Charisma is something I was talking about tonight with a friend – perhaps he’ll recognize himself here – and it made me think about the kinds of charisma I’ve seen.
Charisma isn’t about good looks, it’s about maybe a kind of intensity, or the kind of personality that is larger than life. Someone who puts out a bit more wattage, or takes up a little more space than the rest of the room.
To me, charisma is the quality of being the person that people want to watch in a room, the one that they check in with and watch, even if it’s not obvious.
Some people have natural charisma, I think. You’ve seen them. They’re the striking woman you see across a restaurant and notice, or the arresting-looking man on the elevator and eavesdrop on his phone conversation.
Some people can turn on charisma. It’s not natural, not always there, but something they can work up to or find the switch. I was always like that.
I don’t consider myself charismatic by nature. I’ve talked about being shy still, at times, growing up very different from others, and I am not the most naturally warm person. But I know how to make a room watch me, I know how to work a room, how to present a class so you are listening and laughing both.
There were many times, particularly in the last few years I hosted the munch, that I really didn’t want to go.
I was tired. I was disillusioned because of things done and not done in and by the community. I was impatient with the fact that my first concern in any scheduling, personal, professional or private was, “Oh, crap, is that a munch weekend…?”
So, I didn’t really want to go. I was going, of course, so I was going to have to suck it up.
I would start practicing my smile, loosening up my small talk on the way there. I’d go through the list of who I needed to ask something, who was doing what so I could ask about it.
Who had a new grandbaby or had started back to school or just moved to a new house?
In the parking lot, I’d put on my lipstick and the last spritz of perfume and get out, smiling, and by the time I got downstairs, it was all fine.
I was also saying tonight that it’s interesting the little nuggets of wisdom you find really speak to you as you get older.
“Fake it till you make it.”
Keep smiling and acting like you’re having a fabulous time and you will be, after a bit.
Charisma is like that for some of us, I think. Faking it till we make it, “dressing” for the personality we want, not the one we have.
There’s also something I have always referred to as “Bubba charisma.”
Bubba charisma is what Snookie has. (I guess. I’ve never really watched the show, but I am projecting.)
Bubba charisma is what Larry the Cable Guy has. (Again, no experience, but projecting.)
I have know people whom, for the life of me, I could not figure out what ANYONE saw in them.
Most of them were not bad people – one was, a very very bad person – but they were just sort of… Bubbas.
The most famous example of Bubba charisma is, of course, George W. Bush.
I think it’s very difficult to be a leader without charisma. If people won’t listen, it’s hard to get them to follow.
If no one is following, well, then, you’re just taking a walk, not leading.