Thursday, January 24, 2013

Charisma Versus Authenticity

What image would you rather project: Charisma or authenticity?

Charisma comes from the Greek word kharisma, which means "gift" or “divine favor.” According to Wikipedia, is often used to describe the ability to charm or influence people. It also refers to a quality in certain individuals who easily draw the attention and admiration of others due to a "magnetic" quality of personality and/or appearance.

Big deal. This is 2013. Charisma will only take you so far. And in an age of corporate scandal, lack of consumer trust and mass media brainwashing, there is only one attribute that picks up where charisma left off and truly magnetizes customers and coworkers to you: Authenticity.
The word comes from the Latin authenticus, or “original, genuine.” It’s defined as “worthy of trust, reliance, or belief,” and it is not the same thing as charisma. 

An article from the Harvard Business Review explained that while charismatic leaders have often been hired in times of corporate distress, charisma is much more a social product than an individual trait. Furthermore, Khurana explained, "Factors affecting corporate performance are often beyond the powers of even the most charismatic leader."

Furthermore, a related study from Cornel University, which surveyed 6,500 hotel employees worldwide, proved that organizations with employees who rated their managers as “authentic,” (not charismatic) were more profitable than hotels whose managers had gaps between their words and actions.

This is not to say charisma is worthless. I do think it’s a valuable characteristic that many successful businesspeople and leaders possess.

But it cannot stand alone.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of articles on charisma. And honestly, a lot of them piss me off. First of all; articles written on the topic of charisma usually reference famous political leaders who have innate and exceptional rhetorical/interpersonal skills. As if when it came to charisma, you either had it, or you didn’t have it. And if you didn’t, well, too bad! 

That’s why authenticity is more valuable. It doesn’t have such requirements. You don’t need to possess the interpersonal charm or brilliance of Bill Clinton to be authentic. You just need to be yourself. And anybody can do that to become a more successful communicator and businessperson.

Secondly, many articles written on the topic of charisma are way out of date. One piece in particular caught my attention, the writer of which I will not mention because, well, that’s just not cool. He said:

“There is a close association between personal charisma and success in life.”

“Fake it until you make it!”


What a load of crap.

There are many other determinants of your success besides charisma. I’ve personally read about (and met) thousands of successful people whom I never would have labeled as “charismatic.”

But you better believe every one of them was authentic.

So, don’t think that if you’re not charismatic, you’re not going to be successful.

And as far as that “fake it until you make it,” cliché?

Give me a break. That’s about as far away from authentic as you can get. People shouldn’t have to fake anything.

Do want to be perceived as “charismatic” or “authentic”? The following exercise will help you decide. I looked up the words charisma and authenticity in my thesaurus, mixed them up, then put them in this list. Go through each item and circle the one trait you’d most prefer others to perceive you as having.

1. “attractive” or “accurate”
2. “bona-fide” or “bewitching”
3. “desirable” or “dependable”
4. “faithful” or “fascinating”
5. “genuine” or “glamorous”
6. “lovely” or “legitimate”
7. “pure” or “provocative”
8. “tantalizing” or “trustworthy”

Can you tell the difference between authentic and charismatic?

I hope so. Because the people you work with certainly will.