According to John R. P. French and Bertram Raven there are five types of power. The fifth type, which they call Referent Power, is the power of charisma. Different manifestations of power can contribute or detract from being a successful leader. Charismatic leaders are very powerful, but as history has shown, they can use their power for good or ill. You have undoubtedly encountered charismatic administrators and teachers in your schools.
Watching these people in action is amazing. Everything around them seems to flow so smoothly. People—students and colleagues—respond to them easily, and things get done apparently effortlessly. While it may be true that some people are naturally charismatic and born leaders, all is not lost if you don’t have the ability naturally. You can learn to be a leader, and you can learn to be charismatic.
Charisma is a rarely discussed soft skill, but as with many soft skills, it is more effective than knowledge and skill. When combined with knowledge and skill, it results in great leadership. You have the skill sets, now build your charisma.
Loue Solomon explains 6 Ways to Learn to Radiate Charisma If You Don’t Have It at First. If you click to the article, you’ll read that it’s directed to the business world, but the method works very well for us.
- Be attentive – This advice keeps recurring because it’s vital, and we don’t always do it well or consistently. When someone is speaking with you, are you thinking of the next thing you have to do? Sometimes we are stopped at an inopportune time, and we are twitching waiting for the person to complete whatever they have to say so we can get on with what we were doing. They will get the message. Why should they want to be with you when you have no time for them? Instead, be honest. Tell them you want to hear what they have to say but now isn’t a good time then let them know when you can listen more attentively.
- Recognize humanness before rank – Although phrased in terms more suited to the business world, it applies to us as well. There is a hierarchy in schools, and some of us lose opportunities to build important relationships when we react to people based on that hierarchy. You are working with a student and a teacher comes in with an important question. How you handle this will speak volumes to the student. Rather than telling the student to “wait a minute,” address the teacher and ask for a minute or two to complete with the student. A variation on this is when an administrator comes in while you are working with a teacher or student. The one you are with deserves your attention. If you have to wrap it up quickly, show you know and will be back to check if there are any questions.
- Draw people out- Be curious about others. Compliment them on something you admire or notice. Ask questions. People enjoy talking about themselves. When they do, a connection forms—as long as you are listening. The more you know about someone, the more you know and understand their wants and needs. Knowing that helps you meet them better and they come to appreciate and value who and what you are.
- Notice your second language–By now you are well aware of the messages you send (and receive) non-verbally. Smiling is always a welcoming invitation to others. It doesn’t mean you have a broad smile all day long. It would look ridiculous. Rather, have a soft smile as you walk the halls and as you work. Then when someone approaches you, your smile widens in welcome. You look the person in the eye, letting them know you are focused on them. With the smile on your face, as long as your mind isn’t going elsewhere, your body will follow in extending the welcome.
- Show strength in your vulnerability–This is tough. It feels risky because it can be, but it’s about honest human contact. Share personal stories as appropriate. It opens the avenue of communication. Whether the stories are funny or show a mistake you made, it shows others you are human. Not perfect, but open to always learning.
- Never try to fake it–When you are interacting with others, faking it never works and it will result in the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. Becoming charismatic is not about manipulating people. It’s about connecting so you can work better together and accomplish more.
Practice these steps in your personal life as well. Charisma should not be something you just turn on at work. Make your life easier – radiate charisma. And I’ll trust you to use your power for good.