What Is Charisma?

What Is Charisma?

What is charisma?

We all want it – to be able to ‘turn it on’: to become the centre of the conversation, with people hanging on our every word, effortlessly commanding attention, respect and silence.

But what is it?

Is it something we have to be born with? Some God-given or genetic gift, some indefinable ‘quality of light’ that some have and the rest of us don’t? “You’ve either got it or you haven’t” – that’s what they say.

That’s nonsense.

It’s dishonest nonsense.

There are entire industries of people who teach communication skills, who work in the area of ‘presence’ (as I do). Drama schools and Performance Conservatories teach people to be more charismatic, to attract the eyes and ears of their audience. Those who coach public speaking and presenting skills are – in their way – training charisma.

We are all teaching people to be more charismatic – to become the sort of people who shine. If charisma is a a ‘god-given’ gift, then all of us are frauds. Are we all offering pointless and superficial techniques that have no great effect?

I think not.

How someone does something is infinitely more important than what they do. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, or how smart your ideas, if you can’t make people WANT to watch and listen to you, they won’t. That’s why so many of us train people in presence and encourage their capacity to become charismatic.

What is charisma? We have to have some kind of working definition! If we aim to train people to become more charismatic, to become more visible in the world, then we need to know what it is we’re training.


I think of it as an enhanced and focused intensification of presence.

Presence, as I’ve written elsewhere, is fundamentally the result of being attentive to, and fully aware of, the present moment – connecting with what you are doing, the activity of your mind, and who/what occupies your immediate environment.

That’s the mental foundation from which presence grows.

Charisma is a way of supercharging presence. It’s about turning the light on behind presence. Not just ‘being aware’ but becoming ‘actively engaged’ in the present moment – fascinated, excited and enthralled.

Charisma grows out of presence, but being present doesn’t necessarily make you charismatic. Charisma is built on the foundation of presence.

The great Brazilian clown, Angela de Castro, defines charisma as ‘loving being where you are’. Think about that for a moment; the charismatic person is not only present, they are loving being present. They are not only connected with what’s happening around them, they are loving being connected with what’s happening around them. They’re not only open to the conversation they’re having with you, they are totally engaged in, fascinated by and joyously focused on it – and on you! There’s no place they would rather be!

Will this do as a definition of charisma?

Charisma is not only being present, it’s knowing there’s no place else you’d rather be, no one else you’d rather be with.

In terms of our relationship with ourselves, it means – at least temporarily – being perfectly happy with who you are, in this moment, not wishing you were a different person doing things, differently.

Charisma is loving being where you are, who you are. At least for the duration of the moment you are in.

So, can it be taught?

Of course it can be taught! Any technique can be taught.

If you train people to become more present, then you can also train them to enhance that presence by engaging with the world through a lens of fascination, excitement, optimism and joy. Doing that, you will develop in them the capacity to become more charismatic.

Of course, when you teach techniques to different people, they will embody those techniques in different ways and at different levels. If you train your voice, it doesn’t mean you’re going to become the greatest singer in the world, but you will get better at using your voice. If you go to dance classes, you may never end up winning a dance competition but you will get to be a better dancer. If you train yourself in techniques of presence, and then focus on developing your charisma, you may not become Marlon Brando or Whoopi Goldberg, but you will become more present, and more charismatic.

I love Angela de Castro’s definition. She’s an extraordinary teacher, and performer. When she’s teaching, you have a real sense that there’s nothing else she’d rather be doing. She is full of passion and joy. It’s over 20 years since I trained with her, but I can still sense her presence. She imprinted herself on me. That’s charisma!It’s not a gift from God. It’s not something you’re born with. Charisma is something you do. It’s the result of a mental attitude.

The eight Principles of Presence from which I work, lay the foundation of becoming present with yourself and with your environment. The last of the eight is the shortest of them all: ‘Pursue Pleasure’. Not ‘have fun’ – ‘Pursue Pleasure’. Hunt for it. Actively seek it. Search for your bliss, joy, enthusiasm, excitement, passion, in every moment. Not only become present – become joyously present!

There are many reasons why this principle is important, but among them is this: pleasure, joy, passion and enthusiasm are the keys to charisma.

A charismatic person is someone who wants to be exactly where they are, because there is no place and no time in the world that is more exciting to them than the moment they are in right now.

Engaging joyously in each moment is a choice. If we make it, we develop our more charismatic presence.

Charisma is not a god-given gift, it is mental discipline.

If you would like to listen to me reading this post, please go to my podcast site;  https://presencepodcast.libsyn.com/what-is-charisma