I´m wondering if charisma can backfire. Can people become so charming that they begin to believe their own celebrity status, as if it´s here to stay just because they can flash the right smile, shake the right hands, say the right things? I wonder if charisma is like a fad-here one day (or season), gone the next. I suppose that for some people, depending on the circumstances, they can hold onto their charismatic selves longer than others. It must depend, for example, upon the rewards of having a charismatic personality. So I´m still sitting here wondering if employees who may not be well-schooled in charisma can, in fact, learn this art of influencing and inspiring others. I asked Edward Brown, III, chief executive officer of Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute in Atlanta what he thinks. Here´s part one of an interview with Mr. Brown:
LGL: I first learned about your company through a letter you wrote to the Wall Street Journal about a piece on Genevieve Jone´s, a young woman in New York City who´s known as a professional partier and fashionista. I recently read the piece and thought she´d be wise to heed your advice: "But as the clock winds down and the bartender yells, "Last call!´ it behooves her to leverage her celebrity and social connections into a palpable profession before the party ends." Clearly, she seems pretty happy with her current "job," but it´s stunning, too, that she´s gotten so far. How has she accomplished this with just a desire to wear cool clothes and shoes?
Brown: In a media-centric society, style trumps substance! Attractive women being on “A” party lists is what helps the illusion of entertainment and fashion persist. The average individual lives a pretty uneventful life wishing that he/she had more money, more connections and more excitement. People like, Genevieve Jones, help perpetuate the illusion. Every social movement needs evangelists to serve as “Pied Pipers.” Ms. Jones get the accoutrements of her activities (fun, nice clothes and good food), but eventually, when she stops being useful, the powers- that- be will move on to the next opportunity. Life is fun for her now and she will probably write a “tell all” book when the parade stops.
LGL: A lot of people consider charisma a characteristic held on by just a few. Clinton, for instance, is known for his charisma. Do you think charisma is something that can be learned? In other words, can anyone belong to that club?
Brown: Based on the research at the Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute, charisma is a skill set. As such, it can be learned just like typing or driving. It is a social phenomenon, only viable and necessary within an environment where getting along and being civil is necessary. While anyone can enhance their powers of persuasion, some people have a proclivity for being more charismatic than others. Personality traits coupled with environmental influences set the stage for charismatic development.
LGL: Why do so many people associate strong leaders with their charismatic personalities?
Brown: Largely, because charismatic leaders arouse the emotions and passions within people and position their ideas from a logical framework. Charismatic leaders are divisive in that they draw a line in the sand. Either you are for them or against them. Surprisingly, charismatic leaders are internally motivated to satisfy their own visions and aspirations, which the general public benefits from their contribution. However, the charismatic leader doesn’t lead crusades for the people: they lead for themselves.