Charisma is a trait, you might argue, but the reality is that you can develop and learn to improve your charismatic qualities. Robert J House pointed to the situational factors as well as the behavior of the leader in his work on charismatic leadership. You can improve both situational factors and behaviors in order to become more charismatic. Communication skills, posture, establishing presence, being determined, and having a vision – all typical qualities of a charismatic leader – can be developed and refined.
Let us go through a few areas where you can focus to grow your charisma as a leader. Even if you do not want to use the charismatic leadership style, and I actually suggest you don’t, improving your charisma is still a good idea. (Beware of the dark side of charismatic leadership!)
Before we get into how to improve your charisma, let us recap what the charismatic leadership style is about, although you can be charismatic without using it as a leadership style. Become as charismatic as possible, but use other methods in leading, such as the six leadership styles by Goleman. Anyway, here is a short synopsis of charismatic leadership:
Charismatic leadership is when a leader uses charismatic qualities to inspire others. Charismatic leadership can be very inspirational and motivational, leading to unity and engagement. Charismatic leadership risks becoming an autocratic one-man show. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is an example of a charismatic leader.
Now let us talk about seven areas you can improve and develop to become a more charismatic leader.
Improve your Emotional Intelligence
The four competencies of Emotional Intelligence are Self-awareness, Self-management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. Develop within all these areas to improve your charisma and your leadership impact on others.
You need to understand your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values, and drivers. Accurate self-awareness means setting clear goals that are in sync with core values. Self-reflection is an important part, and a self-aware leader will consider what they need to improve, realize when they are making mistakes, and have a limited need for prestige. Self-awareness also means understanding how your behavior is perceived and what emotions you signal.
Self-management is about emotional self-control while also being honest and open with your own emotions. It is not about never being worried or angry. It is about knowing when to be worried or angry. A leader with good self-control does not have sudden aggressive outbursts. If he or she gets angry, it will be in a controlled fashion, for good reasons, and at the right place at the right time. Self-management is also about adapting emotionally to change and having the capability of pushing yourself to your targets, i.e., an internal drive for success. A good leader will be positive and optimistic as a primary stance but will adapt emotionally when this basic stance is no longer suitable. Being positive all the time, regardless of what happens, will seem inauthentic to others after a while. Understanding and controlling your own emotions requires quite a bit of work inside your mind. I suggest you read our article on that topic: Intrapersonal Communication.
Empathy is a major cornerstone of Social Awareness. Through empathy, you will understand how others feel, how they perceive things, and how things impact them. Social awareness also means understanding social settings such as networks and hierarchies, formal and informal, in the world surrounding you. As part of understanding these social settings, you will also understand what your stakeholders need and expect from you. Ranging from your boss to your customers, team members, etc. you need to gauge their needs and expectations.
The fourth of the Emotional Intelligence competencies involves influencing and developing others, bonding, handling conflicts, and many other interactions between people and teams. You need to be able to figure out how to get others to move in the desired direction. How to inspire people and how to get them to cooperate towards the same goal, for instance.
As you can probably tell, these four competencies connect and depend on each other. If you lack self-awareness, how will you be able to be genuinely empathetic? After all, you will not understand how your behavior impacts others. Furthermore, relationship management will be challenging if you lack self-management, etc.
All these competencies of Emotional Intelligence come together, and they need to be balanced. Develop your own Emotional Intelligence with purpose and proper goals, ensure you ask others for feedback regularly, and continue to always improve. The key is to know how you are perceived, and to really understand the person in front of you. Getting better at this means you will become more charismatic as a leader, without doubt.
Presence and Communication skills
Practice your communication skills in depth, and use plenty of emotional intelligence as you communicate. This includes written and verbal communication and non-verbal communication, such as body language. Improving in these areas is also likely to give you a boost when it comes to presence. Your leadership posture also deserves some consideration.
Read up on active listening and learn to use this method when interacting with others. You will be surprised at how much more information you gain and how much stronger the rapport with the other person will be. Couple this with learning more about body language, emotional queues, etc., and you are on a good path to developing your emotional awareness and intelligence. Check out our 17 tips on communication for leaders.
Since you need to communicate and establish a connection with people, you need to develop your public speaking skills. For some of us, this starts with dealing with stage fright or other types of communication apprehension, but the journey is not over there. Continue to train, learn and grow your experience in public speaking until you can show presence, confidence, and connect with your audience. This will help you tremendously in influencing and convincing people to follow you.
Work on how to set, describe and communicate a vision properly. Some guidance can be found in this article on Visionary Leadership. You need to truly know and understand your followers to know how and what to communicate concerning your vision. Hence, getting the above communication steps and active listening into place will help you set the vision and paint the picture for the followers.
Communication should also be done in many ways and through many channels to strengthen the message. Use the classic downward communication together with personal communication, written communication, and digital types of communication. Repetition is key.
Ensure that you know yourself completely. What are your strengths and your development areas? Treasure and use your strengths and always work on improving your development areas. This will build higher confidence and trust in yourself. Whatever you do, also remember to be humble. As I see it, being humble is a major portion of being charismatic and confident. If you are truly humble, you understand that you are not the master of everything, and things will stop being all about you. The risk of overconfidence and being a self-centered egomaniac, hardly charismatic, is reduced if you ensure you stay humble.
You can find some additional tips on emotional intelligence, empathy, and listening skills in this text about Servant Leadership.
If you are set on changing and improving yourself, I suggest you read our article on How to create a leadership development plan to give your development path some structure and make yourself accountable to a formal plan.
Refer to our article on charismatic leadership style for additional information on using charisma as a leader, but also look into servant leadership, and other leadership styles, which all benefit from stronger charisma.