Category: Charisma

Obtaining Charisma


Elon Musk

Time to read: 5 min

On the 31st of March, Elon Musk stepped out on stage to introduce Tesla’s first mass production electric sedan named the Model 3. That day I watched Elon present to an excited and enthusiastic audience.  While his delivery was not the best, the Model 3 did not disappoint and as a result has had 300k pre-orders to date.

Musk has a long list of incredible achievements from co-founding Paypal and building innovative companies such as

With an amazing track record of success, its obvious that Elon must be a great leader.  And as with all great leaders of magnitude, he possess the elusive skill of charisma.


The charisma link
We often associate charisma with those who are in positions of power, who dress well and have a job title to match. But today this is not enough to tick the charisma box.

Businesses operating in an environment controlled by a culture of fear and authority alone will not last (at least not in the long term).  Our expectations of what a workplace should embody have changed and as a result more leaders and less managers are needed.

You may have seen this table (or something similar) on your LinkedIn feed:

Management Leadership
– Controls + Empowers
– Authority + Goodwill
– Takes credit + Gives Credit
– Uses others + Develops others
– Fear + Enthusiasm


From the table above and using Elon as an example, leadership requires a different set of skills that we traditionally associate with charisma and which are more personal.

Elon is an interesting example, as I mentioned earlier Elon’s delivery was not the best, he stuttered through his presentation and at times struggled to find the right words to purvey his ideas.  If we assume that Elon has a high level of charisma, it lead me to think:
• What is charisma? And
• Can charisma be demonstrated in different forms outside of speeches and presentations?

The belief I have is that charisma and leadership are tied closely together.


Charisma defined

“Compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”

By examining the definition alone, its easy to see why charisma is synonymous with leadership.  The good news is that displays of charisma can happen everyday in the interactions we have with our friends, family and co-workers.  And who wouldn’t want to have a number of devoted followers!  😃

Charisma can generally be categorised into four groups.  Two of them are immediately accessible to everyone, so we’ll start with them.


The Focus Charisma
The focus charisma is easy to access and is highly effective.  It requires you to be completely present, free from distraction and be able to fully absorb what others are saying.

The focus charisma demands giving someone your full attention, this can be achieved by not doing other tasks, fidgeting and letting your mind drift while listening to someone else speak.  Keep strong eye contact in short bursts.  The outcome is to make people feel heard and understood.


Kindness Charisma
The kindness charisma is expressed entirely through your body language.  The kindness charisma will make others feel cherished and embraced;  as result this charisma style is heavily reliant on your ability to show warmth through your face.

Those who are genuinely caring and sympathetic towards others are easily able to express warmth through their eyes and avoid signs of tension, coldness and criticism.  For others who don’t have this natural tendency it may take a little more effort to bring up those feeling of empathy.


Using the visionary charisma takes a little more skill… The visionary is able to motivate others, show passion and is able to deliver their message with a level of conviction that sheds away any self doubt that others may have.

There is a tendency to associate visionaries with popular figures like Steve Jobs or a Martin Luther King.  But visionaries can be used on a small scale too, it alss helps that the message being delivered has some level of altruism in order further inspire others.


The authority charisma has to be earned through position, job title and status; consequently it is not directly accessible to everyone.  Those with the authority charisma have the ability to affect our world in some way or form.

The authority charisma is displayed through high level of confidence and is used as a means to get others to simply listen and obey without questions.   Earlier in the article I noted that working on authority alone is not enough and this is due it’s supplementary effects.

The authority charisma:

  • doesn’t invite feedback and
  • inhibits critical thinking in others

It therefore should be balanced with other types of charisma styles to avoid the ivory tower syndrome.


Where to from here..
Its fun to go out and try on a particular charisma style or see if you can identify a charisma style with others that you work with.  Choosing the right charisma style will depends on a few factors:

  • What you are comfortable with (i.e. you own personality)
  • What you are trying to achieve (the goal) and
  • The situation you are in.

As it turns Elon Musk is a master of the focus charisma.  In the workplace he sits in the corner of the office and hides behind two giant monitors.  He uses this as a way to shield himself from the rest of the office.  But when he emerges behind those monitors he is completely present and 100% focused on who he is listening to.

It would be fair to assume that Elon is super focused on everything he does, including his people.  And that’s where it all starts and where it all finishes; its all about the people you know (in work and in life) and how you can touch them.

Where will you lead your ‘devoted followers’ ? and how you can influence them towards something bigger or direct them onto a better path?

You can read more on the topic of charisma in the book The Charisma Myth by Oliva Fox Cabana.