The True Voice of Charisma

We all know effective leaders make use of charisma to raise their influence.

But exactly how does charisma work? It’s a famous truism that more than half the power of human communication is independent of message or content, yet the expert agreement stops there.

Are charismatic leaders deliberately using non-verbal or body language? Are they consciously  influencing us through subtle variation of their voice tone? Or does a truer,  authentic charisma style ensure that a speaker’s personality shines through his or her narrative?

Charisma is the “extraordinary quality” we sense in others, according to the sociologist Max Weber. Yet unless we sense the effect is authentic and holistic, we’re unlikely to feel compelled to follow such a person or accept their charismatic authority.

Understanding the way we project charisma brings us an important step closer to mapping and measuring the essence of charisma, which is the focus of Communicate Charisma and its unique methodology.

The central insights of Communicate Charisma are based on humanist psychology and share common ancestry with long-established personality typing methods such as MBTI, which work for the famous and non-famous alike. You can read an article about this by clicking here.

In previous artcles we’ve tested the proposition that charisma is about body language. The  adoption of standardized “power poses”, such as arms akimbo, or thrusting one foot forward as advocated by experts such as Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy, suggest that ‘charisma leadership tactics’ may fail the authenticity test.  You can read another article about such learned charisma behaviours by clicking here.

Now it’s time to subject to analysis the proposition that charisma is experienced through voice tone.

New research seeks to show that listeners experience charisma  through the tone and frequency of political leaders’ voices. It also shows that small changes can dramatically affect the way people are experienced by listeners, at least in the laboratory. The research comes from the University of California.

HMVRosario Signorello, a post-doctoral expert on phonetics, voice quality and laryngeal biomechanics from UCLA’s Bureau of Glottal Affairs, has been researching the charisma effect of Italian, French,  and Portuguese speaking politicians.

You can read news reports about the research by clicking here, and clicking here. You can see an earlier version of his paper, which was previously delivered to a conference in Amsterdam in 212. It can be downloaded via the website or by clicking here.

Signorello presented his paper to the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) in October 2014. Entitled “The Science of Charismatic Voices,” the research proposes that whether leaders are perceived as authoritarian or benevolent may depend  on the frequency characteristics of their voices.

Voice power: the secret of charisma?

Voice power: the secret of charisma?

Signorello used 260 student volunteers to listen to speeches of leaders from Italy, France and Brazil that had been “delexicalized” or decontextualized so content would not influence their judgement. Volunteers matched the voices with 67 adjectives such as dishonest, scary, dynamic, and fair.

What he found was that leaders can manipulate voice quality to convey different types of charisma. Italians, for instance, associate authoritarian leadership with gruff, low-frequency voices that simultaneously have a wide range of vocal pitch. France, meanwhile, associate higher-pitched voices with more competent leadership. François Hollande and  Nicolas Sarkozy both have higher pitched voices.

In Brazil, the famously gravelly voice of trade union leader-turned President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, helped him secure two successful terms of leadership. Coincidence or not, Lula and his chosen successor Dilma Rousseff (recently re-elected for a second presidential term) have both suffered from bouts of throat cancer.


Italy’s northern strongman: Umberto Bossi

Signorello’s research show listener perceptions can change as voice characteristics change. Signorello cites the case of Italian politician Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League and a fierce critic of what he called “Roma ladrona” (thieving Rome.) Southerners and immigrants were also tongue-lashed during his charismatic, raucous and fiery speeches. In 2004 Bossi suffered a stroke (AVC) that impaired his voice. Signorello’s research showed listener perception of Bossi before and after his stroke changed dramatically.

The’s research used two scoring sets: one is the effect volunteers sensed, and the other tonal  characteristics of voice. Effect ranged between authoritarian/dominant, or more benevolent and competent. The other scale ranged between – wider or narrow range of pitch control, and lower or higher fundamental frequency (FO).

To make these conclusions clearer, we’ve superimposed the changed perception of Bossi’s charisma tracked by Signorelli’s volunteers, onto Communicate Charisma’s own Two Dimension visualisation of how charisma is projected.

Anyone who completes a Communicate Charisma online self-assessment will receive both a two dimension (2D) and a seven dimension (7D) graphic of their own charisma. Furthermore, each person contributes an assessment of a famous communicator, so contributing to our growing archive of public profiles.

Our 2D model is based on intuitive, easy-to-follow assessment of communication style. Does a leader influence most using persuasion, or using empathy? Does he or she achieve more powerful effects over large groups, or exercise more intimate appeal?

Figure 1. shows how the charisma projection profile (defined by the orange ellipse) can vary significantly between individuals, as a result of different keyword choices in their self-assessment.

Fig 1Broadly speaking, the Communicate Charisma methodology shows that individuals whose ellipse occupies the top left corner of the 2D grid use a more authoritarian and dominant style based on persuasion. Those with ellipses located bottom right, will use a more intimate and benevolent style based on empathy, as illustrated in Fig 2.

Fig 2Umberto Bossi never completed a Communicate Charisma online self-assessment. But  based on   analysis of hundreds of our 2D maps, we postulate he’d be yet one more politician occupying the top-left hand corner. Likewise, the way listeners perceived him after his AVC is very characteristic of  a figure occupying the right-hand field of our 2D chart.

Fig 3 and 4To be clear: we’re making a comparison between the real findings of Signorelli’s research on Bossi, and the likely composite assessment of many individuals completing Communicate Charisma’s famous communicator online assessments of Bossi both before and after his AVC. Yet our comparison remains a very valid exercise for showing how charisma really works.

In his research Signorelli characterised Bossi’s effect on listeners as authoritarian and dominant. Fig 5 shows the perception, while Fig 6 shows combination of  vocal  characteristics that created that perception. Before his stroke (AVC) Bossi had a low average of fundamental frequency, with a wide pitch range and normal modulation of the pitch contour.

Fig 5 and 6Figure 7 tracks the change that took place making  the Italian politician be seen as “a benevolent and competent leader, which is very different from the authoritarian perception” according to Signorelli.  Fig 8 shows shift in vocal terms.

Fig 7 and 8What’s clear is that although the UCLA research is based on acoustic parameters and not on personality projection as is the case of the Communicate Charisma word-based self assessment, there seems to be a significant corroboration.

