What is Charisma? People may not agree on an exact definition of charisma but they can generally agree on who has it and who doesn’t. When I ask people about who they would list as charismatic I usually get names like, John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Martin Luther King, Jr., Johnny Deep, Gandhi, Ronald Reagan, Humphrey Bogart, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, and Clark Gable.
Many people think that charismatic leaders are just “born that way”. I would argue that charismatic leaders are essentially very skilled communicators – individuals who are verbally eloquent and who can communicate with followers on a deep, emotional level. They are able to articulate a compelling or captivating vision and able to arouse strong emotions in their followers. That is what makes them successful. With that in mind, I would like to point out types of rhetoric that may help you achieve more charismatic speeches, lectures, negotiations, and conversations (Shamir, Arthur, & House, 1994).
1. ) References to collective history and continuity between past and present. Collective history gives people something gather around, whether to change it or keep the same course.
2.) References to collective identity and the collective itself (and fewer references to individual self-interest). This helps to align values between followers and leaders.
3.) Positive references to followers’ worth and efficacy as both individuals and a collective. Research shows that followers with high self-efficacy perform highly on tasks assigned by a leader (Bandura & Locke, 2003). Building up worth has been a demonstrated effective leadership technique (Locke, 2004).
4.) References to a leader’s similarity to and identification with followers. This technique helps leaders connect with their audience.
5.) References to values and moral justifications (and fewer references to tangible outcomes and instrumental justifications). This would include, but is not limited to, ethical leadership behavior.
6.) References to distal goals and the distant future (and fewer references to proximal goals and the near future). Goal-setting is an important skill for effective and charismatic leadership.
7.) References to hope and faith. Authentic and charismatic leaders have the ability to introduce positive notions (i.e., hope and faith) into their speech, lectures, or conversations.
Bandura, A., & Locke, E.A. (2003). Negative self-efficacy and goal effects revisited. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 87-99.
Locke, E. A. (2004). Handbook of principles of organizational behavior. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Shamir, B., Arthur, M. B., & House, R. J. (1994). The rhetoric of charismatic leadership: A theoretical extension, a case study, and implications for research.The Leadership Quarterly, 5(1), 25-42.