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Stuart Woods

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Can we teach charisma?

Teaching tomorrow's adults how to relate to others must go beyond basic courtesy and manners. 'Soft skills' education attempts to addresses many of these but never really tackle the quality called charisma.
We hear of it in many successful people who are doing great things using this attribute but if we are born with or without it, can we ever close the gap?
I'm really interested in what people think.

By definition charisma is :

A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm

Personal magnetism

A personal quality or power of an individual making them capable of influencing or inspiring large numbers of people

A quality inherent in a thing which inspires great enthusiasm

If charisma is directly linked to leadership then I believe our young people should be made aware so that their leadership skills best benefit themselves and their community. Can children grow to be leaders (on any level) without charisma? If not, is it teachable? Are educators missing the fundamental element of recognizing the power an individual can have to change things for the better when they find or seek opportunities to do so. To be sure what I'm not saying is extroverts reign in the charisma stakes. I value the quiet, contemplative students as much as the verbal and gregarious ones. Is charisma so rare and elusive (a limited amount so only a few people in every hundred can be charismatic) We just dare not talk about it until someone already exudes the quality? If we explored this with children would more of them grow up to affect greater positive influence on the world?

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Closing Statement from Stuart Woods

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this conversation. For young as well as established and experienced leaders I find the elements of personal power fascinating. In order to broaden their positive influence and make change possible I wonder how much we allow students to pursue an understanding of their personality. This is what essentially drove me to ask this question, many responses alluded to a limited number of charismatic people but I do believe children have the ability to exhibit charisma in varying degrees. I don't think it's a question of some have it and some don't.

In summing up I do think we should empower ALL personality types to find their inner magnetism, inspiration and passion which can be translated through their interactions with others to build a ethos in schools where all can influence others to achieve.

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    May 28 2012: First, we need to redefine "Charisma" based not on how observers react to it but on what the actual traits of charisma are. I'm making this list on the fly so you may not agree with these traits or I may have missed some that you feel should be on here.

    1. Confidence - Ever notice that people with average looks can sometimes be more attractive than physically beautiful people? I believe this to be the effect of Self-confidence. And where does self-confidence come from? Not from thin air but from really knowing you can do something. Whether it be martial arts, sports, romance, politics or life in general, these are fields that can me mastered and therefore have confidence in.

    2. Wit - If there's one thing charismatic people aren't, it's boring. The ability be funny on your feet is a great skill to have when you're trying to charm, persuade or make people feel at ease.

    3. Great Public Speaking Skills - Not sure of this should be on the list as charismatic people are so whether they are on stage in front of a crowd or just standing with a bunch of people. But at the very least, it helps to be able to speak well or have awesome communication skills.

    4. The Ability to Lead - Again, not sure if this is a non-negotiable. Maybe this is more of a "True-leader" trait but I think charismatic people are able to persuade people to follow him/her. Whether or not they lead people to positive results is another debate. Though some are born leaders, others grow into it or are trained for it.

    6. Authenticity - I think we can usually spot insincerity versus authenticity even if subconsciously. And I think true authenticity and vulnerability can move our emotions and inspire action and devotion.

    The caveat is that while all these traits can be learned, they can also be faked. Confidence can be feigned, humor can be rehearsed, speaking can be practiced, the authority to lead can be bestowed and one can act authentic. So whether real or fabricated, yes charisma can be learned.
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      May 28 2012: Thanks Ramen, great detail here. I read a book recently where the author describes charisma on a SCALE rather than the 'haves and have nots' I'd never considered this before.

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