What is Charisma?

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?

Personally I think charisma boils down to one thing alone.

Self Confidence. That is the secret of charisma.

Of course, seeing as how I completely lack either, I may just be talking out of my ass… so YMMV.

I slightly disagree. “Charisma” is the ability to convince people that you have self-confidence. There’s a difference.

Case in point… I am HARDLY self-confident in any sense of the term. But numerous times I’ve had people tell me that they admire my self-confidence. I guess I’m just a better actor than I thought.

I can agree with that SPOOFE. Being able to convince people you have something, even if you don’t, usually seems to work.

Although if I may make one observation, it often seems that people who feel that they are lacking in a particular category, often are those who are exceptional in that category. In other words, those who tend to brag are usually lacking, while those who are humble are the ones who excel, even they may not see it themselves…

In your case, you feel that you have little self confidence, but in reality (or what I have seen from these boards) you probably ooze it. :slight_smile:

Pretend that that reads “even though they may not see it themselves”

In addition to self confidence,I would add a degree of warmth that gives you a feeling that if you were alone with that person,they’d be interested in you as well.

I was in a room with Bill Clinton and Sam Walton once. Although they are completely different in most ways,the confidence and warmth were very evident.

Obviously Reagan had it and some say Colin Powell does also. I disagree on Powell. If I was with him I think he would care less what I had to say. lol

The Grrek word Charisma means “gift from god, miracle” . So that is where your third definition came from. In the Oddessy, Athena is all the time making Oddyseus more attractive, more appealing.

“Charismatics” are studied in theology, and in my own experience I was raised in the charismatic tradition of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. I think Freud described something similar in his critique of Hitler and the many forms of identity problems people have, and how it can get wrapped up in surrogates. As far as the qualities of charisma are concerned, I think it relates to sales, of anything. Some people are damn good, they feel around and figure out where to hit hardest on the pitch. They have a natural talent or need to gain someone’s special confidence. They are masters of exploitation of expectations. They are a curse to those who feel lucky or deprived. Is charisma ever good? No. Often benign, but never productive. Demigoguery is true charisma. Rush Limbaugh is a charismatic, because people like him for what he says he is, not for his natural gifts.

I’ve found that alot of charisma is kind of like mob mentality. If someone notices that everybody seems to like/respect a person, they will decide that they like/respect that person. Kind of an emperors new clothes situation.

From Xena, Warrior Princess, the two talking about Caesar:

Gabrielle: But he has that aura.

Xena: The same aura that attracts moth to a flame.

All right, ladies and gentlemen, I unfortunately have to announce the End of the Straight Dope Message Board.

Somebody has used Xena as a cite. :smiley:

Only for the first five minutes. Then people catch on.