Transform Yourself into the Leader Others Want to Follow - Learning Charisma

November 06, 2017

Charisma is a skill that can be learned, even if not everyone is a natural-born charismatic leader. By understanding the principles of charisma, we can incorporate its magical qualities into our lives. We can cultivate deep trust among our followers by guiding them toward a clear vision. With hard work and the right strategies, we can become leaders who are admired and respected.

2017 11 07

Max Weber, a prominent early 20th-century German sociologist, was the first to popularize the term "charisma." Charismatic leaders can use reasoned discourse to build moral credibility and ignite the passions of their followers. This leads the followers to feel a sense of purpose, inspiration to accomplish great things, and sometimes even blind faith. Research identifies nine verbal and three non-verbal techniques to achieve this.

Firstly, charismatic speakers can help the audience understand, relate to, and remember their message by using metaphors, similes, and analogies. As an IT consultant, I often need to translate technical information into business language for senior management. For example, I compare our scrum team developers to a Navy SEAL squad to illustrate the need for cross-functionality. This analogy clearly communicates the importance of adaptability within an agile team.

Secondly, using stories and personal experiences can make a message more engaging and relatable. Charismatic leaders have a unique way of verbal expression and can find common ground with their audience. For instance, Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address powerfully connected with people by sharing pivotal moments in his life. His stories are not just moving, but they also inspire me to excel in what I love to do.

Thirdly, contrasts provide a straightforward method to blend logic and emotion, making your stance more memorable. John F. Kennedy's famous words, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," serve as a potent example of using contrasts effectively.

Fourthly, rhetorical questions can foster engagement. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is an exemplary piece that employs this technique, inspiring hundreds of thousands of civil rights supporters.

Fifthly, the "rule of three" is a reliable persuasion technique that simplifies any message into key points. Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address employed this strategy effectively.

Sixthly, making moral statements or expressing the collective sentiment can enhance a leader's credibility. These expressions exhibit the leader's character, persuading the audience to follow them.

Seventhly, setting high aspirations and displaying passion can further motivate followers. This passion can only manifest if the leader genuinely believes in their vision and has faith in their team.

In addition to verbal techniques, non-verbal cues like animated speech, facial expressions, and gestures can also be impactful. Though these non-verbal cues may not be suitable for everyone, they make the message more accessible to the audience.

Recently, I was promoted to team leader in my IT consulting firm, allowing me to apply these techniques in a complex project involving a mobile app for a Hong Kong airline. By mastering skills that go beyond public speaking, I can build stronger emotional connections with team members and earn their respect.

The best way to master these techniques is through preparation and practice. These skills prepare me for both public speaking and individual conversations, where I need to be both persuasive and spontaneous. For instance, every three weeks, I must demo our team's latest product. Using a balanced combination of verbal and non-verbal techniques has significantly improved the reception of my presentations. The notion that I can't improve because I wasn't born charismatic is a fallacy. Through training and practice, I've managed to narrow the charisma gap, making me a more effective leader for our project.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn