You know who they are. They’re the people in the office who seem to have legions of fans from every department. For instance, it may be the person who can stop by the office of his boss-or any other senior manager, for that matter-for an informal chat on a whim, while everyone else on staff seems to have to set up a meeting at least a week in advance. “What is it that he has that I don’t?” you may wonder. What he has, in a word, is charisma.
A recent University of Pennsylvania study shows that charismatic leaders get better performance from their employees and have more influence within an organization. But you don’t have to be born with charisma. You can develop it, says Tony Alessandra, author of Charisma: Seven Keys to Developing the Magnetism That Leads to Success (Warner Books, $13.95). Here are some ways to do it:
- Tip #1 Polish your image. The way you look and carry yourself makes a definite impression on people. To strengthen this “silent message,” you can become aware of how you come across to others through the opinions of candid friends as well as through photographs and videotapes of yourself. Jot down what you like about your appearance and work on changing what you don’t. To ensure that you look good in your clothes and operate at your peak energy level, make fitness and healthy eating habits a regular part of your lifestyle.
- Tip # 2: Be a good listener. Contrary to popular opinion, being a dynamic speaker isn’t all there is to being charismatic. Excellent listening skills are just as important in making others feel special. To be a better listener, think dialogue, not monologue; judge only after you’ve heard what the other person has to say; give people verbal and nonverbal cues that you’re listening. Refrain from mentally rehearsing what you’re going to say so you can focus on understanding the message.
- Tip #3: Tap the power of persuasion. Too often in conversation we place emphasis on ourselves first. To persuade others, you have to shift your focus outward. Have you considered how the other person or parties will benefit from your ideas? What’s in it for them? When you sell yourself or your thoughts from that perspective, you’ll be in a better position to get what you want. Similarly, make it a point to let others know you appreciate their abilities, and train yourself to remember other people’s names. It’s also a good idea to develop a sense of humor (see “Laugh a Little,” Motivation, September 1999).
- Tip #4: Determine your values. John J. Sosik, a professor at Pennsylvania State University’s Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies, says most charismatic leaders are known for their ability to express themselves well (both verbally and nonverbally), and for their strong sense of values. Alessandra suggests asking yourself, “What is it that I feel passionate about? What do I care deeply about?” A strong sense of vision and values affects the other aspects of