Yes, You Can Develop More Charisma – But There May Be Limits
He was the incandescent man. Phil Graham walked into a room and took it over, charming and seducing whomever he wished, men and women alike. No one in Washington could match him at all, not even, in the days before he became President, John F. Kennedy.
Everyone adored Phil Graham.
David Halberstam, The Powers that Be (Phil Graham married Katharine Meyer, whose father owned the Washington Post. She is, of course, better known as Katharine Graham).
We now understand charisma as a set of behaviors.
Olivia Fox Cabane, The Charisma Myth
I’ve been thinking about charisma. Bob Morris does not steer us (me) wrong on books, and he is high on the new book The Charisma Myth. (read his review here). So, I am reading it in parts, in brief moments. I like it. It has a lot of great, practical advice. I am looking forward to working through the specific suggestions about how to develop a charismatic presence, how to make a charismatic impact.
But, I suspect that this is like so many other things. We can all get better; maybe noticeably better. We can all develop some/many of these traits. We can work on intentionally learning how to leave an impression, how to have “charisma” (the book talks about what to wear, how to develop a good handshake… practical steps). All of these are useful, good, helpful… and they do and will lead to greater presence, greater charisma.
But I suspect that we could work really hard at this for years and we will still not turn ourselves into a Phil Graham. And therein lies the frustration. We read a title like The Charisma Myth, and we inevitably start comparing ourselves to the genuine superstars.
So, here is my counsel. Yes, you can learn to be noticed in a room. You can learn the behaviors that will make an impact on others. (And don’t forget to be sincere in such a pursuit, as Bob Morris warns us in his review).
But when a Phil Graham shows up, chances are he will still take the room over. So, in the presence of a superstar, just relax and enjoy the show.
A side note: I am asked “what is the best book you have ever read?” more times that I can count. I find that question impossible to answer. There are so many variables; the “place” I was in at the time of the reading; the purpose of the book, and my purpose for reading the book. But The Powers that Be by David Halberstam would go on my short list for a book that is absolutely worth the money and time.