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.