Nevertheless does the vocal route tell the whole story of charisma? We believe that true charisma is made up of a wider and deeper range of physcological attributes than can be captured simply through voice mechanics. Voice tone is part of the story  — yet very far from all of it.

Communicate Charisma’s 2D projection map is based on a series of personality types that form the basis of ‘avatars’ that show different charisma types in action. Fig 9 shows how four quadrants of the 2D grid translate into core personality types commonly seen in political figures.

Fig 9In the case of Bossi’s own transformation through the AVC and resulting voice change, the results were irreversible. But truly charismatic leaders have the capability to match persona and to the needs of their audiences by changing vocal tone. A case in point is the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. I never interviewed her, but journalist colleagues who did told me of the husky, sexy tone of voice she adopted during individual encounters that was totally different from her usual strident voice on the conference platform of in the House of Commons.


Margaret Thatcher: surprisingly alluring

Plotting human influence around four personality types would also be an over-simplification. So Communicate Charisma’s methodology uses a more nuanced spread of “avatars” across the 2D grid (without mentioning the total of 144 variants our method produces when the 7D map is included). Fig 10 shows the arrangement of personality types upon which self-assessment results are overlaid.

Fig 10In the case of Bossi before and after his AVC (or Margaret Thatcher when giving a media interview), the transformation in perception is shown in Fig 11 and Fig 12 by the migration of the blue ellipse.

Fig 11 and 12All those who complete an online self-assessment are first invited to give their opinion of a famous communicator. The resulting data supports Communicate Charisma’s project to map and measure the charisma assets of public figures as a means of helping ordinary individuals to unlock their own power of responsible influence.

Figure 13 shows the composite picture of how three great public figures are seen by visitors to our website

Fig 13As you’ll see, there is substantial variation in the way Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama are perceived.

It would be a fascinating experiment to see if UCLA’s group could conduct another test using tape recordings of these three English language speakers, to see if these findings are confirmed!

If, like me, you wonder whether a now-forgotten  regional politician like Umberto Bossi ever had enough charisma to attract a study from UCLA, there’s a second question: how far did it get him? Not far:  After helping prop up Silvio Berlusconi’s scandal-plagued administration in Rome, he was finally disgraced in a 2012 corruption scandal.

For this column, the votes are in: charisma may be projected in part using vocal tone or body language, but its true essence is greater than the sum of these elements. For that we must unlock authentic personality.

At Communicate Charisma we teach people how to become more engaging and effective communicators. In our Charisma Dimensions workshops, we use practical exercises coupled with our bespoke self-awareness tools to allow participants to understand and experience the impact of individual personality traits on how we are perceived by others. Together, we use these insights to develop a more effective and authentic personal style, and so raise our power of influence and communications mastery.

Find out more about our workshops.

























Fifty Shades of Engagament

Engagement among employees and teams is the fashionable ‘new grey’ of management communications.

Human Resource departments have seen to it that employee engagement scores form part of many company Annual Reports – meaning senior managers are now driven to improve scores year-on-year.

It’s all about igniting the individual motivation of employees so they will play an active and willing role in delivering the strategy, which makes personal good sense to each individual. This group experience of engagement certainly sounds sexy and alluring enough to come in at least fifty shades.

Engagement isn’t just a user experience. From a manager’s perspective, the active component of kicking off this process means being engaging. And that, alas, can betray a shockingly dull monochrome.

50 shades of grey - just dull grey?

50 shades of grey – just dull grey?

So how to make it better?

For leaders finding their teams post low engagement scores, manuals often recommend investing in an outsize toolkit of “leadership techniques and strategies” offering a straight line back to the not-so secret wisdom of Aristotle’s Rhetoric. You’ll learn how to jab the air with a forefinger, lift your voice into false interrogatives, single out audience members with a steely glare, or stand with arms akimbo, all the while sparking off rhetorical questions like a Catherine wheel.

Aliens might be fooled, but the rest of us know true engagement simply doesn’t work like that.


Employees want personality, not ‘leadership techniques.’

Translating company goals into individual motivation by appealing to enlightened self-interest can’t be achieved through “one size fits all” techniques that don’t take each manager’s unique personality into account.

We won’t go the extra mile for a manager until he or she has shown us both authenticity and personality. Generally, that means showing empathy and speaking from the heart, every bit as much as describing clear goals we can rally around.

So being engaging is personality. And, just like the colour grey, personality has many shades. To unlock the secret of how to become more engaging, we first need to define and map with much greater precision how engaging people really operate.

There are plenty of personality typing classifications that may help explain who we are in a static context – but not necessarily how we affect others in dynamic fashion.

Experience teaches us that some people have learned how use their personalities to lower our barriers of distrust, win the benefit of the doubt and get us on their side whatever the content of their discourse. Such engaging people aren’t always like us – or even necessarily likable. Yet they are influencers.

Getting Under the Radar

By temperament, we might favour the humour of the late Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, or Mr Bean. But, skimming the radio dial on a tedious car journey, we may also feel a dreadful fascination in listening to right-wing talkshow host Rush Limbaugh (even with ratings down he still has 10 million listeners), or European nationalist political oddballs like France’s Marine Le Pen or Britain’s UKIP leader Nigel Farage. How on earth did they manage to sneak under our radar?

Dreadful fascination:  "shock jock" Rush  Limbaugh

Dreadful fascination: “shock jock” Rush Limbaugh

Like them or not, these people all share mastery of a single attribute that results in them being more engaging, characterised by the influence of personality in communication. It spans content, message, tone, and non-verbal communication too. This is charisma.

Charisma is how we experience the personality of someone able to quickly win over our attention, trust, even admiration. Charisma short-circuits the rational, cognitive process of “show me why I should believe in you and your plan.”

Of course, we can learn to use charisma to raise our own power of influence on others. For example, managers responsible for motivating their teams will become more engaging through effective use of their charisma assets.

So we believe charisma is the key to still-unresolved mystery of making a more exact science of being engaging in the workplace. And Communicate Charisma has found a way of showing you what charisma looks like in a simple visual snapshot or “X-ray.”

