Learn charisma from Bill Clinton in three steps.

Most of the greatest leaders in the world are known to be very charismatic. Who comes into your mind when you think of a charismatic person? For me these are e.g. Steve Jobs, Oprah, Marilyn Monroe, Martin Luther King, Helmut SchmidCoach Karlsruhet…

Charismatic people impact the world, whether they are starting new projects, new companies or govern empires. In business, developing charisma can be a great skill e.g. for managing a difficult situation with a demanding client. It can give you that unnoticeable benefit of personal attraction when negotiating with a potential partner or investor.

Do you think of yourself as a charismatic person? No? Somehow there seems to be a myth that charisma is something we are born with and that it is part of your genetic heritage and therefore can’t be obtained during your adulthood. Well I’ve got good news for you: apparently it can.

I recently read the book „The charisma myth“ and the author, who is a successful coach in the US, mentioned Bill Clinton as one of the most charismatic leaders America ever had. Indeed… Just think of his story: the guy lied in front of the whole nation, in front of the whole world! But nevertheless, by now, the issue seems to be forgotten. The intern, Monica Levinski, however, never recovered, the public perception of her never changed. Why is this so, I asked myself? What makes Bill Clinton such a charismatic person, how did he behave, that he can easily overcome such a scandal?

When you meet a charismatic person, you probably get the impression that they have a lot of power, that they give you undivided attention and that they like you a lot. So, all you have to do 😉 is to give the impression that you possess high power, presence and warmth, since charismatic behaviour is a combination of these qualities.

Firstly, how could you irradiate more power? Confidence is crucial here, isn’t it? One trick I have been using before customer calls was to take certain postures to get myself in the confident state of mind. There is this famous TED talk by Amy Caddy “Your body language shapes who you are” – research conducted by Amy shows that we can “force” ourselves to feel in a certain way by using body language that we associate with a certain emotion. For example, you smile when you feel happy. But also when you simply hold a pen between your teeth – after a while – you start to feel happy. It works both ways!

So, what kind of postures do we associate with power? Some movements characteristic for some alpha bosses, whom we know, right? Try out their body language and notice what happens with your mental state!

Secondly, presence. Especially nowadays undivided attention is the most precious gift you can give to another person. Remember what you experience when you feel just simply being heard?.. However, as humans, we are wired to get distracted and to give the other person only our partial attention. It has evolutional reasons: we had to be aware of our environment – something in the bushes could eat us!.. So when you realise you get distracted – bring yourself to the present moment by focusing on your toes for just a second and then get back to focusing on the other person. Try it out right now and see what happens…To the toes…And then back to me…

And, thirdly, how can we irradiate more warmth? The most obvious method is, you guess it, is to smile. 🙂 However, smiling may not always be appropriate. For example, if you are about to start tough negotiations or have to resolve a customer complaint.

How could you be perceived to be a warm person without smiling? Body language conveys the biggest part of our message, even a larger one than the content. Compared to body movements language is a relatively recent invention, therefore, as humans, we pay more attention to the body language. If your body language implies warmth you will be perceived as a warm person. To be able to express warmth through body language you will need to get yourself in an charismatic internal state.

Here what works for me: Before going into a meeting I take a couple of minutes to… develop compassion towards my audience. It’s often said that everybody you meet has a story to tell and surely the person in front of you had experienced a story that broke his/her heart. As did everybody of us. Imagine to yourself – minutes before a presentation or a meeting – how your audience might feel at the moment. Imagine their past. Hearts broken. Joyful moments. Imagine their dreams. Probably not much different from yours. Keep this new perspective towards your client or your audience in mind for a couple of seconds. Then let it go. And deliver the best performance you ever gave!

My most important personal tip: have fun with it. As did Bill Clinton, I am sure! 🙂

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