The notion of charisma has long fascinated and confused me.
In my life, I have met a handful of individuals whom I would say possessed genuine charisma, yet I can’t put my finger on what it really is.
Webster’s College Dictionary defines “charisma” as
(1) “a special quality conferring extraordinary powers of leadership and the ability to inspire veneration;
(2) a personal magnetism that enables a person to attract of influence people; and
(3) a divinely conferred gift or power.”
Not much there. By that definition, a president who gives the American public a huge tax cut satisfies criterion #1. A shapely woman/man with knock-out looks satisfy #2. And criterior #3 makes little sense, outside of mythology or Hollywood movies.
“Extraordinary powers of leadership”? Were, therefore, Stalin and Hitler charismatic–or savagely ruthless?
Is charisma a function of physical beauty? Physical build? Intellect? Personality? Wealth? Power? Altruism? I know a great many people who possess several of these attributes, but none strikes me as being charismatic. Bill Gates is fabulously wealthy, but I see little charisma. (Those who surround him at assorted events seem attracted to his wealth and power, not to anything inherent in Bill Gates.) Similarly, a gorgeous blonde may succeed in turning heads, yet she may have no charisma to speak of.
The defnitions seem terribly circular. Is charisma basically a “spark” in one’s personality? Bill Clinton is said to be very charismatic, yet I’ve never heard that said of Nixon, Ford, Carter, the two Bushes, or 99.9 percent of America’s political leadership.
Who do YOU regard as charismatic? What is it?