There was an interesting segment on the CBS Sunday Morning show today about charisma. Reported by Susan Spencer, it was mostly about charisma in the context of assessing modern day presidents and presidential candidates. Somebody who is charismatic can be defined as one with charm or personal appeal. I’d rather have a strong sense of character than something so superficial. But I realize that charisma goes deeper than what we see on the surface.
The program introduced us to Joseph Nye, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. He describes certain people with charisma as having a “personal connection”, and ability to “project warmth and personality.” Aha, so it is a communication thing, and I am all in favor of clear and positive interpersonal communication.
But I wonder if charisma something genuine if it can be quantified and taught? Professor Alex Pentland from MIT and his team say the have found a way to measure charisma. (Why didn’t I become an academic researcher of charisma? It sounds like fun and probably pays well, too!) What their device actually measures is whether a person is energetic. The show also features John Neffinger who runs workshops to teach people how to have charisma. He says the key factors are “strength and warmth”, as projected by a smile and body language.
What does this all mean to me? I believe it all starts with what is inside, so it is up to each of us to let the energy and love of the universe into ourselves – and develop our own qualities such as humor, adventure, and integrity that define our character. Then, when we use that energy from within to smile, look somebody in the eye, to listen and react to what they have to say, we are doing so from an authentic center. It is essential to make this kind of connection with other people. Character or charisma? My vote: have both, but the character comes first.