We’ve deliberately made in much more colourful than those shades of grey. You can find out more about our unique methodology on our website:

Charisma profiles of Great Communicators

Charisma profiles of Great Communicators

We can show you the charisma of Nelson Mandela (you can read our portrait of him by clicking here), Barack Obama, or Martin Luther King (you can read our analysis by clicking here). We can show you what a truly engaging manager’s charisma skill-set looks like. And because we can show you what your own charisma looks like, you can see what attributes to stress in order to become more engaging.

We can show you the DNA of charisma and how we’re related to well-known systems of personality typing (You can read about this by clicking here).  So, what does an engaging manager look like on the Communicate Charisma X-ray?

A common definition of successful engagement is that every individual wants a stake in shared success, and feels he/she has received a meaningful call to action. To communicate in such diverse fashion, an engaging manager should communicate across a broad range of emotional frequencies, allowing many different people to experience his or her personality.

The Communicate Charisma graphic enables us to see just how much energy a person brings to each of the seven dimensions of charisma, but also across how broad or narrow a range of circumstances they might apply that energy. For instance, it’s great to have lots of empathy. But if at a funeral you were only able to use the very same tone of voice to address the widow you’d used the day before when asking the captain of your neighbourhood football team to let you join, your condolences might fall flat.

Here’s the Charisma Essence profile of truly engaging manager and former EVP of a global multinational. Exceptionally, he has broad range capabilities in no less than four of the seven dimensions. You can see these as the broader wedges in each of the lettered segments below.

Engaging leader profile

Engaging leader profile

This manager’s energy level in any single charisma dimension is not high enough to suggest he’s single-minded or obsessive, while overall the circular chart suggests has exceptionally broad-based powers of engaging others. Proof of this comes in the commentary on his Collaboration type: “you know how to give your team a say – not just a task to fulfil.”

Broad range shows engaging manager attributes

Broad range shows engaging manager attributes

Unlock Your Charisma

Further analysis of the chart above shows how Communicate Charisma has addressed the question of “how to make it better” in two ways.

Firstly by providing clear visual tools to map, measure and manage exactly which personality assets you bring to any conversation. The problem with words like ‘engagement’ and ‘charisma,’ is that while we’re all quite familiar with their general meaning, we don’t have a forensic understanding or a visual means of plotting these effects.

Problem solved with Communicate Charisma’s, easy-to-use graphics showing the unique combination of “Charisma Essence” and “Charisma Projection” for any individual who takes a simple online self-assessment test. This generates a personal report that provides a baseline for every communicator’s journey toward wider and deeper self-knowledge.

Secondly, by practice and continuous improvement. Because charisma is the way others experience us, we need feedback mechanisms to monitor how other people are responding to our personal communication style. Because group assessment and sharing triggers this learning process, Communicate Charisma’s workshops provide a safe yet challenging forum for self-discovery. As follow-up, participants design and then execute their Personal Development Plan for ongoing development of charisma assets in their own time.

If it’s your responsibility to promote greater employee engagement, then it’s up to you to make a start by becoming more engaging. So  Communicate Charisma could just be for you. After all, people think in colour, not in grey.

At Communicate Charisma we teach people how to become more engaging and effective communicators. In our Charisma Dimensions workshops, we use practical exercises coupled with our bespoke self-awareness tools to allow participants to understand and experience the impact of individual personality traits on how we are perceived by others. Together, we use these insights to develop a more effective and authentic personal style, and so raise our power of influence and communications mastery.

Find out more about our workshops.


Playing Follow my (more charismatic) Leader

Transformational Leadership has been widely studied by executives in large organizations for decades. And today it’s relevant to those with responsibility for enterprises of every size and shape – and indeed to every individual.

Because we believe leadership is primarily exercised using communication, we explore how charisma can empower transformations great or small. And how those with charisma can actually set popular expectations – rather than just meeting and exceeding the expectations others have of them.

Great Coaching helped US become an unexpected soccer power

Great Coaching helps US become a soccer power

Strip away the management jargon and transformational leadership is really just what your grandmother was practicing, if she ever she taught you how to bake better cakes, or to sew a neater patchwork quilt. Likewise, the coach of every national soccer team that made it past the group stage at the 2014 Brazil World Cup, proved himself a devotee of the three-step skills rule:

First: Standardize and build absolute consistency in your chosen field. (Cakes that are never burned, never undercooked; passes that connect to players every single time.)

Second: Get better and better at what you do, till continuous improvement has delivered every last watt/gram/centimetre of efficiency. (Quilts that take less time, use less material; a shot on goal from every set piece).

Finally: Deliver breakthrough improvements through real innovation and disruptive change. (End-to-end creative play that wrong-foots the goalie and leaves the opposition standing. After perfecting cakes, why not try croissants?)

At each step, the leader will need to recruit followers by lowering their barriers of mistrust or disbelief. That’s where charismatic communication comes in.

In the business world, there’s no better example of this than the astonishing growth of online retailer Amazon. Back in 1995, founder Jeff Bezos built an online bookstore that delivered books cheaply and reliably, without his customers having their credit card details stolen.

By 1998 Amazon was piling on incremental improvements with advanced delivery options plus ever lower prices and interactive customer reviews; sites that spanned the globe, and by widening its range through Marketplace to today’s astonishing 230 million product lines.

By 2006, Amazon was in full innovation phase, launching cloud computing services, set-top boxes, the Kindle eBook, and ideas like the PrimeAir package delivery drone. Advanced CRM means customers just don’t pick and choose products –their preferences are picked and chosen by Amazon. Now comes the game-changing Fire Phone that, says the Economist, “will turn the whole world into a shop window” – only delivered through Amazon.

Three steps to global mastery: Amazon's rise since 1994

Three steps to global mastery: Amazon’s rise since 1994

At every stage, founder Jeff Bezos (now wealthy enough to be a space entrepreneur of the side) creating followers by setting expectations. Look back over the old business news TV clips of 15 years ago and you’ll find Jeff Bezos repeating over and over: “Don’t buy Amazon stock if you want dividends or a safe ride. We’re building a valuable company – but it will take time.”

No wonder then, that The Economists cover article on Amazon shows – perhaps only half jokingly – an astronaut delivering a parcel on the moon.

