Charisma – or just a Comb-over?

Donald Trump really should take our charisma test.

The results will tell the US presidential contender what his real chances are of streaking past the gridlock of mainstream politics to make it all the way to the White House.

To succeed, he’ll need to harness his extraordinary personal power to influence and transform mass opinion with communication skills. It’s a power that’s been honed over many decades of pitching and presenting countless property deals, sales presentations, how-to books and series after ratings-topping series of The Apprentice – but is as yet unproven in the political arena.

Trump’s performance during the debate between ten Republican contenders screened from Cleveland, Ohio by Fox News August 6th, ensured him centre-stage in the American leadership debate. His abrasive, iconoclastic style is beloved of tens of millions of blue collar voters and middle America’s Main Street. But the billionaire’s opportunist avowal that he might split the right wing vote by running as an independent candidate if Republicans don’t select him, betrays an arrogance has made him feared and hated by the establishment.

Creative disruption for Donald Trump, not party politics. Photo by NY Post.

Creative disruption for Donald Trump, not party politics. Photo by NY Post.

Yes, Trump is a huge disruptive force. But just how far will the power of communication take him? Until now, no political pundit had the forensic tools to map or measure Donald Trump’s charisma, and compare it with that of other leaders who’ve won the US presidency.

But we do – and one year and four months before an election that could be decided not by Democrat or Republican party machines but through raw individual magnetism – we’re offering “The Donald” his chance to show whether he has what it takes in terms of leadership charisma.

Communicate Charisma’s methodology is completely unique, and we’re using it to generate  empirical research into the way leaders of every kind influence those around them.Of course we want to apply our methodology to the greatest test of all: the upcoming US presidential elections.

And we’re working with tools to reveal and utilize personal charisma that go beyond entertainment industry notions of  razzmataz, star quality, chutzpah, or just plain arrogance.

It's not about Trump's  comb-over; it's all about charisma

It’s not about Trump’s comb-over; it’s all about charisma

Forget the cackling about his comb-over, or how much money he in fact has; charisma mapping is the way to show what Trump’s chances really are.

And, if he takes our test, Trump will be in good company. We have already used “wisdom of crowds” techniques to successfully map and measure how online respondents view the charisma attributes of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton (though as yet neither have actually taken the online test themselves).

What does charisma consist of and what are the seven dimensions are we measuring?

Leaders of all kinds need additional reserves of Self-Assurance (A) and Drive (D) to press forward against opposition and uncertainty. To win trust, they need extra energy to articulate their strongly-held Beliefs (B)  and to infect others with an over-the-horizon Vision (V2) of a different future. In varying degrees, leaders tend to mitigate this drive or positive aggression with softer qualities of Empathy (E) and Collaboration (C). These hidden attributes of everyone’s personal communication style help to build instant rapport with audiences, influencing listeners to “go with their gut” or give the benefit of the doubt to propositions being advanced, even if the “reasons to believe” aren’t fully convincing.

Lastly we consider Values (V1)  to be the most  vital element of true charismatic leadership. This is the key principle for winning public trust by projecting an authentic commitment to stewardship and service, that in turn engenders a sense of security and rightness. History teaches us that charisma without values – not only in world politics, but in business too – is a dangerous combination.

Here you can see the seven dimension Charisma Essence Profile prepared for President Obama, based on the views of  visitors to our website

President Barack Obama's Charisma Essence plot

President Barack Obama’s Charisma Essence plot. All charts by

And here is the map of his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton:

Forme prresident Bill Clinton's  Charisma Essence plot

Former president Bill Clinton’s Charisma Essence plot

In charisma terms, both Clinton and Obama appear as  full-spectrum leaders. On the upper right are the “positive aggression” attributes: of Self-Assurance (A), Drive (D) and Vision (V2). To the lower left are the “soft skills” attributes of Empathy (E), Collaboration (C) and Beliefs (B).

We hope Donald Trump will contact us to complete a Charisma Essence Profile. But while we’re waiting for him to get in touch, here’s a likely picture of what the result could look like – based on the way he’s handling his race for the White House. The campaign has already turned arrogance in public life into a global talking-point.

Might Donald Trump's  Charisma Essence  plot look something like this?

Might Donald Trump’s Charisma Essence plot look something like this?

You can see there are significant differences to the Clinton/Obama duo in the way the seven coloured wedges radiate from the centre of this map plot. While there’s highly-developed Self-Assurance (A) and Drive (D) and Vision (V2),  it’s clear the Empathy (E) and Collaboration (C)  zones are much less developed. This is characteristic of a more independent,  populist figure who relies less on emotional intelligence factors.

Let’s emphasize again that this is a model, not Trump’s actual  profile. Question is, if  Trump’s Charisma Profile looks like the model above,  rather than the Obama/Clinton image, then what does it mean for his electoral chances?

