The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane
I characterize myself as an introvert. I generally do not go to a social event unless I know someone else is going. If I find myself at such an event by myself (such as company function or client event), I tend to be on the sideline and find comfort if I find someone I know. What a sense of relief as you do not like being a sore thumb standing there by yourself. Do you feel the same anxiety as I do?
Let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with being an introvert and introvert qualities can have benefits in many circumstances. Many great leaders are introverts as well. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg are a few examples. Wait, how is Obama in there? He was the president and their main job is to interact with people! I think he is a classic example of what this book postulates: The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane.
Let me give you some details on why I decided to read this book. I am an introvert but my recent job requires social engagement with my clients and do presentation in front of a big audience. Clearly, this is out of my comfort zone. I am in a role where I have to be engaging, authoritative, convincing or confident depending on the situation. Naturally, being charismatic would be the ideal trait to have in this role. I am sure, as many of you, think that charisma is something you are born with. You have seen many movies where they can convince people to do anything – I’m thinking “Wolf of Wall Street” and “sell me this pen.” However, I decided to pick up this book. Apparently, charisma can be trained and it is not an inherent talent.
The book takes a very methodical approach in to how a person can be charismatic. The book goes in to different types of charisma and how each are best for what situation. The four types the author focuses on are focus, visionary, kindness and authority. The author goes in to what type of personality is best for each of these types of charisma. Granted, you can also learn all four types but some are easier to relate based on your personality. The author discusses how to get to a charismatic state by overcoming obstacles, putting you in right mental state, body language and proper verbal communication. The author gives examples and real life lessons to back up her ideas in a clear and concise way.
I found the book fascinating because it was very insightful and showed that I can take actions to control my outcome. I can no longer sit there and make excuses that I was not born to be charismatic. Granted, you will need to get out of your comfort zone. However, to develop personal growth you have to be outside your comfort zone and try something new. You gain perspective and appreciate it more. The book does lay out you have to train and exercise just like you would when practicing something new. Even these are uncomfortable for me such as practicing your body language and voice intonation in front of mirror or video recording. You have to practice every day like any skill and eventually you get to the book’s fundamental message – you can become charismatic. I am going through this exercise and will check back with my updates soon.