We all know a person with effective leadership skills when we see one. They seem to radiate a certain magnetism that turns heads when they speak. They know how to command attention with not just their words but the cadence of their voice and even their body language. From celebrities to industrial and world leaders, charismatic people can draw anyone in.
For a long time, conventional wisdom held onto the belief that you were either born with charisma or you weren’t. Psychologists believe that charisma is a mix of nature and nurture. Yes, some people are simply hardwired with a more charismatic personality than others. The good news, though, is that you can learn to be more charismatic and develop such qualities if you want to become a leader.
Before we jump into those qualities, it would probably help to define what exactly charisma is.
What Is Charisma?
The word means “divine gift” in Greek. Charisma is steeped in a certain amount of mystery, but to really boil it down, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure.” (Admittedly, that doesn’t sound like something that can be learned, but let’s hold out hope.)
It’s easy to see how “a personal magic of leadership” could be so appealing for a leader and give them a cutting edge over the competition. Having that certain “It” factor might come more innately for some than others, but everyone with effective leadership skills have at least some of it, even if they learned it along the way.
Here are the qualities of a charismatic leader and why they’re so beneficial.
A psychology professor from the University of Queensland in Australia, William von Hippel, believes that adaptability is the number one trait that all effective leaders possess. “There are clearly many qualities that enable people to be socially successful, but the fact that what works in one situation often does not work in another suggests that behavioral flexibility may be the single most important attribute for social functioning,” said von Hippel.
There’s nothing charismatic about sulking when plans don’t work out exactly as expected. Instead, charismatic leaders find a way to make lemonade with the lemons they’ve been given. This adaptability was further broken down by von Hippel into several offshoots:
- Being quick-witted
- Knowing how to handle subtle changes
- Staying cool amid distraction
According to von Hippel, charismatic people may not always know the right answer to a tough question, but they have the ability to come up with alternative answers and choose what works best for the situation. They’re also in tune with what’s going on around them and can quickly modify their behavior to handle any conflicts. Among all of this, charismatic leaders are cool as cucumbers — or at least project that confidence — regardless of whatever distractions there may be.
Being adaptable allows them to close business deals and push ahead, even when things don’t go according to plan.