Trump’s refusal in the debate to toe the Republican party line and rule out standing as an independent, suggests low energy in the collaboration field:

Low energy in the collaboration field encourages highly individualist postures.

Low energy in the collaboration field encourages highly individualist postures.

By contrast, his resolute insistence that part of America’s problems are attributable to illegal immigrants from Mexico, and on the need to build a hugely costly southern border wall to keep them out, betokens a man of unyielding Drive.

Strong  Drive is need to  maintain dogmatic or controversial positions

Strong Drive is need to maintain dogmatic or controversial positions

Many political observers have questioned what Trump really stands for – apart from promoting his own personal brand.  In terms of values,  Trump’s  more opportunistic world-view remains surpisingly opaque. So Communicate Charisma’s assessment of this dimension might show him as neutral. This last charisma attribute – values – could be the Trump’s Achilles heel in the race for the White House.

nasty valuesCommunicate Charisma also presents a two dimensional plot showing how individuals choose project their power through empathy or persuasion.  In Trump’s case, his highly-developed public speaking skills and persuasive style would make him an evangelist or campaigner as depicted in this  sample plot.

Trump's two dimensional Charisma Projection plot might look like this

Trump’s two dimensional Charisma Projection plot might look like this

By way of contrast, to show the importance of Values and Vision as components in the mix of trust and rapport we feel for our most admired leaders,  let’s take a look at the Charisma  Essence Profile of  Nelson Mandela that our online visitors have compiled for us. We also see highly developed levels of  Empathy (E) and Collaboration (C).

Extremely high levels of Value and Vision in  former South African leader Nelson Mandela

Extremely high levels of Value and Vision in former South African leader Nelson Mandela

No-one doubts the extraordinary competence of Trump as a real-estate titan, successful TV entertainer, popular writer and ambassador of his mighty personal brand – all fields in which his aggressive self-promotion and overweening chutzpah have paid him huge dividends and turned him into a popular embodiment of the American Dream.

But does his unashamed opportunism, mordant wit and his open contempt for whole swathes of the US population including the actress Rosie O’Donnell, women in general, immigrants, Mexicans, Democrats and indeed the entire political class, match the dignitas in which Americans like their leadership figures to be clothed ?

The Donald. Photo by Time Inc

The Donald. Photo by Time Inc

The progress of Trump’s campaign provides us with an astonishing public barometer with which to measure contemporary taste for leadership qualities – and by definition, the popular view of charisma. Will the American people want a trustworthy steward of the nation – or a quickfire show host?

If Trump is successful in getting his name put before the US electorate this November, then what will have happened to the classical leadership models originating with Teddy Roosevelt or John F Kennedy, and still emulated by many industry leaders? Roosevelt himself described US politics as the “bully pulpit” – referring to his right to speak out on any issue he chose. Trump’s own interpretation of “bully” sounds suspiciously like a usage of the word more familiar to British ears.

One immediate consequence was  Trump’s ‘disinvitation’ from speaking at events sponsored by conservative group RedState, thanks to his hostile comments about the Cleveland debate  moderator, Megyn Kelly of Fox News whose judgement he implied had been impaired by  hormones. This suggests opinion formers in the US establishment  don’t respond well to bullying, and there’s an implication that Trump has transgressed the laws of common decency, instead of boldly rebelling against political correctness.

It’s arguable that success for  the iconoclastic Trump would undermine the contemporary edifice of empathy-based leadership built upon soft skills and emotional intelligence. In leadership terms,  we might expect a reversal of American values which during the Cuban missile crisis JFK described as: “Not the victory of might, but the vindication of right.”

Let’s wait to see how US public opinion responds. And Donald, please call for your exclusive code to take the Communicate Charisma self-assessment test so we can share real data aboput you.

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.


Ain’t Life a Pitch?

No matter what passport we hold, today we all live in Startup Nation.

Start me up. But will the engine fire?

Start me up. But will the engine fire?

Startup Nation is much bigger than Israel, the subject of the eponymous 2009 book by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. There’s a rookie entrepreneur hiding inside everyone, just waiting to take his or her place in Silicon Valley or Silicon Roundabout, with an app that promises to turn heads at TechCrunch or conferences in Redwood City, California, Monaco, Dublin and Helsinki. Startup is the prevailing faith of a frontierless generation. Once, intelligence followed and served investment capital locked inside great institutions: today that same capital hungrily seeks the products of individual intelligence, manifested in startups. Miracles really do happen, and NASDAQ is the proof.

Helsinki  2014 Summit for startups. Foto Slush.

Helsinki 2014 Summit for startups. Foto Slush.

