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Why do Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair work toward their goals with a confident stride and clear mind? Charismatic leaders radiate energy. That is why they become more attractive and they can motivate people for the oddest goals (most often without extra payment). Do you also want to gain extra charisma? This step-by-step plan will help you on your way.
Susanne Donner in her article says that charisma is an interactive process, not just a characteristics. Charisma needs to be ‘fed’ with the response and attention of the follower. A charismatic leader without followers loses their motivation and becomes stagnant.
And yet, you can partially learn charisma. Charismatic leadership starts with the decision of one individual. In his biography, the Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama writes: ‘When I decided to go for the senate of the United States, i was very unsure of myself.’ After a period of despair, resentment, and inner anger regarding his fate, he came to a form of acceptance of his own human limitations. And as he writes himself: ‘I think that it was this acceptance, which allowed him to come up with the daring plan of becoming a candidate in the running for president of the United States.’ His charismatic win gave him the presidentship and the Nobel Peace Prize.
How does a person start this process? Each genius follows their own path, and still there are some elements which always re-occur. Additional to the research which Donner described, we put the most important steps to building up charisma into a concrete plan of action which the reader can follow, or adapt to themselves.

Step-by-step plan for charismatic leadership

WeAk 1: First, create physical energy

Fashion designer Giorgio Armani is 77 years of age. He sports every morning before work for one and a half hours under guidance of his coach before going to work. Bush and Sarkozy are well-known morning joggers. During his election campaign, Obama had a daily physical training program which he followed according to a strict schedule. Is this then really a priority? Do these peak-performers not have anything better to do than to waste their time on a home-trainer or fitness machine?
People who do sports, activate their white muscle fibers. These help in building a good posture, which radiates confidence. Depressed people, on the other hand, walk and sit around in a hunched up fashion. That is why doing an hour of aerobic sports – where you can continue with relaxed breathing – is a good start – but make sure to build it up gradually.
Day 1:
Start the first day with a relaxed warm-up of five to eight minute so that your heart falls within the warm-up zone on the age graph (between min. and max.) on page 101. After that, you train for about 10 minutes at a heart rate of about 180 minus your age.
Day 2: Enjoy your body:
Yesterday you trained for ten minutes after warming up. From today onward, you extend your training time by five minutes every day, until you reach fifty minutes of effective bodily training.
For mental training, fifteen minutes per day is often enough, but if you want to experience the full physical radiation and energy of an Obama or Armani, these fifteen minutes will unfortunately not be enough. Only after those fifteen minutes, one’s endurance really starts to build up.
From today onwards, also try to start enjoying your body and the things you notice during sports. Use your five senses to notice your surroundings. That is why sports – pick something you enjoy doing – are best done in nature or in a beautiful environment.

Week 2: Create mental energy

Today, a new phase starts. The first week you have mainly trained your body and become conscious of your direct environment. Now, we will extend this consciousness over time: during your physical training, take fifteen minutes to think back over the past 24 hours, and consider all the small moments which made you feel content. This will give you inner peace and energy, which you will then radiate.
Martin Seligman, the American researcher which we discussed in the previous article, did a study regarding the link between optimism and the results of the American elections. Based on the level of optimism in the texts and speeches of the presidential candidates, Seligman could predict who would win the elections with a 90% certainty. Optimism adds to charisma and the contentment exercise above will develop your optimism. You can easily combine this exercise with the exercises for developing self-confidence mentioned in our previous article in the series ’15Minutes4Me.com’.

Week 3: Create social energy

After two weeks of working on our own inner energy, we have created the basis to radiating charisma. From now on, during your hour of sports think, for fifteen minutes, of an employee, colleague, or client whom you will meet soon. Think of all the things you appreciate, admire, or are thankful about which have to do with this person.
This exercise will make it so that you subconsciously radiate positive energy toward the person, even without actively doing anything for this. They will feel that they are important to you, and you would be surprised about what you will get in return over time. Do note: this only works if your appreciation is authentic. Our body namely sends out non-verbal signals when we fake acknowledgement, appreciation, or respect. Make sure to do the exercise every day, each time with someone else who has important to you in your mind.
We must state that, if you do this exercise and think of someone with whom you do not have a good relation, it can take several weeks to months until you start getting positive signals from them in return. That is why we recommend to start your experience with people with whom your current contact already is good. The principle at work here, is the phenomenon ’emotional mimicry’, from the experiment by Amir Emrez, which is described by Susanne Donner in her article.

