As we have been working through our “Charisma Project,” I have been on the look out for signs of great charisma in every day life, and realized it’s time for me to talk about Larry.
Larry Owensel is a professional dancer and personal trainer, and teaches the interval kickboxing class I have been taking each week for the last 4 years. It’s a great workout for sure, but mostly I go to experience Larry in action. Larry, a great grandfather in his mid fifties, has charisma. He transforms attitudes and bodies by motivating his loyal following to believe in the possibilities and always stretch for more.
Perhaps his leadership comes from his humble beginnings, or his inspiring mother who constantly encouraged him to not settle for “good” when he could be “great.” Or maybe the secret is his training in the martial arts (he holds a 6th degree blackbelt in Shotoko Karate and a 3rd degree blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do), or his time spent as a marine corps drill instructor. I am sure all this has helped him to hone his style, but after talking to him, I am convinced it’s his passion for his calling and his deeply spiritual approach to leadership.
His eyes light up, “I am in LOVE, LOVE, LOVE with dance… nothing else makes me feel the way dance does.” It shows in his every move. It shows when he stops the action to get all our clumsy bob and weaves moving in the right direction. It showed on the morning the sound system broke and he taught the entire class through non verbal motion and just sounding out the beat “tat tat tat.”
The passion is clear, but so is the spirituality. ”It’s about getting everyone’s energy flowing together… all those hearts and minds…I don’t want us to think about it, I just want us to flow.”
I asked him about how he works so differently with each person in the room (there are usually over 70 of us and various levels and personalities), and he tracks with each athlete in a different way (he calls us “athletes”, we like that). Today in class, I got the intense “you are stronger than that” speech, while others he treated to his encouraging grin.
“I just step in their aura, and look in their eyes. I see what they need deep inside, not what they think they want. It gives me a good sense of what to ask right in that moment, and I take my best shot, he said humbly.” And the grinned, “I am usually right.”
We learned in Olivia Fox Cabane’s work that deliberate choices on every move make a difference. I asked Larry about that. ”Oh, It’s all very deliberate.” He doesn’t move or lead by chance.
I notice his deliberate and careful approach to not up the intensity of what he refers to as “an extreme cardio class for athletes.” He just works on the basics and gets them to feel mastery over one thing… so that they can move to the next thing the next time.
I was struck by our conversation on humility… also a very prominent theme in the Cabane book. ”When people come back to me and say they dropped 2 dress sizes, and try to give me the credit… even if I know I had an impact, I bow (he shares his namaste gesture), and say “thank you.” It is important to Larry to acknowledge the spirit that is moving through him, and treating that power with sincere humility.
We often think of charisma as something vital for business or politics. Charisma can have awesome power to transform in all professions. I am grateful for my weekly dose of inspiration and role modeling.