3 Essential Components of Charisma

By Michael Nagle, PCC

In her book The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane explores how anyone can master the art and science of personal magnetism to become more influential, persuasive and inspiring.  Truly effective leaders embody the three essential elements of charisma; presence, power and warmth, in every interaction with others.

Being fully present in the here and now with another person means giving them your undivided attention. When we are fully present we have a moment-to-moment awareness of what’s happening, we are not caught up in our own thoughts, daydreaming, thinking about the past or worrying about the future. This type of presence demonstrates respect, caring and concern for others which builds trust and increases their willingness to follow your lead.

Presence is a learned skill that with practice and patience can be developed.  Cabane suggests the following simple exercise to help you become more present. “The very next time you are in a conversation, try to check whether your mind is fully engaged or whether it is wandering elsewhere (including preparing your next sentence).  Aim to bring yourself back as often as you can by focusing on your breath or your toes for just a second, and then get back to focusing on the other person.”

The second essential charisma element is power.  Power is expressed through appearance, how others react to someone and most of all through body language.  Body language is a mirror of your emotions and speaks more strongly than words. Friendly body language suggests good intentions and a confident posture suggests self-assurance.

The following are examples of powerful body language:

  • an open and erect posture,
  • the use of broad gestures,
  • longer eye contact,
  • leaning forward,
  • orienting body and head toward others.

Amy Cuddy in her book Presence points out that our voice also communicates power.  “When we feel powerful, we speak more slowly and take more time.  We don’t rush.  We’re not afraid to pause.  We feel entitled to the time we’re using.”

The third element, warmth is characterized by a goodwill towards others.  When we make people feel comfortable, respect their personal space and mirror their body language we portray warmth.  Practicing gratitude, goodwill, and compassion towards others as well as ourselves will increase warmth and confidence.

This sort of charisma is not a technique that can be put on like a coat; rather it is an embodied way of being that produces an overall assessment of trustworthy leadership.  In my experience, coaching clients who develop an increased awareness of their internal mental state and their body language become capable of developing this powerful way of being with practice and patience.


For more practical tips on leadership, consult with Michael.