When it comes to business leadership, it’s not the technology that makes the difference; it’s still the people. In Startup Nation, everyone who’s got somewhere is sparky, frenetic, pushy, full of intelligence, brimming with chutzpah. Yet for them  – as for you – the path to  business leadership started with a single nervous and faltering pitch to unlock capital. Maybe at the family dinner table. The first of many, many pitches. First to family and friends; then to angel investors and believers, then to incubator funds; then to seed round venture capital investors; then to series A, B, and C  funding sources, and perhaps – just a tiny perhaps – to IPO investors.

Ali Baba's Jack Ma:

Ali Baba’s Jack Ma: he once stood where you may be today

It can be quick: between August 2008 and July 2011, AirBnB went from first idea to US$500 million funding. More likely, it’s slow, and doomed to failure. And in 99% of cases this comes down to the Pitch. VC investors spend an average of 3.4 minutes reviewing each slide deck pitch. Some look at 20 a day. They fillet opportunities quicker than a rag-picker in a flea market. Mostly, “The Ask” doesn’t contain the necessary clarity of thought, direction or purpose. The basic dynamic of identifying a problem, proposing a solution and addressing the market, hasn’t been thought through. In such cases, the pitch doesn’t show clear understanding of the metrics, or explain a growth strategy that will bring scale to operations and returns for investors.

What is the motor that will get your startup rolling?

What is the motor that will get your startup rolling?

Having a clear, simple message that marshals the salient facts, is a basic requirement for gaining the VC’s attention and so getting past the first and lowest hurdle. Let’s call this “knowing what to say.” Let’s just suppose the VC flips to the next slide, rather than hitting the ‘delete’ button. He’s looking for a narrative, something beyond the basic “what,” “when” and “how” of the message that explains the wider relevance of the idea. This calls for a story and some delivery skill, either in organising the deck or a verbal pitch. Let’s call this “knowing how to say it.” Let’s just suppose your pitch has got past this second hurdle, and the VC wants to know more than what’s in the deck. He sends a Google calendar invite for a meeting. He’s already bought into the message and the story. He takes as given you’ll survive a frenzied, sleepless year living on take-away pizzas, caffeinated soda and no social life. You’ve now got past the Docsend stage where a simple mathematical formula setting out the number of slides, number of bullet points and optimal font size, will be of any help to you. You’ve likely gone further than those who’ve now found careers as pitch trainers and bombard you with webinar invitations. Your VC is curious about something much less tangible – yet ultimately more important than all the precious data in your deck and even your precious app’s attributes. After all, he knows and you know that all forecasts are fiction and your real product is promise. Can you build instant rapport with people and persuade them? Are they going to trust you to make something out of nothing? Will investors go with their gut? This is the terrain of creating a new reality where none existed before. Semiconductors, MySQL and web architecture can only achieve part of that miracle.

Dublin Websummit. Foto

Dublin Websummit. Foto Startup Business

The rest is down to you. Making it over this third hurdle calls for mastery of something that goes beyond “what to say” (message) or “how to say it” (story). This is the terrain of “who to be.” That calls for charisma. Everyone has some – yet few know how to consciously call up and develop this key life success factor that will get them over the third hurdle and on the way towards Round A. At Communicate Charisma, we believe that every entrepreneur can shorten the long odds against his or her startup successfully making it through the pitching jungle, by learning how to map, measure and manage vital communication attributes that will enhance persuasive power without sacrificing authenticity. After all, your precious idea deserves the very best startup you can give it. And that means putting some charisma into your pitch, even if 100% of your time, effort and money is going into developing the app. And yes, Communicate Charisma is proud to be a startup too. 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.

Rebooting Charisma in Business

Why should CEOs and senior executives struggle to become more engaging or show greater empathy, when even a professional actor and comedian trained in the communication arts has been booted from the top of Twitter?

The June 2015 ouster from Twitter’s C-suite of Dick Costolo – he used to work for Second City, the famed Chicago-based improv group that also gave the world Mike Myers and Arthur Burns – would suggest the vogue for soft skills epitomized by the improv actor’s “Yes …. And” is succumbing to “No …. But” and the hard number CFO-talk investors prefer to hear.


Last comic laugh: Twitter’s Dick Costolo (Foto Twitter)

Does this mean the pendulum has swung and the whole soft-skills paradigm and management “vision thing” needs banishing to the back of the management bookshelf as even Silicon Valley goes back to the button-down, anti-charismatic CEO?

Despite his ready tongue and laid-back style, Costolo couldn’t make Twitter (288 million users) grow as fast as bigger rivals FaceBook (1.2 billion users) and Google (1.2 trillion searches yearly). And he committed the cardinal sin of telling the New York Times “No, you don’t have to tweet.”

Can you imagine Jack Welch in his prime telling customers they “didn’t have to buy a GE refrigerator”? (By coincidence, Jack Welch has been writing about the “number one quality” leaders need: intelligence, charisma, or positive energy).

