Got Charisma? An Invitation to Experiment

“Are leaders born or made?” I’ve always hated that question– way too simplistic for real life.

However, I have been intrigued with the “can charisma be taught” conversation gaining momentum. Lots of good research swirling on that one, with some potential useful application. The next question “and is that good?” is also important but a subject of a later post.

Olivia Fox Cabane goes deep into the charisma question in her recent book, The Charisma Myth.

Cabane articulates 3 underlying powers of charisma: presence, power, and warmth, as well as the inherent obstacles to effectiveness. Her main idea, charisma is not about how we act it is about how we make others feel. True charisma requires deep authenticity.

She then identifies 4 practical and accessible charismatic styles:

  • Focus: achieved through presence and good listening
  • Visionary: requiring a bold vision and conviction
  • Kindness: coming from warmth and acceptance
  • Authority: through projection of power and status

 My charisma leanings lie in the “visionary” and “focus” realms, with some opportunities in the “kindness” category and a personal disdain for charisma points based on “authority.” In terms of natural competence, I do love a microphone, but I hate continental breakfast with roaming seas of name tags. With all that said, Cabane offers insights on how to mix a beautiful charismatic cocktail to help address difficult scenes.


The best part is the totally pragmatic tips on how to develop in each of these areas. I am talking really basic here like “stop nodding” so much. So today, before I committed to finishing this post, I decided to try out just one all day. It worked ridiculously well. You see, Cabane’s main point is that charisma is all about making other people feel genuinely great about hearing them for what they need to be heard for. It’s about finding ways to ensure people feel “got.” Amen. Her techniques offer ways to draw that out.
So, in the spirit of learning, blogging and adventure, I am going to pick 3 of her specific techniques to try out for one month. I am in for co-adventurers of all ages who would like to also read her work and try out a technique or two (let’s talk, I can offer a few easy suggestions). I am wide open to disclosed or anonymous sharing (which can be decided based on how you feel later).

If you want to play, please send me a note at and we can work on this experiment together.

I will write a follow-up post in late August. Hope you will be part of the conversation.