The ‘X factor’, charisma, presence. Whatever you call it, you know it when you see it and feel it. When you are in business, the ability to really connect and be present is a priceless skill. It satisfies a basic human need to be “seen” and feel validated. It can’t be forced, in fact the spontaneity of the energy and exchange is what makes the connection so unique and special.
“My presence speaks volumes before I say a word” – Mos Def.
Whilst the feeling of connecting with someone cannot be forced, the skills and characteristics of a person with charisma, which are essential to having presence, can be learned and developed. Not reserved for a special few, celebrities and powerful CEO’s, this deep and invaluable skill is accessible to anyone with the right mindset and sufficient self-awareness.
Being in the moment, being present, and engaged can be challenging for people who are juggling so many professional and personal responsibilities. Adults are often in a state of continuous partial attention, thinking about the next meeting or even just the next question you want to ask without really listening. Making eye contact and really paying attention to the person in front of you makes the difference between being in the moment or not.
Show genuine interest in others
Some people make charisma and having presence look easy, and bring light to a room simply by walking in. It can be true that for the lucky ones, they are born with charisma, however there are contributing factors and skills that can be learned and developed. Being genuinely interested in people and seeking common ground with them, showing real and attentive listening skills, combined with exceptional communication and the ability to articulate and share a message plus enthusiasm for others to help them reach their goals, aiming for a win-win situation for you both are also key.
Make personal connections
Making each person feel special and seen, with simple signals such as remembering details about them, using their name in conversation, and following up in a genuine way add to the feelings of connection and increase personal presence. Your body language sends informal cues as to your level of interest and connection. Are you standing directly facing them or watching over their shoulder looking for the next target, watching the clock or checking your phone for messages and emails? Sit up straight, hold your head up, and nod or facially respond to the conversation as appropriate and the subject of your attention will know they are heard.
Charisma and presence are particularly useful skills for leaders and business people who are involved in marketing, sales, innovation or change management. It doesn’t have to come with experience and time, in fact charisma in young leaders is based on faith that they will deliver as they learn on their personal journey, supporting and developing those around them that are met on the path. Highly developed powers of observation are common in people with presence, they are intuitive and well prepared, and seeing past the superficial and able to see what is really happening under the surface of any exchange or meeting.
Boosting motivation, increasing productivity and providing direction, charismatic leaders will bring out the best in their team. According to John C. Maxwell, charismatic leaders inspire greater performance levels by encouraging and leading by example, an attitude of creativity, growth and innovation, and by providing guidance, direction and management.
Sonia McDonald is the founder and CEO of Leadership HQ. She has had over 20 years experience in human resources, management and organisational development, and combines her background in neuroscience with her passion for inspired leadership and organisational excellence.
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