"To Infinoty and Beyond" with Amazon

“To Infinity and Beyond” with Amazon

Of course, there’s much more to both Amazon’s success and the transformational leadership concept than a simple three-step rule. Above all it identifies the next evolutionary step that comes after mastery of practical efficiency in the field of transactional leadership, or hierarchy in the field of traditional leadership.

These three leadership models were first defined by the German sociologist Max Weber in 1947. Crucially, Weber identified the transformational leader as using communication skills to set expectations and bring about change by articulating creative and visionary expectations.

Weber didn’t just emphasize that transformational leadership was a communication function. He specifically identified the ‘charismatic leadership’ qualities that set aside exceptional leaders as having to do with  the power to motivate or engage  followers through their  vision.

James MacGregor Burns, a Pulitzer prize-winning biographer of President Roosevelt and management guru, took the Weber concept further by showing how transformational leaders build influence that in turn generates respect, admiration and trust among their followers, sometimes causing them to emulate the leaders’ behaviors. These attributes of charisma were explored by sociologists such as the Wharton School’s Robert J. House (no relation).

In his 1978 book Leadership, Burns explored how transformational leaders used their relationship skills to accomplish common goals through motivation. This type of skill involves mobilizing, inspiring, exalting, and uplifting, rather than using power for its own sake. While transactional leadership depends on give and take, Burns described transformational leadership as a process where “leaders and followers help each other to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation.”

Empathy Profile #1

Mobilising, Inspiring Profile #1

Mobilising, Inspiring Profile #2

Mobilising, Inspiring Profile #2


In his 2004 Book Transformational Leadership Stephen Hacker probes a little deeper into what actually makes such a manager and what attributes accompany each character facet.

First comes enterprise mastery – or being “good at what we do.” This calls for analytical skills and drive or energy. Here the focus is inward and will likely focus on standardization (the first of the three steps).

Next comes interpersonal mastery – or being “good together and in the world.” Here the focus is outward and involves community and meaningful interactions. Often this involves the process of continuous improvement of process or actions (the second of the three steps).

Finally, comes self-mastery – or being “good at changing ourselves and the world.” Here the focus is on transformation itself –bringing ideas and change into the world. The crucial attributes for bringing such change into being both focus on communication. These are to be both creative and visionary. This, of course, is the third step.

As you can see, these thinkers established much of the groundwork upon which today’s discipline of Emotional Intelligence, created by Daniel Goleman, is based. Goleman’s recent emphasis on empathy as a leadership attribute goes straight back to Weber’s pioneering thought. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Goleman said that empathy and the ability to understand the emotional make-up of other people was a sine qua non of great leadership.

Crucially, Weber identified the transformational leader as using communication skills to set expectations and bring about change by articulating creative and visionary potential. He identified these as ‘charismatic leadership’ qualities.

It’s no coincidence that, just like Max Weber, Communicate Charisma works to visualize, map and measure this key leadership attribute. The charts you see accompanying the portraits of Nelson Mandela (above) and Martin Luther King (below)  depict the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ charisma portraits created by you online using our own system.

Think about any really effective leader you care to name, and you’ll see that his or her power to make a difference didn’t come from the ability to make the trains run on time, or to build a consistently better mousetrap. It comes from having the power to communicate potential for deep change of the kind that Jeff Bezos delivered through Kindle, or a dozen other innovations that have left both Apple and Google (no slouches themselves) gasping.

Vision Profile # 1

Vision Profile # 1

Vision profile #2

Vision profile #2

Transformational leaders don’t deliver change by meeting or exceeding expectations – they do it be setting expectations. And every time, that’s done through effective communication. Not simply knowing “what to say” (the message), or even “how to say it” (the narrative), but knowing “who to be” (persona).

In coming weeks we’ll look further into the attributes of Transformational Leadership. And we’ll explore a piece of good news: Everyone has some charismatic power of influence. Perhaps your persona manifests itself best through empathy; perhaps it’s through collaboration – or any one of the Seven Dimensions of Charisma we have identified and built into our methodology.

It’s just a matter of uncovering and then getting to know your forte as a communicator and influencer. And Communicate Charisma may be able to help with that.

Use Your Charisma to Sell Professional Services (Part III)

Charisma  Sells!

If you’re in the professional services business, you’ll know selling yourself effectively is 90% of success. Clients are buying your persona just as much as your expertise.

If a new client relationship  is developing well, you may notice the service has been effortlessly bought in without question and you’re expected to take your place at the top table as a trusted adviser.

But when  clients respond to your pitch with pointless questions, calls for endless changes, and then demand a discount, it’s a safe bet your persona has been disregarded and your light  is hiding beneath the proverbial bushel.

Are we each doing our best to help our light shine out?

Are we each doing our best to help our light shine out?

In the first scenario, clients feel the instant rapport that stimulates them to lower natural barriers of distrust. In the second, listeners are probably unable to experience the personal charisma that you’re hiding somewhere.

Traditionally, service providers have focussed on enhancing their technical skills to increase their value in the market place. But it’s not how many courses, seminars or workshops a professional has attended that may determine whether he or she makes a sale.

Charisma can do many things for all of us, but it can also help  sell professional services. In previous posts we have looked at the “don’ts” – unconscious behaviours or acquired communication habits that can alienate clients or rouse their suspicions.

Now it’s time  for the “dos” – a review of success factors in communication  to see where each person can use his or her innate resources to increase  influence.

This post is not about “sales technique.” Just the reverse in fact – it’s about recognising and uncovering inner authenticity that wins trust over time, rather than adopting a rules-based formula whose effectiveness may be short-lived.

prof servs 2

Whatever your stripe, charisma will help you sell more.

To view a definition of what charisma is and how it works, visit

Charisma is an amalgam of seven classic personality areas. These form the bedrock of all social behaviour, and for each individual we find a unique distribution of energy in each of these dimensions. What’s common to all charismatic people is that they are able to lower barriers of distrust and to quickly build a rapport that allows them to influence others.

The seven dimensions  and the classification of  energy types come from the Communicate Charisma methodology. This allows anyone to  visualise, map and measure their own charisma, using a simple online self-assessment. Via the work of Carl Jung, Communicate Charisma shares a common ancestor with other well-known methodologies based on personality typing.

