+44 (0) 7885 336201

Bill Clinton and the C word – charisma, confidence or a funny walk?

An HR client of mine recently told me about the difficulties she has in selecting people for promotion. Should they choose those who have strong technical skills but little charisma or should they favour the opposite (on the basis that technical knowledge can be learned but charisma can’t)?

I was surprised at the use of the word charisma since I’m not sure it’s relevant or desirable in every role but I mainly queried it because I think they’re confusing charisma with confidence.

This is a subject I’m passionately interested in – confidence is the issue which underpins every training session I run and, based on the work I’ve done with Olympic athletes, I know it to be a ‘state’ which can be created (Dave Brailsford’s aggregation of marginal gains is my guiding light in this). It’s not a mystical force field or an attribute which one is given at birth. We can generate confidence through a logical, meticulous process of preparation. I’ve seen people transformed before my very eyes.

Charisma, on the other hand, is, I believe, an innate quality. In fact, the root of the word is grace or gift. But I look forward to further debate and enlightenment on the subject in this new BBC Radio 4 series Charisma – Pinning Down the Butterfly     http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b066vbl1#play

Interestingly, the first programme suggests that charisma is partly about the relationship created by a particular set of behaviours eg eye contact, attention, presence (meaning being totally present with, focused on the other person).

Of course, this is only part of the story. By all accounts, Bill Clinton radiates charisma when he walks into a room (he’s the individual most cited when people refer to charisma). And it’s not to do with the way he walks!

So, let’s see what R4 will teach us in subsequent programmes but for now, I’m starting to wonder if, in training people how to be more confident, I might be spreading a little bit of ‘charisma’ magic dust as well.