According to Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, there are three components to charisma: Presence, Power, and Warmth. Last week we talked about the nature of real Presence and how to develop this vital quality. Today we’ll tackle that second element: Power.
Charismatic individuals are powerful people. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the leader of the free world or the chairman of a multi-national corporation. In fact, you can find individuals who convey Power in the humblest walks of life. Power, according to Cabane, simply “means being perceived as able to affect the world around us, whether through influence on or authority over others, large amounts of money, expertise, intelligence, sheer physical strength, or high social status.”
Being able to affect the world around us. Powerful people can get things done, or at least they give that impression. Charismatic individuals draw people into their orbit like a magnet, and Power is the crux of that magnetic force. It’s a primal attraction. Back in our caveman times, our survival could depend on being chummy with the big dogs at the top of the social hierarchy – those who could offer protection, food, and women. To better enable us to seek out and latch onto such people, our brains evolved to cue in on body language and status markers that indicate power.
We may have left the savanna thousands of years ago, but people are still incredibly drawn to those who have resources, or simply seem to know how to get them. Our very survival may no longer depend on our connections with such people, but our access to greater personal and professional opportunities can.
It’s extremely important to point out here that each of the three components of charisma must be deftly combined in order to produce personal magnetism. You may be the most affable, attentive person in the room, but without Power, people will at best just see a nice guy, and, at worst, someone who’s needy and desperate; it may seem harsh, but generally the value people place on your Presence and Warmth depends on the amount of power they perceive you to have. Here’s a quick example. If you received a compliment on a job presentation from both a co-worker and the CEO of the company, which compliment would mean more to you? If you’re like most people, it’d be the CEO because he’s got the power.
On the flip side, Power in the absence of Warmth and Presence is a charisma killer. A powerful man who lacks these tempering qualities can be seen as important and impressive, but will come off as aloof, arrogant, and cold.
The currents of Presence, Power, and Warmth must be harmoniously intertwined to produce truly electric charisma.
How to Increase Your Charismatic Power
Increasing your charismatic Power may seem difficult; it may feel like applying for a job where you need experience to be hired, but to get that experience, you need to have that job first! Remember, however, that charisma is about how other people perceive you, so you don’t actually have to have a million dollars or the Pope on speed dial. Nor do you need to be able to “crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women” (though those things can certainly help). In order to achieve Conan-esque power, you first simply need to offer the impression that you’ve already got it. Fake it until you make it! As people perceive your charismatic Power and invite you into their circles of influence, you’ll gain in real world power, which will make you feel and demonstrate more charismatic Power – setting off a virtuous cycle that leads to greater and greater success.
Offering an impression of power mainly comes down to enhancing the things humans are wired to hone in on when trying to determine someone’s level of it: body language and appearance.
Here’s how to do that, along with a few other proven Power-boosters:
Boost your confidence. Power first begins in the mind. If you feel confident and powerful, others will feel it too. Self-assurance gives you an irresistible aura that draws people in and makes them want to get to know you better. Developing confidence deserves its own post, but for now know that the crux of confidence is mastery. Expertise, regardless of the skill or the area of knowledge, marks you as someone with resources, and a man with enough perseverance to plunge to the very depths of a subject. Attaining mastery over something will also fundamentally change the way you feel about and carry yourself.
Putting the rest of these tips into practice will also help boost your confidence.
Know a little about a lot. In addition to one area of expertise, you should also seek to know as much about as many subjects as possible. Intelligence is one of the key markers of a man who is able to affect the world around us, and the more conversations you can confidently wade into and add onto, the smarter (and more well-liked) you will seem to others. How do you gain a wide breadth of knowledge? Read, read, read. Read every chance you get.