So now Twitter founder and co-chairman Jack Dorsey – hardly a dour MBA type himself and now sporting a very un-Wall Street Viking beard – is back at the helm. Nevertheless, the Twitter story might suggest the figure of the transformational leader using vision, charisma and engagement to inspire employees, has taken a serious hit.


Jack Dorsey (Photo London Evening Standard)

Just hold on a minute.

Ever since the 1960s, when business school professors began trawling through the writings of Austrian sociologist Max Weber to spin out his theories of how power is gained and maintained by princes, bureaucrats and heroes, there’s been a war going on between two rival visions of how leadership works in a post-feudal world. Business gurus James McGregor Burns and Bernard Bass took forward Weber’s ideas to found separate wings of a global industry of management thinking. There’s an earlier blog all about this accessible here.

Max Weber

Leadership study pioneer: Max Weber

At one pole stands transactional leadership – goal-setting to win compliance through supervision and organization, by using carrots or sticks to boost group performance and align followers with the leader’s clearly-stated goals. Transactional leadership isn’t aimed at changing the future, but bureaucratic fine-tuning of the present to avert crises. If you like, Twitter under Costolo didn’t have enough of this nitty-gritty attribute.

At the other pole stands transformational leadership – where non-bureaucratic values of personal trust, vision and a desire for fulfilment are articulated by leaders who inspire employees to perform better. This is the domain of the charismatic leader able to articulate an inspirational vision and strategy – but who may be less at home with the bricks and mortar of implementation. Once again, hiring a CEO like Costolo for Twitter was a triumph of “management walking around and being inspirational.”

But beware of pendulums and binary – even bipolar – thinking. Sometimes when  business school professors write papers about leadership, what they really mean is management. Keeping the trains running on time is quite different from making followers believe they want to do something they had previously considered impossible.

And whatever the textbooks say, we know human interactions don’t work the way the theories go. (Indeed Burns argued that most effective leaders use both transactional and transformational styles).

The primary function of leaders is work facilitation – pointing people in the right direction to deliver more and change more than they had believed possible. To achieve common goals, leaders must clarify to followers exactly how to get there, over the horizon.

In other words, regardless of whether the style is transactional or transformational, effective communication is the central leadership attribute. Effective communication doesn’t have to be a rerun of Mark Anthony’s funeral speech for Julius Caesar or Martin Luther King’s “dream.”

It’s not about the noise and flourishes the speaker makes – it’s about the active response of the audience. Let’s drop the idea that charisma is all about rhetorical blather, engaging ad-libs, inspiration and schmooze. To be charismatic, you don’t even have to be nice. Consider the magnetic influence of former British premier Margaret Thatcher, once described by former French president Francois Mitterrand as having “the eyes of Caligula and the lips of Marilyn Monroe.”


Margaret Thatcher – Fatal Attraction

The proof is whether – even in the absence of empirical proof – people will change their views and do things they previously would not have agreed to, all because of what a leader says.

We believe it’s time to reboot the concept of charisma in business, in effect distancing it from the transformational leadership silo envisioned over a century ago by Weber, and placing it closer to the modern camp of management sometimes called instrumental leadership.

That’s where things get done not only thanks to transactions (bureaucracy), or to transformations (inspiration) but through clear contracting – all thanks to clear communication. Step forward charisma!

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.

All About Pyramids, Pancakes, and Evolutionary Purpose

Megaphone leadership from the top is out.

That’s the conclusion of a recent crop of business books profiling new-generation organisations, where self-managing employees strive for wholeness and evolutionary purpose in complex systems that work largely by themselves.

Rivalling the dedication and self-regulating skill of honey-gathering bees, engaged employees manage themselves by harvesting collective intelligence, without being hectored needlessly from above. Sometimes there’s no strategy, no target and even no budget in this pyramid-turned-pancake world.

Does happy at the top = unhappy  down below?

Is time running out for this well tested leadership model?

So when it comes to communication by management, any “Charm Offensive” by management would sound … just offensive.

If you look at the graphic above you’ll see exactly why. Each happy person is  destined to make someone unhappy, as well as passing downwards his or her own happiness. The bottom line is more unhapy  faces than happy ones – showing why top-down messaging can be counter-productive.

So instead of playing God, managers are now invited to listen and just see what emerges.

Read the case studies in Frederic Laloux’s now red-hot business book Reinventing Organizations and you’ll learn that pyramidal hierarchies are gone, as too are the old trio of vision, strategy and execution. Purpose is the central intention, and once this is clear, employees will surely “show up in the full glory of their humanity.”

Now it looks more  like this: Foto Wikimedia by jeffreyw

New and tastier leadership model: Foto Wikimedia by jeffreyw

Take it or leave it, but Laloux believes a new paradigm for social organisation is emerging, as evidenced by a handful of companies where the management suite operates more like a suggestion box. His cases include Patagonia, BSO/Origin, AES and Dutch healthcare enterprise Buurtzorg. He takes “radical” as far as inviting buyers of his e-book to “pay what feels right.”

