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Charisma: gift or skill

Where does charisma come from? Why is one person considered charismatic and the other not? And what is charisma? It changed at different times. Let’s turn the pages of history.

In the mythology of Ancient Greece, charisma meant the ability to attract attention. It was possessed, for example, by the goddesses Harith.

The New Testament defines the term «charisma» as a divine gift, a blessing. The concept was divided into components that were of natural and mystical origin: the ability to heal, to understand and interpret languages, and to transmit knowledge.

Max Weber’s Concept of Charisma

The German philosopher, scientist, and political economist of the early 20th century, Max Weber, transformed religious theses from the standpoint of a secular man. He engaged in a dispute with renowned church historians Rudolf Zom and Adolf von Garnack over the authority, decision-making mechanism, and the manner of subordination of power in early Christian communities.

Weber explained charisma as a manifestation of magical powers. That is, as the quality of a person is gifted, endowed with special abilities. They are most evident in times of social crisis.

In his work Economy and Society Weber identified charismatic power among others in his study of power types. In his view, this type is the most revolutionary and unstable. Power based on the personality of a leader arises out of social and psychological necessity and rests on the loyalty of the majority of society. Unconditional charismatics were, for example, Alexander the Great, Gaius Julius Caesar, Cleopatra. Looking at later periods of history, one can recall Jaroslav the Wise, Peter the First, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King. As you can see, charismatic individuals were educators, reformers, leaders who led entire nations.

The modern concept of charisma

Humanitarian science has not been able to reach a consensus on the Weber concept of charisma. Modern researchers are divided into two camps: some believe that charisma is given to humans by nature, others that it can be developed.

The second group includes Olivia Fox Cabain. In her book Charisma: How to Influence, Persuade and Inspire, she proves that the idea of charisma as a gift from above is a stable myth, this skill can be mastered by everyone. Cabain believes that charisma is made up of three components:

1. Presence. Charismatic people can concentrate on communication, which is immediately felt by the interlocutors. This is the presence: «here and now». Charismatic thinks that what’s going on is important, he’s genuinely interested.

2. Power. The power of a charismatic person is his ability to influence others. It can be verbal or non-verbal, with gestures, facial expressions, intonation, body language.

3. Warmth. It shows how benevolent a person is to others, as well as a desire to positively influence the world.

Communication with a stranger begins with an assessment of strength or warmth. The first impression is based on non-verbal features. For example, a person’s assertive posture suggests a reasonable belief in himself, and a non-aggressive friendly posture suggests a sympathetic disposition.

The most charismatic businessmen

Remarkably, charismatic people are great at public speaking. A leader needs the ability to speak to an audience during public performances. And not just to make sense, but to «ignite» people with your ideas.

Such personalities as Jack Dorsey, creator of Twitter, Oprah Winfrey, TV presenter, and public figure, Yevgeny Cherniak, owner of Global Spirits, Yevgeny Chichwarkin, entrepreneur and co-founder of Евросеть (Euronet), Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and Pixar, are known to all. What these people have in common is that they have the most modern tool of influence and communication — charisma.

In public speaking, they influence the audience, are able to do business presentations in a way that others believe, and they are able to find like-minded people and followers. And it’s not innate abilities, it’s the result of presentation training, it’s the skill of oral interventions. Steve Jobs is known to have rehearsed in front of a mirror in preparation for public performances. It was his working method of presentation training. What seemed like brilliant improvisation was actually carefully crafted.

7 main ingredients of charisma

Everyone has charisma, but not everyone sees what nature has in them. There are some main ingredients of charisma, that are also known as soft skills:

1. Charm: the ability to have people with no effort. A charming man behaves without pretense, he expresses feelings, thoughts openly and understandably.

2. Energy: a charismatic person possesses healthy energy, which motivates them to act.

3. Emotional intelligence: the ability to feel other people, one of the most important soft skills. A charismatic person knows and understands his or her own and others' emotions.

4. A positive view of the world: a charismatic man perceives even the biggest mistakes not as a catastrophe, but as experience, blows of fate — as changed circumstances that can be turned in his favor.

5. A confident way to hang on: to behave naturally and freely, with respect to others.

6. Beautiful speech, including trained voice and good grammar: charismatics possess oratory skills. Without this, it is impossible to speak in a live and convincing manner, either it is a conversation with one person or a public speaking.

7. Vivid looks, manners, style. John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, Irina Hakamada, and Queen Elizabeth II — for all these people, you can say that the unorthodox image always separates them from the crowd.


The development of charisma and soft skills is within the reach of everyone. But it will take effort to become a truly charismatic person. This will help to influence people and achieve goals, find the support of like-minded people, and build trust with colleagues and partners.

Many businessmen, who are now considered charismatic, as children were tongue-tied, had special language, were ridiculed and bullied by classmates. But the difficulty did not prevent them from cultivating qualities that distinguish them among thousands of other entrepreneurs and help them to feel confident during the business presentations.

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Ekaterina Kardakova

Hello everyone! My name is Ekaterina Kardakova. I am an opera singer, vocal and presentation coach. Learn more about me and my work.

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