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Politics aside, Bill Clinton is generally considered quite charming and charismatic by his political peers and by the larger public as well

The word charisma (from the Greek word χάρισμα (kharisma), "gift" or "divine favor," from kharizesthai, "to favor," from kharis, "favor": see also charism, Charis) refers to a rare trait found in certain human personalities usually including extreme charm and a 'magnetic' quality of personality and/or appearance along with innate and powerfully sophisticated personal communicability and persuasiveness.

Charismatic traits

Though very difficult or even impossible to define accurately (due to a lack of widely accepted criteria in regard to the trait), charisma is often used to describe an elusive, even undefinable personality trait that often includes the seemingly 'supernatural' or uncanny ability to lead, charm, persuade, inspire, and/or influence people. It refers especially to a quality in certain people who easily draw the attention and admiration (or even hatred if the application of such charisma is perceived to be negative) of others due to a 'magnetic' quality of personality and/or appearance. Related terms and phrases include: grace, exuberance, equanimity, mystique, positive energy, joie de vivre, extreme charm, personal magnetism, personal appeal, "electricity," and allure, among many others[1]. Usually many of these specific qualities must be present within a single individual for the person to be considered highly charismatic by the public and their peers.

Despite the strong emotions they so often induce in others, charismatic individuals generally project unusual calmness, confidence, assertiveness, dominance, authenticity, and focus, and almost always possess superb communication and/or oratorical skills. Although the etymology of the word ("divine gift") might suggest that charisma can't be acquired, and despite the persistent inability to accurately define or even fully understand the concept, it is believed that charisma can be taught and/or learned. Others Template:Who? disagree with this assertion and maintain that it is an inborn trait, or acquired through growing up, and that it cannot be learned, taught, or 'gained' at will.

The psychology of charisma

The term charisma, derived from Ancient Greek was introduced in scholarly usage by German sociologist Max Weber. [1] He defined charismatic authority to be one of three forms of authority, the other two being traditional (feudal) authority and legal or rational authority. According to Weber, charisma is defined thus:

a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which s/he is "set apart" from ordinary people and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These as such are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as divine in origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader.[2]

The study, recognition, and development of charisma in individuals is of particular interest to sociologists/psychologists, popular (usually national) politicians, public speakers, actors, movie-stars/movie-producers, casting directors, pop-music stars, trainers/coaches targeting the upper-echelons of the business community (CEOs), and academics or others involved in leadership studies or leadership development, among others. [3]

In some cases highly-extroverted and brutally controlling charismatic leaders have used their personal charisma in extremely destructive and damaging ways throughout human history, for example, Adolf Hitler and Jim Jones.

Pierre Bourdieu did not have a very different position from that of Weber's, but he stressed that a leader has charisma only if other people accept that s/he has it. Bourdieu argued that charisma usually depends on an "inaugural act" such as a decisive battle or moving speech after which the charismatic person will be regarded as such[How to reference and link to summary or text].

Theories of charisma

Charisma has also been studied as a set of behaviors/traits; for example, a modern psychological approach posits that charisma is basically aggregative[How to reference and link to summary or text], a conglomeration of distinct personality traits that meld well in certain individuals to form the broad quality known as charisma or "personal magnetism."

The following are Professor Wiseman's general tips on how to be more charismatic:

  • General: Open body posture, hands away from face when talking, stand up straight, relax, hands apart with palms forwards or upwards
  • To an individual: Let people know they matter and you enjoy being around them, develop a genuine smile, nod when they talk, briefly touch them on the upper arm, and maintain eye contact
  • To a group: Be comfortable as leader, move around to appear enthusiastic, lean slightly forward and look at all parts of the group
  • Message: Move beyond status quo and make a difference, be controversial, new, simple to understand, counter-intuitive
  • Speech: Be clear, fluent, forceful and articulate, evoke imagery, use an upbeat tempo, occasionally slow for tension or emphasis. [4]

See also

As "divine favor"

  • Aura (similar to "presence")
  • Barakah (roughly approximate Arabic Islamic/Sufi term for charisma)
  • Baruch (roughly approximate Hebrew/Jewish term for charisma; it means "blessed")
  • Category:Charismatic religious leaders
  • Cessationism
  • Charism
  • Charismatic movement (Evangelical Christianity)
  • Charites, Greek goddesses of "charis" (grace/charisma)
  • Darshan (roughly approximate Hindu term for charisma)
  • Divine grace
  • Enlightenment (concept)
  • Genius
  • Glossolalia
  • Guru
  • High Priest
  • Neo-charismatic churches
  • Pentecostalism
  • Prophet
  • Religious ecstasy
  • Sanctification
  • Shaman
  • Spiritual gift
  • Tzadik

As "personal appeal"

Further reading

  • List of books about charisma


  1. Thesaurus — alternate terms for "charisma"
  2. * Dr David Boje, Charisma lecture notes, Leadership & Society course at New Mexico State University College of Business Administration & Economics, Retrieved 28 July 2005.
  3. The Psychology of Charisma — from Psychology Today magazine
  4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named bbc

External links

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