Likewise Clive Wilson’s insightful new book ‘Designing the Purposeful Organization – inspiring performance beyond boundaries’ emphasizes the shared sense of learning that characterizes successful companies. Like Laloux, he concludes that success is very different from results. Less radical perhaps than Laloux, Wilson maintains that achieving powerful results still depends on measuring key variables, including culture and vision.

Laloux may advocate emotional and spiritual wholeness in the workplace, and declare “you need structure but you don’t need a boss.” Nevertheless, managers are hardly going the way of the Dodo just yet. Nor are they expected to be silent.

Read a little closer and you’ll see this valued process of creating alignment around systems that can be complex without being hierarchical, still depends on regular conversations about what success means, about sharing, and above all about stories that build on and celebrate success.

Without authentic stories, none of this will work. Nowadays, employees won’t listen just because they have to. They’ll only listen if what they hear is trustworthy because for too long, happy at  the top has meant unhappy  down below – as in the ‘smiley chart’ at the top of this entry.

Being at the top gives no automatic right to a hearing.

Being at the top gives no automatic right to a hearing.

In other words, the leadership communication function remains alive and well in the new paradigm. Let’s just say it’s more about “talking with” than “talking at,” and intelligent listening. A new kind of workplace conversation is starting.

So how will a new generation of managers make this transition from hierarchical status to giving and receiving advice? In a world where employees already know what to do and actively contribute to improving systems, managers will need to focus on developing a new and effective communications style if they’re to add value.

It’s not that the familiar topics of the management “pep-talk” delivered at offsites or away-days – vision and belief, purpose or mission, and cooperation – have gone away. They’ve just morphed away from being add-ons to the strategy slide-deck into the less visible business of building rapport and consolidating trust. Bosses can’t tell employees what their mission is – they are already busy co-creating it.

Communications skills must be built into everything.

That’s why we believe that heightened awareness of the mechanisms driving interpersonal communications and how to map them, adds value for in a world where managers – like emperors – will wish to avoid being seen without clothes.

Knowing  one’s personal strengths in fields such as Empathy, Collaboration, Vision and Values, could be crucial. So too will ability to utilize the persona linked to small-group communication styles of the Coach or Negotiator.

Engaging leader profile

Traditional leader profile

Communicate Charisma is a methodology to raise self-awareness of the communicative attributes we all naturally possess, and to help individuals build on their strengths to increase the rapport they have with others. In the future drawn by Laloux, managers will need to communicate in ways that are both non-hierarchical and authentic.

Communicate Charisma's clockface of nine Avatars

Communicate Charisma’s clockface of nine Avatars

We believe Communicate Charisma and its training programmes will help equip a new generation of managers who will lead not from the top of the pyramid, but by means of everyday interactions that engage, empathize and persuade.

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.

Crossing The Leadership Frontier

On the borderline that separates good managers from true leaders, stands a gate marked “self-awareness.”

And the advice offered by the guardian of this gate is: “stop being what someone else has told you to be, and start being yourself.”


Could the gate to self-awareness look something like this?

Through it will pass those individuals who will go on to help their companies deliver significant financial outperformance, while assuring themselves more fulfilling careers.

That’s the conclusion of a survey by recruitment provider Korn/Ferry International. A 2013 survey of almost 7,000 executives found that those in companies with a strong rate of return were far less likely to have personal “blind spots” than those in weaker performers.

In fact employees of weaker companies were 79 percent more likely to have low overall self-awareness, concluded the survey “A Better Return on Self-Awareness.

So addressing blind sports by enhancing self-awareness isn’t just good for the executive – it’s good for business. The ability to recognise and understand moods, emotions and drives – is a hallmark of leaders driving delivering competitive advantage.

The role that emotions play in business decisions has long been recognized – but now it’s being quantified and analysed.

Another survey, by the Fortune Knowledge Group and consultants gyro, in 2014 polled 720 senior US executives, mostly in companies with more than US$500 million annual revenues.

The survey found that 62% of respondents says they “trust their gut” when evaluating decisions.

Asked whether they regularly used emotional insight to enhance their interpretation of objective data, 61% agreed.

And nearly two thirds of respondents said that subjective grounds or “human factors” increasingly make a difference to decision-making.

This survey concurs with Korn/Ferry’s survey that self-awareness and emotional intelligence are important success factors. “Executives are ultimately less analytical and more emotional,” concludes Fortune Knowledge Group’s The Emotional Logic of Business Decisions.”

While both studies emphasise the importance of intangibles and “soft factors” in executive development and successful decision-making, the path to this prized self-awareness remains tantalisingly opaque.