We commonly associate charisma with being engaging, energetic, popular. But using charisma doesn’t mean being a popstar or someone famous for their power and influence. The quiet, influential and possibly grumpy person at the back of the room who crystallizes everyone’s thought and leads the group to a unanimous conclusion, is every bit as charismatic. Likewise in terms of effect, the dogged persuader who convinces the other 11 jurors to change their verdict is every bit as charismatic as the TV evangelist. It’s all about results!


Results, not flair, are true proof of charisma

Because charisma can manifest itself though restrained as well as effervescent styles, we will review the effects of  both high and low energy. However because we are trained to support  the “Goldilocks approach” or Golden Mean of behaviour that is “neither too hot nor too cold,” many of the most effective communication styles will lie right in the middle  of the energetic range.

It’s important to state there aren’t any Rights or Wrongs, just communicative behaviours that are appropriate to circumstances – or otherwise.

The charts below are extracts from the charisma mapping methodology developed by Communicate Charisma. This is based upon a simple online self-assessment available to those contacting  Communicate Charisma  here to request a referral code. The self-assessment test creates a report that shows in detail how each individual projects his or her charisma, and what  essence that charisma is composed of. The seven dimensions of charisma look like this:


How an extraverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving personality might look.

How an extraverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving personality might look in 7D.

Let’s review the seven dimensions of charisma and see what delivers effectiveness to communicators both at the upper and lower ranges, and in the middle.


High-energy Strengths: Positive aggression and confidence are certainly key attributes for alert service providers, helping to shift perceptions and drive buyer decisions. If don’t feel 100% confident of your service, why should a client?

Low-energy Strengths: Few CEOs want to be outshone by external advisers or consultants. So a combination of sensitivity and intuition helps those with modest Self-assurance to use tact to deliver positive outcomes.

Golden Mean: Confident.

Self assurance av


High-energy Strengths: Communicating what we know to be true without ambiguity or compromise galvanizes potential buyers and makes them want to “be part of it.” Expressing convictions – sometimes fervently – can de decisive.

Low-energy Strengths: Leaving would-be buyers to make up their own minds earns healthy respect. So quiet confidence and values-based conduct often earns more client trust than operating from an evangelist perspective.

Golden Mean: Convinced.

Empathy av 2


High-energy Strengths: Sharing spirits are contagious. Work is enriched when we’re sensitive to group dynamics and the needs of our clients. Collaboration types can build trust and get the best interaction with temporary colleagues around whom they’ll be working during an assignment.

Low-energy Strengths: Self-starters such as consultants must initiate tasks independently and take responsibility for tough decisions. Then they will be valued by managers and leaders. Outsiders are often chosen precisely because they must be detached.

Golden Mean: Team Player

Collaboration av 2


High-energy Strengths: Clients can recognize true change agents able to fire their people up and push them further. This hyperactive rush of energy wins sympathy for new ideas even when the style is demanding and perhaps even forceful.

Low-energy Strengths: A mature “laissez faire” approach that’s sensitive to circumstances can contrast favourably with misguided enthusiasm or dogged insistence.

Golden Mean: Motivated.

Drive Av


High-energy Strengths: Emotional intelligence  breaks down  rigidity and mistrust that often confronts external consultants. The rapport generated by open-hearted solidarity wins over those team members suspicious of  ‘outsiders’.

Low-energy Strengths: Cutting through emotional clutter to focus resolutely on the goal in hand gets results for external advisers. Making hard business choices is a lonely and responsible activity that calls for discipline and detachment.

Golden Mean: Understanding.

Empathy av 3


High-energy Strengths: When invited into the client workplace, those presenting ideas with integrity are ensured a following and will win the trust that increases influence. Firm refusal to accept compromises or yield to pressure also confers authenticity.

Low-energy Strengths: External consultants or service providers must frequently keep  positions open, showing tolerance and open-mindedness about other values as they negotiate a bigger role.

Golden Mean: Coherent.

Values av


High-energy Strengths: With Vision comes the power to influence and persuade clients to make changes, by showing them what’s just over the horizon. This can unite people and show them  short-term difficulties will pass.

Low-energy Strengths: A solid, fact-based view of life avoids dangerous ‘leaps of faith’ and  unproven or untested propositions. Focusing only on what is known to be true avoids disappointment, while reassuring clients of integrity.

Golden Mean: Perceptive.

Vision av

Every adult knows their behaviour should be context-sensitive and they should be attuned to  the  body-language of those around them.

But that advice is hard to follow because of the “somatic”  power of  old habits. As we begin communicating, we automatically slip into a default “transmission mode” built up over years. Influences from family, school and the workplace have forged our emotional anatomy in such a way that we may  unconsciously use communication styles that frustrate our own purposes.

Mapping our emotions onto the body

Mapping our emotions onto the body

One way to get a handle on this is to visualise what we are really doing, to understand why we are doing it  –  and then begin a process of change.

Traditionally, this is how actors learn “method.” But few business people — let alone  service providers — are ready for drama school. Instead,  visualising charisma by mapping, measuring and eventually managing it, offers a personal development route toward balanced and effective communications.

And when we communicate effectively, we create a rapport that allows us to influence others. And of course, that can mean selling more too.

If you’d like to find out more about the Communicate Charisma methodology and our interactive workshops, please visit our site to request a self-assessment.


2014 World Cup of Charisma

Every four years, the FIFA World Cup transforms a handful of sportsmen into household names, globally recognizable even to those of us who don’t follow football. Less for the goals they score, more for their style off the field during the tournament.

With up to a billion people following the month-long tournament on TV, the World Cup is both a laboratory and a public stage for the workings of charisma. We see the making – and the breaking – of sporting heroes up close.

Take it easy: this post doesn’t claim to show how you too can become just like Ballon D’or heroes Cristiano Ronaldo, Luís Soares or Lionel Messi. It’s just to point out that we all have something to learn from watching the charismatic behaviour of these star footballers.

Golden Ball: Stars like Messi are working your emotions

Golden Ball: Stars like Messi are working your emotions

So, as you’re enjoying the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches – and perhaps being transported into pure football passion – you can observe how these players are working just as hard with your emotions as they are with the ball.

