Special Events Blog
Kerry Lee Doehr

Learning Charisma: 3 Steps to More Effective Leadership and Inspiring Greater Productivity

If you weren't born with charisma, you can develop it--and you will be more effective in your career as a result.

We've all known that person who just seems to have that certain "something" that folks naturally follow.  And, as many others do, you might think that that individual is just born with it--that "some have it and some don't."  While there are those born with natural charisma, charisma is also something that can be learned and implemented in highly effective leadership and motivation tactics.  

Charismatic people have this in common: They are perceived as more influential, trustworthy,  and leadership-worthy in the eyes of others.  In other words, they encourage more productivity and inspire others to do more from feeling naturally motivated, not just "forced" into their work tasks because they were "told to."

According to author John Antonakis, a professor of organizational behavior at the Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Lausanne and current editor-in-chief of The Leadership Quarterly, in order to persuade others, one must:

"Use powerful and reasoned rhetoric, establish personal and moral credibility, and then rouse followers’ emotions and passions. If a leader can do those three things well, he or she can then tap into the hopes and ideals of followers, give them a sense of purpose, and inspire them to achieve great things."


One of my personal favorite ways to establish credibility is by sharing stories.  This engages listeners and allows them to connect with me on a personal level, building trust. This segues into the No. 1 "how to" in "learning" charisma:

1. Engage and distill.  Don't be afraid to ask rhetorical questions.  Asking in "3s" is a great way to get people to remember (people tend to remember three items best). Example: 

  • At what point do we hope to have everyone on board with this new change? 
  • What can you do to be a part of it? 
  • What are the greatest obstacles in accomplishing this?

While these questions may be eventually answered, they are intended initially to be rhetorical and get folks thinking and their juices flowing.

Here is another example of working in "3s" with statements rather than questions: 

  • We have the best product in the industry.
  • We have the best staff.
  • And yet, we did not make our goal.

2.  Show integrity, authority and passion. Expressions of moral conviction that stir people emotionally work well.  For example, "Who do you think will feel the mess of this?  The donors certainly won't but the homeless we've worked so hard to help will be the first to experience the adverse affects of this mistake." 

And one must instill confidence that what is being asked of them is actually achievable.  Passion cannot come out of you as a leader unless you yourself believe the solution/task you are proposing and that it will work.

3.  Start practicing it.  Nonverbal communication expressed in voice, body and face is essential to charisma. The desired end result is not to use all these tactics in every interaction or speaking engagement, but a balanced combination of them. 

Start small and try one on for size from time to time.  With time and practice, they will happen naturally, and you can become more charismatic and more of an effective leader and motivator. 

Kerry Lee Doehr is CEO/founder and CEO of event planning business Santa Barbara Wine Country Weddings and Events, as well as Engaging Inspiration, a business dedicated to marketing, events and training for the special event and hospitality professional. She is committed to progress in the industry that goes beyond trend and design, saying, "Who we are and how we handle ourselves ethically is more of a barometer to business longevity and branding than all the money in the world spent on advertising."

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