While traditional tools such as coaching supported by regular 360-degree performance appraisals clearly help employees to better understand themselves and eliminate blind spots, from the client’s perspective the process can seem time-consuming and expensive.

One contributing factor is precisely that emotional factors and other components of self-awareness are often accepted as intangibles – making them harder to visualise or to grasp intuitively.


Photo: James Gordon

Like any journey, the road toward self-awareness is easier for those equipped with a map showing their starting-position. For coaches who help clients make choices about their destination and serve as guides, a map that projects the client’s strengths, blind-spots and communicative persona is an important asset.

That’s why Communicate Charisma offers a suite of diagnostic tools that help executives on the journey of leadership development, by providing their coaches with insightful maps and charts. These intuitive, easy-to-grasp projections show both the seven dimensional Essence Profile, and the two dimensional Projection Profile. Each client has a unique mix of emotional factors that determine how he or she is experienced by others.

Communicate Charisma's Two Dimension Plot contains 39 distinct fields

Communicate Charisma’s Two Dimension Plot contains 39 distinct fields

Clients create a personal “snapshot” or MRI image of their communicative persona by completing a simple online test. This delivers a detailed Self-Assessment Report affording rich insights to aid the coaching process toward greater self-awareness.

Communicate Charisma Seven Dimension plot yields 105 variants

Communicate Charisma Seven Dimension Plot yields 105 variants

Communicate Charisma’s tools can, for example, help users discover when and if  “trusting their gut” actually means allowing themselves to be influenced by another’s persona. And, vice versa, to  discover what it takes to project personal charisma in such a way that those on the other side of the table will “trust their gut” to favour a client.

We believe that passing through the “self-awareness gateway” is a laudable goal – and that everyone who tries it should give themselves the best possible chanceof success.

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.

The Hidden Cost of Dull Leadership

When corporate struggles put managers in harm's way

Back when corporate struggles  really put managers in harm’s way

Once upon a time, kings personally commanded their armies in war. The price of dull leadership on the battlefield was death, banishment and even the abolition of entire nation states.

In 1346 King Philip VI of France lost his sacred battle flag, the Oriflamme, at the Battle of Crécy and unleashed a century of war with England. The death of the Portuguese king Sebastian while campaigning in North Africa in 1578, caused the Spanish to take over his country for 60 years. Among English kings, Charles I lost his head in 1649; his son James II lost his throne in 1688. George II lost America without leaving London.

The pain of a top management takeover - 1649 style.

In our own age, leadership of those modern armies we know as corporations seems a far less dangerous business. Few CEOs die in this calling and the rolling of heads is symbolic – unless you happen to be a low-ranking vice president after a takeover. Those in the C suite can expect a golden parachute, three months’ ‘gardening leave’ – and a resumption of calls from the headhunters.

But the truth is dull leadership has always been and continues to be the most dangerous and costly element of all human endeavour – including in corporate life.

Dull leadership is the inability of managers to communicate future plans and needs in clear and compelling terms that motivate and inspire the workforce and other stakeholders. It is the costliest of all factors dragging down the modern enterprise.

Dull leadership is about trying to fix your weaknesses in public – rather than focusing on your strengths in front of your troops.

Just like an infection that breaks down the body’s defences to degenerative disease, dull leadership opens the path for all the ills that bring eventual defeat on the corporate battlefield. Low staff engagement. Alienated customers. Demotivated channel partners. Ageing brands. Tired sales teams. Cynical shareholders. Reinvigorated competitors.

Now wonder leadership is the Holy Grail of business studies and business publishing.

Effective leadership is the power to influence others  (employees, stakeholders, customers, competitors, enemies) to accept and then force themselves to do things they would not otherwise do, expressed wholly through communication. Effective leaders who tell stories of tomorrow, engage and inspire others to follow them into future they have the power to shape.

Yet since 1934, we have searched for leadership in quite different places and described it in different terms. It was then that Alfred P. Sloan, President of General Motors, founded what was to become the world’s first business school. This in turn launched an armada of MBA courses devoted to such technical aspects of leadership as planning, forecasting, cost-control, budgeting and allocation of human and other resources.

Business School innovator: Alfred Sloan's class of 1895

It’s an inconvenient truth that while these professional skills have in the past done admirable service for an elite warrior class, the rate of attrition for corporate footsoldiers is largely unaffected by management prowess. The dynamic that makes companies grow, acquire, split, divest and then die often results from a completely different definition of leadership.

It’s almost as noteworthy that many of role models in modern corporate life tend to be the iconoclasts with highly developed communications prowess, rather than logistical or administrative mavens.

Virgin's Branson makes talking  a brand strength

The Virgin Group led by Richard Branson, for example, has made a brand virtue out of its founder’s ability to project forward scenarios – even in space travel. A whole TED Talk-trained generation of Menlo Park entrepreneurs depends upon charismatic communication to pitch counter-intuitive business models.

