Everyone who has ever worked closely for a truly charismatic leader knows. Anybody who has ever been moved to tears or compelled to try harder by an impassioned and stirring speech will understand the transformative impact that charismatic orators can have on our lives. Any one of us who has ever been inspired by a charismatic teacher or coach won’t be at all surprised to see recent research, published by Harvard Business School, shows that, on average, Charismatic Leaders are 60% more effective than their less charismatic counterparts. Some people just know how to get the best out of us, don’t they?

Charismatic Leadership is increasingly being recognised as the latest ‘must have’ for organisations looking to move their businesses out from a state of prolonged ‘survival’ back into a mind-set of growth and expansion. Organisations that we speak to are finding that many of their senior leaders have spent so long operating cautiously under siege conditions, that they have simply forgotten how to inspire creativity, entrepreneurship and good old fashioned excitement.

Organisations looking to develop the charismatic potential of their leaders will find that there appear to be two distinct schools of thought as to how best to do this:

·      The American way, lead by practitioners like Olivia Cox Cobane, teaches us that charisma is a myth. This approach advocates that by mastering the simple techniques used by charismatic people, we can all “master the art and science of personal magnetism”.

·      The alternative approach, which has been pioneered here in The UK by our own Nikki Owen, explains that regardless of our individual personality, whether we are naturally introverted or extroverted, we can all re-connect with our own authentic charisma providing we do it in a way that is aligned with who we really are inside.

On the face of it, both approaches would appear to have merit. In support of Olivia Cox Cobane, I thought it would be interesting to look at the example of an activity that most people would agree is all about mastering a recognised technique – something like swimming. To swim efficiently we must acquire a technical understanding as we move through the stages of conscious incompetence to conscious competence, eventually arriving at a place of unconscious, instinctive, competence. It is equally true however, in support of our own  ‘inside-out’ approach that until an individual attains that feeling of unconscious competence – until they actually believe that they are a strong swimmer – they never really will be. One of the key ways in which these two approaches differ then, is in the recognition of the impact of fear.  Some people will have been raised in an environment where swimming was encouraged as an enjoyable pursuit, and others will have grown up learning (consciously or unconsciously) to be terrified of the water. The impact of fear becomes even more pronounced when we consider an activity where we are able to judge ourselves as better or worse, more or less. The activity of  being charismatic, would be a good example of one where we have learned to believe that in addition to simply acquiring technical skill and knowledge, we will require an element of natural talent, ability or flair.

I can’t ever remember my dad dancing. Sometimes, at weddings, and family parties my mum might shuffle about a bit, but my dad would remain steadfastly glued to his seat. As kids, any attempt to drag him onto the dance floor by my brother and myself would be met with baffling stubbornness, and irritation. Whilst Dad loved music and musicals, and was a capable sportsman with great eye to hand co-ordination, he firmly believed that he couldn’t dance. More than that, his perception was that he would look ridiculous if he even attempted it, and over the years, I began to take on my father’s beliefs about dancing as my own.

Now I’m fairly open the possibility that a half decent dance teacher could teach me a few steps. I don’t believe that there is any physical or memory impairment that stops me. Would it be possible for me to ever learn the techniques that would enable me to learn to dance proficiently? Possibly. Although I have a feeling that, for me, far better results could be achieved if somebody was to help me to re-programme some of my unconsciously held limiting beliefs and fears about not wanting to look stupid. And if those fears could somehow be replaced with that feeling of pure joy and freedom that other people tell me that they get from allowing the music to consume them, then perhaps after all, I really could begin to ‘move like Jagger’.

“Maybe it’s hard, when you’re broken and scarred,

Nothing feels right, but when you’re with me I’ll make you believe”

Maroon 5 – Move Like Jagger