What they are doing is using charisma to get us to follow them.

Charisma is the ability of certain subjects to establish instant rapport, so lowering barriers of distrust and thereby increasing their influence over others. Not just as for sportsman, but for all of us, for life. Charisma is the unique combination of behaviours, vital energy, verbal style and body language that makes up our personal communication style and helps define effectiveness in influencing other people.

Above all, charisma can be defined as the way groups can be influenced by certain individuals. The World Cup is a stunning display of how mass audiences voluntarily project their “followership” onto certain players – all because of the way they are perceived. To explore the definition, you can visit the Communicate Charisma website and get to know the Seven Dimensions of charisma.

Philosopher, poet - and charismatic player: Eric Cantona

Philosopher, poet – and charismatic player: Eric Cantona

There is no right or wrong about charisma, and what distinguishes it is not so much the way people project it, but the effect it has on audiences. German sociologist Max Weber defined charisma as the way leaders are perceived. He wrote: “What is alone important is how the individual is actually regarded by those subject to charismatic authority, by his followers.”

Becoming a hero of the ‘Beautiful Game’ is as close as our secular age gets to the charisma reserved in ancient or medieval times for saints and prophets. Previously we have looked in detail at the way star athletes like Usain Bolt transformed the 2012 London Olympics into the ‘Charisma Games.’

Winning influence, gaining trust and being rewarded with acceptance, are all classic charisma attributes that we associate with football heroes. Think of a few:

Diego Maradona used his "Hand of God"

Diego Maradona used his “Hand of God”

In the 1986 Mexico World Cup, the “Hand of God” justification used by Argentina’s Diego Maradona to explain use of his hand to score against England in a quarter final, undoubtedly contributed later to the mood of invincibility that secured his team victory against Germany, and the Jules Rimet trophy.

After the 2006 World Cup final in Berlin, when France lost to Italy on penalties after Zinedine Zidane was sent off for head-butting an Italian player who had issued racist taunts, the French captain stunned the political establishment to become a national hero and symbol of racial integration.

The art of  Head-butting: Sculpted tribute to Zidane

The art of Head-butting: Sculpted tribute to Zidane

Conversely, in the 1998 World Cup final against France, the psychological and physical meltdown of Brazilian striker Ronaldo caused widespread humiliation in Brazil that took years to recover from. It also took years for England striker David Beckham to rehabilitate himself after getting sent off for kicking an Argentinian player during an earlier stage of the same tournament.

Tortured legacy: Ronaldo's breakdown still rankles.

Tortured legacy: Ronaldo’s breakdown still rankles in Brazil.

And now for 2014, Brazil looks anxiously toward wing forward Neymar to take up the mantle of the nation’s leading sporting legend Pelé. Both men got their start at the Santos football club, and both have had their share of off-pitch controversy (Neymar for financial dealings with European clubs). Pelé, of course helped Brazil to triumph in 1958, in 1962 and then in 1970 in Mexico City, later becoming World Player of the Century.

Neymar showed Charisma in South Africa

Neymar showed Charisma in South Africa, saluting a young pitch invader.

As we’ll see, one of the characteristics of Charisma is “being a tough act to follow.” Pelé had it – and still has – by the bucket-load, so host-country pressure on the slim, 62 Kg Neymar is intense.

And so it has been through decades of European football, where the best-known legends have been those with strong and often tortured personalities, such as poet-philosopher Eric Cantona, tearaway humourist George Best, pugnacious Ruud van Nistelrooy, and ‘flawed genius’ Paul Gascoigne. Latterly, Italy’s “Super Mario” Balotelli of AC Milan has clowned his way to stardom.

Best at football. Best joker. Simply George Best

Best at football. Best joker. Simply George Best

For them, carefully-nurtured charisma off the field surely contributed to the myth of invincibility during play. Sometimes, as in the case of Gary Lineker, it’s opened the way to lucrative media careers.

The managers who inhabit the liveliest space in the popular imagination are the charismatic ones — figures such as José Mourinho of Chelsea or Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United. This last redoubled his charisma simply by leaving the stage. The failure of successor David Moyes to continue Manchester United’s winning run after Ferguson’s retirement simply confirmed the former’s charismatic status.

Sir Alex Ferguson proved an impossible act to follow.

Sir Alex Ferguson proved an impossible act to follow.

How do we know that the 2014 FIFA World Cup stars really have charisma? Well, we can become part of a collective intelligence or “the wisdom of crowds” to measure it.

Communicate Charisma has developed a methodology to map, measure and visualise personal charisma. Though it’s primarily a tool for personal development, we can also apply it to understand the charismatic behaviour of famous individuals, from Martin Luther King, to Barack Obama and even Christiano Ronaldo.

Using online tools, Communicate Charisma is now collecting popular judgements about the style of  ‘Great Communicators’ from politics, international affairs, celebrity and, yes – from sport.

Oprah Winfrey, First Lady of TV charisma

Oprah Winfrey, First Lady of TV charisma


You can complete the assessment of a “Great Communicator” by following this link. You’ll be helping us to build a database of Great Communicators – sporting or otherwise. Thanks to collective intelligence, the more people completing the surveys, the more accurate the portraits we can publish.

Enjoy the World Cup! And gain extra insight into the games by seeing how the greatest players don’t simply exhibit ball control – they have ‘charisma control’ too.

Communicate Charisma Seven Dimension plot yields 105 variants

How the map for a hard-driving but empathy-challenged World Cup striker might look.


Charisma Sells! Part II

Use Your Charisma to Sell Professional Services: Part II

You know your product is good. But clients don’t always respond positively to the pitch.

So, like every professional service provider who’s ever experienced difficulty with closing sales you ask yourself: “is there something about my style that’s putting people off?” Chances are, the answer is Yes.

In the last posting we began examining the forces that can lead professionals selling their valuable services to experience client hesitation, “kickback” or negotiations that may force you to accept lower margins. Something needs to be addressed if  the sales process regularly feels  like this:

Are you the hammer or the anvil when it comes to closing sales?

Are you the hammer, the anvil  or something  in between when it comes to closing sales?