In short, “talking the walk” is back, despite what that established icon of business publishing Jim ‘Good to Great’ Collins wrote about ‘The Death of the Charismatic Leader’  way, way back in 1997.

Facebook's Zuckerberg Communication skills did him no harm

Let’s do a test. If we were to transpose the accepted arsenal of modern MBA tools onto the battlefields of France during the Hundred Years War, who would they serve best? Would it be the King leading his army from the front by the windmill, or the Quartermaster minding the horses and baggage waggons safely at the rear, ensuring the long-bowmen doing the actual fighting got a steady supply of arrows?

Crécy battleplan: Would  you fight at the front - or the back?

Now let’s try the other way around. What was the single most important leadership used by the English king who won the Battle of Agincourt in 1415? Lovers of Shakespeare’s play Henry Vth will know it was inspiring rhetoric. Raw leadership in the face of impossible odds is all about mastery of communication for influence. No wonder the British 1944 film version became a powerful wartime motivational tool.

Shakespeare's Henry Vth rallies the troops

Fast forward to 2015. It’s no surprise, either, that more fashionable MBA schools have begun moving away from a pure focus on financial management to stress on the importance of softer, more subjective communication attributes. Communicate Charisma couldn’t agree more about the importance of this.

Yet we’re heading exactly in the opposite direction. We believe that to understand personal communications skills, they first need to be visualized. Only then is it possible to map, measure and manage this crucial leadership function. In other words, we’re applying the hard rigour of MBA thinking to the “soft stuff” of communication.

The reason is very simple. We believe the only way to optimize this crucial leadership function – and at the same time significantly reduce the very real risk of dull leadership – is to follow in the commonsense footsteps of the great-grandfather of business thinking, Peter Drucker:

Peter Drukcer: guru of strengths and weaknesses.

“Effective executives build on strengths – their own strengths, the strengths of their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates; and on the strengths in the situation, that on what they can do. They do not build on weaknesses. They do not start out with the things they cannot do.”

So when it comes to communication, how exactly does the “effective executive” find out what his strengths and his weaknesses are? He – or she – can map and measure these skills using the online self-assessment methodology pioneered by Communicate Charisma.

Equipped with a confidential map and its detailed guidance about the executive’s communicate persona, he or she can embark on a journey of self-development toward greater strength and authenticity, supported by the interactive training workshops we provide.

We’re not saying every leader has a big battle to fight in the open: rapport, not rallying the troops, could be your forte. Often, your most important conquests will be made in the intimacy of a boardroom, or aboard a private jet. We don’t work with any kings, or even generals. But if you do need to mobilize and inspire a corporate-sized army, Communicate Charisma can show where your strongest suit lies.

It’s no coincidence, perhaps, that the graphic representation for Communicate Charisma recalls an era when powerful leadership symbols were used by leaders in real harm’s way, to guide and protect their forces. Our own graphic language and logo is inspired by the Oriflamme, the banner carried by Charlemagne and French kings. Hence the history lesson.

Oriflamme:  symbol of kingly power

Yet Communicate Charisma is a very modern tool bringing empirical rigour and sound business sense to the science of leadership communications. Our mission is to help influential communicators avoid the dangerous pitfalls of dull leadership.

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.

The Steak, the Sizzle – and the “Ooh-La-La.”

What is it that confers on some people the capacity to influence others, ensuring that their willpower or idea will prevail – often in the unlikeliest circumstances?

Ali Baba’s Jack Ma was rejected by schools, by local universities, by the Chinese police, even by Kentucky Fried Chicken, and later by Harvard University, before his well-deserved moment of fame and fortune arrived.

Such people aren’t always the best at framing or winning arguments; they may not be the best trained at business schools; might not be the most original, or even the most charming or sympathetic. Yet they end up transforming the way other people think and influencing outcomes in their favour. This is how some people “make the weather,” in the process manufacturing their own luck. It’s also called success.

There is a feedback mechanism at work here, for it is only when we, the listeners, confer certain favours upon such lucky people, that they gain power over us. The attribute these people have is called charisma. It is visible both among individuals and among institutions and companies – where it is defined as ‘Brand Strength.’

There is nothing in the technical specifications of the iPhone smartphone that a Samsung handset cannot do equally well – yet the Apple product has iconic status. In the world of off-road travel, the same still holds true with Land Rover vehicles of British origin, as compared to their Japanese counterparts.

It has brand oomph, but can a Range Rover do anything a Toyata jeep can't?

It has brand oomph, but can a Range Rover do anything a Toyota jeep can’t?

In the world of finance, it’s a commonplace that investors don’t just want ‘Steak’ – the empirical proof of economic outperformance. They want ‘Sizzle’ too, in the shape of a narrative with exciting prospects of future growth. For a tiny handful of companies, there’s something that goes way beyond Steak or Sizzle – let’s call it the “Ooh-La-La” of investing.

