wit, it’s a skill that can be learned just like any other. Humour is also important to diffuse tension, as well-placed humour will be appreciated and respected.
9. Dress the Part.
I don’t believe in prescribed uniforms. Wear what makes you feel good. It doesn’t matter whether you decide to power-dress or wear a hoodie with glitter boots. Because, all that matters is that you wear what you wear with the utmost pride and confidence. It’s how you wear something, not what you wear, that is important; so, own it.
In the corporate world, there are obvious limits. You can’t wear an elephant suit to work as much as it would please you. Nevertheless, you can always find a way, no matter how small, to assert your individuality through your choice of dress. Be creative and imaginative.
The winning thread that runs through each of these tools is YOU.
Your originality sits at the core of your ability to communicate authentically and powerfully. So, continually nurture and refine yourself, your voice and your inner strength.
Executive presence is inherently a developmental process of daily emotional weight-lifting, a process of becoming your real self when it is easier and more tempting to run with the herd and jump on the bandwagon of mediocrity.
As Jungian psychologist James Hollis states,
“We are not here to fit in, to be well-balanced, or provide exempla for others. We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little clunky, clunky selves, to the great mosaic of being. As the gods intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves.”
We have heard it time and time again: to achieve any sort of huge success, we need to get comfortable with failure. The road to genuine achievement should never be easy. It will be littered with obstacles, huge set-backs and sometimes even disaster. Life can be brutally cruel as well as kind. And often there are no well-defined answers despite all those experts vying for the number 1 guru spot. The question is: are you game for the challenge in all its messiness? Or will you simply sit timidly in the wings wondering at what could be?
For any entrepreneur worth their salt, true success is enormously hard-won but well worth the fight. Human nature is such that we do not appreciate the wins that come too easy. Think of the countless stories of those winning the lottery overnight only to blow the entire jackpot soon after.
Most people are desperate for the quick wins at the expense of diligently mastering their business and creative craft. They would rather be “known” well over adding genuine value to humanity. Many people take advantage of the current attention economy by catering to peoples worst instincts in place of their own self-mastery and authenticity. It creates a generation of weak-willed and fickle try-hards who simply can’t stomach the struggle needed for genuine success. You can hear this lack of backbone in their empty voices and see it in their flashy smiles.
It is the difficulty inherent in reaching our goals that gives our lives the meaning we crave. We get repeatedly knocked back but we pick ourselves up regardless, championing purpose over the expedient. Even when our faces are mired in mud and our spirits feel broken, we somehow find the willpower to drive onwards. This continued battle nurtures our grit and grows our substance. We become a force to be reckoned with because we are.
This is the definition of courage.
In all truth, you could give up the entrepreneurial life tomorrow and find a cosy corporate job with a stable pay-check. You could dedicate yourself to someone else’s goals, driving their company to the next level whilst keeping your own dreams on the backburner. To cope with this sacrifice, you could quietly count the minutes to the weekend when you finally escape the office prison and self medicate like all the rest. Then you get to start the whole charade again on Monday. Welcome to the rat race.
Those who do take the leap into true entrepreneurship are brave. You have to commit to the long haul and work consistently and faithfully with absolutely no guarantee of success. You have to relinquish the secure financial future of the corporate world and try to make it on your own. And you have to dig deep into your own potential to develop the mettle to face repeated failures and disasters. They will hit you hard.
Leading your own company into the marketplace is tantamount to leading an army into battle. The market isn’t pretty. It doesn’t care about you. And only the best fighters win.
Self-doubt is a universal affliction. Most of us will tragically waste our precious lives worrying that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. We will relentlessly obsess over our mistakes and fear getting it wrong in case we are met with the disapproval of our peers. It’s a hard habit to break. The fact is, we are all emotionally hard-wired to fit in and our greatest dread is rejection from the tribe. But we have to recognise that our programming has passed its sell-by date and its only purpose now is to rob us of our passion.
When we remain a slave to our default programming, we waste time second-guessing the opinions of others. As if their opinions even mattered! The end result is always a self-numbing. We are too busy people pleasing to even know what we ourselves want to do, say or feel.
How can we ever become a true leader with an original voice when we are lost in this eternal follower mode? How can we create legacy and lasting impact with our business and creative ideas when our words sound so trite?
And how do we even begin to tackle this?
It starts by taking full responsibility for our lives, both business and personal. When we finally cease looking outwards for all the reasons why we can’t, we stop playing the victim. What’s left? We can only turn within.
And when we do that, we enter into the present moment. Want to be credible, inspiring and command respect? Get radically present.
So few people dare to live in the present moment. It can be scary and unpredictable. But when we speak, behave and conduct our businesses from that place, we become infinitely more poised and authentic. In a world full of pretenders, we stand out.
The rarest of people delight in challenging the status quo. They don’t care for approval. Instead they question, defy and excite. For them, failure isn’t deemed so bad. In fact, they invite failure in, knowing that the difficulty inherent in the struggle puts them in a stronger position to win long-term. They execute with passion and they courageously fight for themselves to the very end. This is a radical entrepreneur. This is a force to be reckoned with.
Are you such a person?
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Originally published at www.amytez.com/blog
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"Do not try to bend the spoon — that's impossible. Instead, only try to realise the truth: there is no spoon."
Do you remember that line from the Matrix film? It's in the scene where the pre-pubescent kid explains to Neo how he manages to bend the spoon with just his googly eyes.
"The truth is: there is no spoon."
Meaning, it's all in your head.
And as soon as you understand that, you can figure the Matrix out and start bending its rules.
It's been an inspiring and productive few weeks having met some very ambitious people who want to make a difference with their business ideas.
Throughout all these connections, the question I keep asking myself is the same:
How do we all become brilliant performers given the endless mental diarrhoea, expectations, pressure and doubt?