By contrast, we’ve all experienced that magical moment at client meetings -  just like catching a fish when you least expect it – when you realize your company’s services have been bought in, apparently without any conscious effort on your side. There you are, a trusted adviser at the top table, wondering if it was just luck or something that you did right.

Yoou must have done something right: but exactly what was it ?

You must have done something right: but exactly what was it ?

Actually, big brands as well as smaller service provider companies  are busy with the same thought process. A recent survey  by Corporate Executive Board  quoted in this blog found that Brands that can connect with their buyers on an emotional level will see 2 times more impact.

Out there, you’ll find an infinity of books, training and guides to develop assertive sales  techniques. These tactics will surely give a short-term lift. But what if they don’t address the deeper and more lasting effect you might have on people?

That’s where charisma comes in.  As we’ve seen, charisma is the ability to establish instant rapport, so lowering barriers of distrust and thereby increasing influence over others. Not just as a salesman, but for life. Charisma is the unique combination of behaviours, vital energy, verbal style and body language that makes up our personal communication style and helps define our effectiveness in influencing other people.

There is no right or wrong about charisma.  And everybody has some, even if we’re seldom in touch with it. But there is greater and lesser effectiveness. And there is appropriateness to context. Just as purple or orange won’t  suit every wall, so communication styles must fit the context.

prof servs 2

We know that not everyone  can get away with telling a joke about the deceased during a funeral oration. And for a wedding speech in front of a family crowd, telling that anecdote about the bridegroom’s past sexual indiscretions generally falls flat  – even though it seemed so funny in a bar during the stag night.

In just the same way, it may be that the default communications style being used to sell product just isn’t right. You may not even recognize what it is you are doing.

In the last post, we  differentiated between the ‘Influencers’ – those able to gain acceptance for their pitch while enjoying opinion leader status and premium pricing;  and the ‘Malleables’ – those who get pushed around and forced to accept  rethinks, compromises, and discounts.  This time we’ll look in detail at how the ‘Malleables’ may be allowing the limitations of their charisma profile to get in the way of effective sales and execution.

The ranking of these behaviour types and the way they affect personal charisma isn’t a random list of the “ten useful habits” variety.  This is all part of a complete methodology designed to boost  effectiveness by mapping, measuring and managing the way we influence others. Communicate Charisma offers the tools to visualise each person’s individual charisma assets, and so offer professionals vital clues in how they might modify their profiles to raise effectiveness. For an overview of our online self-assessment process and methodology, visit

How an extraverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving personality might look.

Each Pizza slice represents an aspect of your communicative self.

Charisma is really the combined result of  behaviours in each  of these seven dimensions or classic personality areas  that form the bedrock of all social behaviour. The types of energy or behaviour that can alienate or antagonize customers tend to show at the margins of each category, while “social behaviour” tends to occupy the median zone. So acquiring the ability to “dial down” or “ramp up” behaviours in specific areas where we we may find either very high or very low levels of energy, is a useful skill.

It’s tempting to think that mobilizing high levels of energy will usually guarantee success, while more discreet postures signify weakness. Yet this isn’t always so. Bragging, boasting and self-aggrandizing tends to put off customers, while modesty and discretion are seen as virtues in trusted advisers – within reason. A posture that’s too compliant,  dependent  or self-effacing  will also have negative impact.

Here are the types of limiting behaviours typical of ‘Malleable’ types in each of the seven charisma dimensions.


High-energy limitations: ‘Über’ service providers who dominate pitch meetings with too much self-assurance are unlikely to be active listeners and may seem arrogant or insensitive,  quickly alienating clients.

Self Assurance Authoritative 2

Low-energy limitations: Reclusive behaviour or low self-esteem makes it harder for clients to find “reasons to buy” and looks just like extreme shyness. Clients prize service providers modeling more decisive and extrovert behaviour.

Assurance Discreet 2


High-energy limitations: Overly strong beliefs and tireless convictions quickly translate into the kind of sales pressure that may smack of desperation. Refusal to listen to or respect potential clients, will quickly forfeit their trust and render the sales pitch useless.

Beliefs fervent 2

Low-energy limitations: Uncertainty or persistent unwillingness to reveal any personal convictions can end up disengaging potential clients or reducing goodwill. As this reluctance can appear evasive, it won’t win many new clients.

Beliefs AGnostic 2


High-energy limitations: Constantly dealing with the needs of others rather than asserting one’s own priorities undermines the negotiation and shows readiness to sacrifice financial self-interest. Any symbiotic behaviour suggesting the adviser can’t survive without the client, will ring warning bells.

symbiotic collaboration2

Low-energy limitations: Self-centred, uncompromising and inconsiderate are labels used for service providers unwilling to share their method or execution with clients, or put themselves in the place of those doing the hiring.

Collaboration Indepeendent 2


High-energy limitations: “Driven” or frenetic energy can be quite disarming, yet buy-side clients may be alienated or threatened by it. Any abrasive or insensitive show will provoke opposition if it’s experienced by the client as egotistical and self-aggrandizing.

Drive unyielding 2

Low-energy limitations: We associate solutions-providers with energy and decisiveness. So low drive, limited energy and a ‘laid back’ posture  that looks overly compliant, runs the risk of disqualifying such a person from important service roles.

Drive compliant 2


High-energy limitations: When the softer side turns to ‘touchy-feely’, this can irritate pragmatists or empirical types. Softness creates vulnerability if it means becoming a hostage to whatever goodwill others might feel.

Vision compassionate 2

Low-energy limitations: Those who make no effort to build emotional ties or integrate with company culture can be seen by clients as selfish, uncaring or even ruthless. And most people who conceal their true selves are hiding something, prompting distrust among the staff.

Empathy impassive 2


High-energy limitations: When following high standards means inflexibility, failure to establish common ground may appear abrasive or intolerant. Others may find a resolute obsession with principles to be intimidating and  implicitly critical.

Values Resolute 2

Low-energy limitations: Those who stand for nothing may look evasive or unprincipled, because trust cannot be built around endlessly shifting positions. So unwillingness to take a coherent stand may end up undermining a person’s integrity.

Values Neutral 2


High-energy limitations: Hollow dreams are not plans for the future and clients want clear roadmaps. Visionary people can find it hard to come down to earth and listen to what’s really happening, instead of alienating clients by appearing overly forceful and dogmatic when talking about themselves .