Amazon's Bezos: the  allure of a trillion dollar startup

Amazon’s Bezos: the allure of a trillion dollar startup

Amazon acquired it when Jeff Bezos labelled his company a “permanent start-up,” advising widows and orphans not to buy stock because the investment ride would be too exciting for them. Ali-Baba acquired it with Jack Ma began explaining his vision of a global marketplace based on public trust, and demonstrating his extraordinary resilience, which included surviving 10 rejections by Harvard.

Ali Baba's Jack Ma: "you trusted me with US$27 billion."

Ali Baba’s Jack Ma: “you trusted me with US$27 billion.”

These “top of pyramid” examples of “Corporate Charisma” in action, show how both individuals and their companies exert an extraordinary effect over customers, markets and investors. The principle that underlies such successes might seem wholly unattainable for the rest of us. Yet the truth is that the founders of Amazon, Ali Baba and others simply applied their “Ooh-La-La” over a 20-year period to transform the prospects for their businesses. The result is history.

New examples keep popping up all the time. The latest figure to demonstrate t.he disruptive power of charisma in communication is the new Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.

Greece's Varoufakis: New financial David confronts EU's immobile  Goliath.

Greece’s New David confronts EU’s financial Goliath.

Greek premier Alexis Tsipras and his newly-victorious Syriza party may set the broad tone for the emerging ‘David and Goliath’ narrative of tiny, indebted and undisciplined Greece standing up to the grim-faced money men of the European Commission. But the real negotiation and the opinion formation rest entirely upon the shoulders of Yanis Varoufakis – the new Bruce Willis on the international news circuit.

With an astonishingly assured performance for a man in office less than a week, Varoufakis used a live TV broadcast on the BBC to set out in layman’s terms his country’s plight, to show his mastery of the situation, and to expose the BBC anchor’s arrogance and incompetence – all with charm and consideration. His stunning media performances leverage Greece’s nimble strength against the ungainly might of the financial system’s Troika. If Malcolm Gladwell is right with  his “large vs. small” theories, then tiny, undisciplined Greece could soon deliver a shock to Goliath-like and  seemingly immobile Angela Merkel of Germany.

These are just a few examples of what we already know: the race is not always to the swiftest with an Excel spreadsheet, the brightest with the Business Model Canvas, or the most adept in delivering PowerPoint presentations. Something else defines success.

The truth is that management – and indeed the social progress from infancy to retirement we call life – is mostly about effective communication and influencing others. Above all, it is about the ability to tell “The History of the Future” – to envision a desired set of over-the-horizon outcomes, and then to explain how these will be achieved, step-by-step. And then get other people to deliver these outcomes.

Those who can tell “The History of the Future” in chunks that are sufficiently engaging and achievable, will persuade those around them to go out and build the future outlined by a person they will start calling their leader.

“Future Guidance” isn’t just a technical term used by CFOs to give brokers’ analysts an alluring peek of the next quarter’s numbers in language that’s permitted by stock market regulators. Future Guidance is what the leadership storytelling of Jack Ma and Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook is all about. Future Guidance is charisma-in-action.

Apple's Tim Cook: not Steve Jobs but his Forward Guidance is  quite good enough

Apple’s Tim Cook: not Steve Jobs but his Forward Guidance is quite good enough

But, to deliver Future Guidance, you need “Ooh-La-La.” It’s tempting to think that these skills are reserved for a few superstars like Bezos and there is nothing we can do about it.

But we can do quite a lot, actually. Just as star athletes are really individuals like us who have developed and trained their physique and coordination to an extraordinary degree, so “charismatic” leaders are simply people who have developed this special kind of musculature. Some are lucky. Most have worked hard.

Usain Bolt: Just like us, but  with bigger muscles and more charisma.

Usain Bolt: Just like us, but with bigger muscles and more charisma.

In the same way that most of us go to the fitness academy to retain a basic level of health yet are unlikely to train to a level much higher than that which stops us having heart attacks or getting diabetes, so our communication skills can get stuck at a level of proficiency that allows us to “muddle through” despite an accumulation of bad habits in daily interactions.

Yet we can choose to change all this. Mapping, measuring and managing those communication attributes we possess is the way to reveal the hidden “Ooh-La-La” factor that each person possesses.

Communicate Charisma has developed a methodology to democratize access to charisma and to allow individuals to embark on a personal journey of development. Each individual’s charisma assets are shown in intuitive, easy-to-grasp visual formats.

Engaging leader profile

Engaging leader profile

If you’ve read this far, we hope you’ll be curious enough to explore our site and find out how we do it – and how you can express interest in joining a Communicate Charisma One Day Workshop.

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.