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What You Must Know of Charisma

Charisma is one of the most desired qualities people want to possess. It seems to be the critical factor on the road to success in any possible sphere of human life. Charisma allows people to make the right impression, charm, and convince others with the help of specific skills. However, in order to acquire such a quality, one needs to understand what it implies clearly. The principal question is whether charisma is innate or can be developed with the use of specific techniques.

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Definition of Charisma

For further discussion of such a notion as charisma, it is necessary to define it in order to understand what it means. The problem with its definition is in the absence of agreement on the subject among various scholars as they tend to adjust this term to the needs of their studies. Thus, for example, Fragouli (2018) considers charisma to be abstract but defines it as “a trait that entices people to follow, as it is perceived as a magnetism, which attracts attention and fascination” (p. 298). In this case, the term charisma would refer to a single quality of a person that allows him or her to persuade others and thereby makes such a person a true leader in the social environment.

Other scholars tend to consider charisma as a set of characteristics whithatomote one’s position in society by instilling trust in this person’s ideas. Hence, according to Antonakis et al. (2016), such characteristics are inherent in leaders, and they include values, beliefs, symbolism, and emotion. Hence, a charismatic person is someone who is focused on the transmission of their system of beliefs to other people to achieve their personal goals. Despite the differences between the definitions of these researchers, there is still a common feature in their approaches to the notion of charisma. They all consider it to be a strong instrument of the influence of a person on the people around them.

Study of Charisma

The term charisma came into in the nineteenth century in the works of Max Weber. He considered it from the point of view of religion and believed it to be a sign of an extraordinary person, who possesses the ability to influence others with their ideas (Fragouli, 2018). In his opinion, charisma is an innate quality of divine origin, and it cannot be learned or acquired (Fragouli, 2018). Weber was the first to define the main characteristics of a true leader, but his definition was vague. It left some room for doubts, and other scholars started to expand on the idea by attempting to reveal the nature of this phenomenon different from the one defined by Max Weber.

Their combined efforts led to the popularization of charisma, and it provoked further studies on this concept. Even though this quality cannot be precisely measured, sociologists, political scientists, psychologists, and management scholars used behavioral questionnaires in order to gain a better understanding of the notion (Antonakis et al., 2016). These attempts allowed researchers to single out specific qualities that are associated with charisma and, consequently, use them for the development of techniques for its acquisition. That is when the myth of the divine nature of charisma was dispelled, and people became obsessed with the idea of becoming charismatic. To this day, most of them associate the acquisition of such quality with guaranteed success in any sphere of human life.

Charisma and Leadership

Charisma is a term that has an impact on a place one holds in society. It is, therefore, directly connected to the concept of leadership. It allows researchers to conclude that the phenomenon of charisma can be examined on the example of leaders and the way they demonstrate this quality (Fragouli, 2018). In fact, every person who possesses such characters tends to become some kind of a leader, either at work or among his or her friends and family members.

The role of charismatic people is essential for any organization as they tend to motivate others with their ideas, which is beneficial in the long run. These extraordinary members of society can transmit their vision of a problem in such a way that it would make others follow their lead and combine their efforts in the search for solutions. However, as can be seen from the previous research mentioned above, people are not born with a specific set of characteristics allowing them to be charismatic leaders. Anyone can become such a leader by implementing simple steps for the acquisition of charisma.

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In order to achieve this goal, one needs to understand the nature of this phenomenon. Thus, according to Fragouli (2018), charisma cannot be considered without the role of other people around the so-called charismatic leader. A set of specific characteristics, such as honesty, integrity, or motivation, would not help a person to become one. As a leader needs followers, a charismatic person needs to have some people around them to reflect their charisma. This fact explains the temporary nature of being a leader with charisma recognized by others.

Charisma Acquisition

Every person can become charismatic, and in order to achieve this objective, he or she needs to follow specific rules. These rules are defined by numerous scholars and are known as Charismatic Leadership Tactics (CLTs) (Fragouli, 2018). The implementation of such a theoretical approach as CLTs would increase one’s charisma. It has been proved that it is not a quality or a set of qualities one possesses, but a process that requires the presence of other people or followers (Fragouli, 2018). Therefore, all these principles are intended for use in a community rather than on one’s own.

Their successful implementation can be seen in world-famous leaders who did not possess any charisma at the beginning of their careers. Steve Jobs, for instance, was known as an awkward person to the people who met him before he became successful (Fragouli, 2018). However, he managed to master specific skills that completely changed his image and the perceptions of other people. Another example of a person who learned to be charismatic is Martin Luther King Jr., who became an excellent speaker by learning to be charismatic rather than being born with such a quality. In the case of these people, several rules can be distinguished, and they are also included in CLTs.

One of the main principles of charisma acquisition is the orientation of a person towards the people around them and their ability to make them understand that they feel the same way about the issue. In order to achieve it, such tools as telling personal stories, using metaphors, and stressing collective sentiments can be useful (Fragouli, 2018). These techniques allow a speaker to inspire the people listening to them by instilling a sense of community.

The appeal to people’s feelings with the help of the methods mentioned above can be complemented by other instruments. They refer to the use of body language, facial expressions, rhetorical questions, animated tone of voice, and contrasts (Fragouli, 2018). The combination of these techniques allows any person to become charismatic and inspire other people. It proves that leaders are not born, but made with the help of specific techniques. The implementation of CLTs would allow a person to convince others that they are a natural leader rather than a trained one.

Dark Side of Charismatic Leadership

The proven benefits of becoming a charismatic person, however, have certain downsides, which do not allow scholars to consider such a quality as a purely positive one. The presence of the required characteristics in a person can either make them the one who motivates others to perform specific tasks at work or simply turn them into a manipulator (Fragouli, 2018). It is conditional upon a personal desire for power that is inherent in everyone. Hence, a charismatic person can be considered as a good one only in the case of following specific moral and ethical rules, which is not guaranteed in the case of training.


Being charismatic seems to be a lifelong dream of present-day people, who see the solution for all their problems in possessing this quality. As charisma is not innate but taught, everyone can achieve this goal in order to improve his or her life. However, real improvements are possible only with the presence of specific moral guidance that would not allow a charismatic person to manipulate others for their own benefit.

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  1. Antonakis, J., Bastardoz, N., Jacquart, P., & Shamir, B. (2016). Charisma: An ill-defined and ill-measured gift. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 3, 293-319.
  2. Fragouli, E. (2018). The dark side of charisma and charismatic leadership. The Business and Management Review, 9(4), 298-307.

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