Viosn Visionary 3

Low-energy limitations: A world without imagination makes it harder to share powerful new possibilities with clients. And without Vision, it’s much harder to engage people, as focusing only on what is known offers little help in exploration.

Vision Empirical 2

In the next post we’ll examine how strengths and range in each of these seven communications attributes will help communications effectiveness. To do so we’ll review the positive strengths associated with each of the Charisma Dimensions and both high and low energy profiles. And of course, we’ll discuss how to “accentuate the positive” by  learning to emphasize our strongest suit.

For any professional, the ability to map, measure and manage a personal charisma profile will help them to strengthen their rapport with clients and increase the chances of a successful, premium priced sale executed on their own terms – and not on those dictated by the Purchasing Department.

If you’re intrigued to know what your  charisma profile looks like,  then click here to visit  the Communicate Charisma website. First you’ll need to  ask us for a referral code allowing you to take the self-assessment test.


Charisma Sells! Part I

Use Your Charisma to Sell Professional Services: Part I

  • If you’re a provider of professional services, do you have trouble convincing clients they should hire your firm without demanding any discount?
  • Do you have difficulty convincing buyers there’s no need to request any alterations to your pitch, as yours is already a premium service that’s perfect for their needs?
  • And, if you’re one of several bidders, do you struggle to position your firm as the top dog?
prof servs 1

What makes some service providers shine brighter?

If so, you are not alone. The world over, professionals are besieged with ever-louder customer demands for rethinks, redraftings, new interpretations, something different; and always something much, much cheaper than the original asking price.

Architects exprience this; so do workaday lawyers, accountants, advisers, editors – and above all management consultants, who must sometimes reinvent and redefine their product a dozen times before winning grudging client acceptance.

architect 2

Drawing – and redrawing – a daily experience for some professionals

Being part of an organisation with a powerful brand certainly helps, but services are people-driven and the client is buying your competencies, not the institution itself.

Service providers, of course, are basically selling their time and if not their own intellectual property, then diagnostic and troubleshooting skills they’ve built up over years of experience. So accepting a discount is a de facto skills devaluation, implying lower worth to the client. Acceptance can mean sagging self-esteem.

Now there is a way for you to turn all this around. This blog post is dedicated to helping service professionals to differentiate the way offerings are presented, and so drag themselves out of the “discount bracket.”

The answer is charisma, something that lies within you but may be hidden from view.  When it works, the effects are immediate. We’ve all experienced that moment when it’s clear  that by some magical process we have been “bought in” and the client regards our presence at the decision-making table to be both natural and necessary.

We’ll show you how you can use charisma to boost your influence, nurturing behaviours that win acceptance, lower barriers of belief and gather trust.

prof servs 2

Seven colours and seven dimensions for service providers with influence

To find out more about charisma and its application  to modern business life, visit You’ll find diverse blog entries exploring such themes as power and influence, communicating through effective body language, and whether charisma is an innate gift or learned behaviour.

You can also decide whether you would like to take a self-assessment test to find out more about your own charisma. To do so, you’ll first need to contact us via email or  the comment space below. You may wish to join one of our workshops.

But first let’s focus on the practical application of charisma. What separates one group we’ll call the ‘Influencers’ who sell they work for top dollar, from the ‘Malleables,’ who may be forced to accept discounts even though their work may be of just as good quality?

heart surgeon 1

Trust me – and don’t ask for a discount.

We all know ‘Influencer’ service providers whose product is accepted unquestioningly because they are opinion formers or fashionistas. If we work in the same narrow field we may recognise glaring weaknesses that clients are wholly blind to. Yet somehow that doesn’t matter one bit.

On the other side of the fence we find the ‘Malleables.’ These are people whose work, however worthy, gets squeezed, questioned, and downgraded.

architect 3

Malleable types go back to the drawing board

If business life is a metaphorical cocktail party, then these are the waiters handing around trays loaded with canapés or drinks at cocktail parties where favoured guests continually plead favours or special treatment. “This is full sugar. Can you fetch me a Diet Coke?” Or “Have you got any vegan paté/kosher crackers back in the kitchen you could find specially for me?” Or “I can’t believe this is all you have to offer me.”


Are clients treating your services like this?

So what divides the two groups and what determines whether one idea must be offered with a discount, while another commands a premium? You might expect the short answer to be a mix of “chutzpah,” “braggadoccio,” and sheer assertiveness.

But we all know that’s not the answer. Sometimes the most effective sales people who get clients eating out of their hand seem to be hardly even trying, and they certainly aren’t pushy or aggressive.

It all comes down to charisma. Winning influence, gaining trust and being rewarded with acceptance, are all classic charisma attributes. To explore the definition, you can visit the Communicate Charisma website and get to know the Seven Dimensions of charisma.


Trust me too – and don’t ask for a discount

Nor does success necessarily mean using those high-wattage charisma attributes we associate with extroverted energy such as self-assurance, drive or vision. Often, establishing common ground through empathy, collaboration or values will prove just as effective in triggering an “uncomplaining buy” signal from those needing services. Fundamentally, of course, any vendor of services must be able to transmit the unquestioning belief that his or her solution will add the most value for clients.


Charisma could bring added rigour and energy to communicating the benefits of your service to clients.

It comes down to much more than luck, or hope. A lucky few have developed the skill – often unconsciously – of deploying their natural charisma assets to best effect, and this translates into sales. You’d never dream of haggling with a heart surgeon or a trial lawyer, or demand  that either  adopts different tactics. So why shouldn’t people regard what you do in the same way?

To get there, the  rest of us may need to adopt a more conscious learning process, which has three stages.

  • First, we need to visualise, map and measure the charisma we already possess (and yes, everyone has some of it).
  • Second, we can learn to recognise authentic charismatic behaviours in ourselves and others as well as gaining insights into the style of “Great Communicators.”.
  • Finally, we initiate a process of personal development and awareness that over time, helps us manage and makes best use of our charisma.

These three stages form the core of the Communicate Charisma approach which combines online self-assessment tools, workshops, and guided personal development.

In the next posting, we’ll analyse each of the Seven Dimensions of charisma and see how service leaders use them to help the sales process.