Week 4: Create charismatic energy

Step 1: Build up charismatic energy. In the last week you build up charisma for a specific occasion or a meeting of strategic importance. Then, during your fitness hour, think of the main people or the target group which you want to approach. Consider what you admire or appreciate in them. Feel this appreciation physically, in your own body. consciously feel where and how you feel this in your body.
Step 2: Play a movie in your mind. Repeat the images and feelings from the past step, and make a film in your mind in which you see yourself go to the meeting or your targeted audience in a successful and empathic way. See yourself smiling, with a healthy, deep, self-confident smile. Visualize your own goal, bring your client or employee to mind. Play a movie in your own mind in which you show yourself how you want the meeting to go. Replay the scenario again and again until you feel good about the meeting and its results.
Step 3: Plan of action. When you get home, take up a piece of paper and answer the following questions in writing:

  • What can I appreciate about my client/employee/boss? (at least 5 characteristics)
  • How can I show this appreciation in an honest way? (3 or more ways)
  • What is my core goal?
  • What limit can I not cross during the negotiation? And why?
  • On which points am I willing to be flexible?
  • What can I do to decrease the chance that the person will take things in a wrong or personal way?

Step 4: Overcoming obstacles

Repeat this exercise the next days, but also imagine your client or employee coming with counter-arguments. Keep your positive feeling for them as a person, while you try out diverse (respectful) responses. This is something you do until you find a proper answer to their resistance, and until you feel good about the entire mental movie.
When you get home, you note the answers to the following questions down in writing:

  • Which counter-arguments or complaints could be brought up by the person or audience?
  • What answers or solutions can I give to this?
  • How can I make sure that both me and the person or audience continue to feel good about the entire conversation?

The next day you repeat different scenarios from the movie in your mind, while you mentally go through all the different perceptions which you wrote down the day before and adapt everything until it all feels good.

Day 30: Charisma Day: the special day on which  you aim for success!

After four weeks of preparation, you are not ready to hold your elective speech, ask your beloved to marry you, or to close the deal of your life.
A friend of mine was involved in the preparation of the speeches which Bill Clinton held in Belgium in his time. She confirmed that this mental preparation during the evening before the important speeches was gone through entirely, in the recreated room in the hotel where the president was staying. So yes: even he took the time to prepare mentally. This was also so during the evening before Bill Clinton gave his speech to refute the scandal regarding Monica Lewinski. He then called his coach, who asked him to bring up the right feelings in order to create the right atmosphere in his crucial speech. Success does not happen by chance.
Just before the meeting in which you want to feel and radiate charisma, you prepare for about two to three minutes. Remind yourself of the pleasant warm feeling in your (now) healthy body. Remember the moments of contentment. Remember the appreciation of the person or group which you are about to meet. Then focus on the goal you want to reach together with them. Then enter the meeting with this feeling, and focus. This is something which you can do when going to a job interview, when entering into a contract, for important negotiations, for the solving of conflict, and to reach many other goals which you are interested in.
Charisma as a habit Of course, successful charismatic leaders do not do this just once, but they do it again every day. They consciously repeat this schedule, until it has become a subconscious habit. If you want to make charismatic leadership a habit, you can start by choosing one charisma day per week, for an important happening or goal, and then increase the frequency of your charismatic days until it has become a habit. And to treat yourself, you can take a day of once and again, not setting goals, and just enjoying life while you live it.
Interactive charisma Donner already described it: charisma does not come from one person. It is an interaction between one person and another person or audience. The thirty-day plan above only exists to create a spark. To make sure that you stay motivated to be a charismatic leader, it is important to constantly pick your goals in such a way that they are reachable and motivating. You can have extremely ambitious final goals, but this can only be done by focusing on small steps toward these goals.
When Obama realized during his first campaign tour that his dreams did not compute with those of the average American, when he experienced opposition, he moved to a more humble in-between goal: ‘I tried to keep my mouth shut and listen to what people wanted to tell me. I listened to how people speak of their work, of their business, of their local school, of their anger toward Bush, of their anger toward the Democrats, their dogs, their back ache… I was surprised at how humble their dreams were.’ Several months later we heard the charismatic slogan: Yes, we can!
Charisma means leading by listening. Leading is done by first following what is happening within your targeted audience. That is what the third week of the thirty-day program prepares you to do: pay attention to the targeted group, because charisma is interaction.
Durable charisma does not only consist of interaction with the target audience, but also with reality. Durable charismatic leadership makes it so that there are continuous steps forward. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King are examples thereof, as is the Dutch Toon Herman in the hearts of people. Whether Obama will also enter this club, is something which only time can tell.
Medical tip If you train for about an hour with a heart rate of 180 minus your age, you should technically be able to just have a conversation without getting out of breath. With such a heart rate, your body will start feeling pleasantly warm after about fifteen minutes. To avoid cramps, it is best to  take a magnesium tablet and drink a lot of water before, during, and after sports. After the exercise, make sure to cool down for at least five minutes, by going for a walk, for example. Make sure to ask your doctor whether your sports schedule is good for you. They can also refer you to a sports doctor, cardiologist, or sports coach.
In case your energy is very low, we recommend you to do the online self-test on ’15Minutes4Me.com‘ first in order to make sure that you do not have a depression or burnout.
Do not tell anyone about doing this exercise, and you will be amazed by the successes you will notice.Make sure only to talk about this after you have received your first positive feedback from your surroundings.

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Paul Koeck, MD

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