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Charisma . . . Often overlooked, never forgotten

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Richard Brown
  • 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron
 How can you have charisma? Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are making them feel good about you.
- Dan Reiland

One of the 1st Special Operations Wing aimpoints is to lead and develop Airmen to shape our future Air Force, but exactly how is this done? How do we develop Airmen into tomorrow's leaders? We do so by example.

Think back over the leaders you have encountered in your life. I mean the real leaders, not just those who happened to be in a position to wield authority. I'm talking about those who truly lead people, not just tell them what to do. What characteristics of those real leaders come to mind? Sure, those leaders make good decisions, get things done, and accomplish the mission, but chances are those leaders have that special something that not only draws people to them, but also makes people want to perform at the highest possible. That special something is charisma, and the charismatic leaders are the ones people never forget.

Charisma can broadly be defined as the ability to draw people, and the ability to make people want to follow regardless of rank, authority, or position. With that being said, however, most people view charisma as a mystical, almost undefineable trait that a lucky few are born with. In fact, very few leadership books even mention charisma as a hallmark of a leader. For some reason, charisma doesn't fit in neatly with the other "laws of leadership" most of us can list to the point of being nauseated. I propose though, that charisma can be a developed trait just like any other leadership quality, but just like any leadership quality, it must be cultivated. So how can one develop into a charismatic leader folks will want to follow? In John Maxwell's book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, he states there are four things a person can do to develop charisma:

First, love life. People love to be around those who are celebrators and see the good in everyday things, not those who are complaining or always finding fault. These people are passionate about life and "on fire" for what they do. As theologian John Wesley said, "when you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn." So it is with charismatic leaders. They are on fire about what they do and naturally attract others who want to know why.

Second, expect the best in people. When leaders expect the best in people, it not only helps them, but helps the leader as well. People simply function better when they believe they are valued and appreciated. A charismatic leader helps each member of his organization realize his full potential by letting them know they believe they are the best. Subordinates follow and respect a leader who helps them attain more of themselves than they ever thought possible.

Third, give people hope. Napoleon characterized leaders as "dealers in hope". Hope costs nothing, but exerts a tremendous effect on people. History is replete with instances of people following a leader who offered little more than hopefulness for a better way of life. If a leader can give people hope, people will not only be attracted, but grateful as well.

Fourth, share yourself. People admire and respect leaders who share of themselves. This doesn't just mean sharing time, but sharing one's stories, experiences, and wisdom. Think about the charismatic leaders. Most people remember something about that person that has nothing to do with job performance, but reflects more on his character, wisdom, and life. Charismatic leaders take the time to share of themselves with others.

So are you a charismatic leader? If so, great, but if not, it's not too late to start cultivating your own charisma. You'll possess that special something that separates good leaders from the truly great leaders. Focusing on others, not yourself is the real bottom line for the charismatic leader.