Sunday, July 28, 2013

How To Be A Charismatic Political Leader

In his article at Psychology Today, Ronald E. Riggio, Phd. wonders, "Are Charismatic Leaders Born or Made?  Can anyone become a charismatic leader?":

"The question of whether leaders are born or made is an old one. Recent research has provided a good answer: about one third consists of inborn qualities (e.g., temperament, personality), with two-thirds being 'made' - developed over time through parenting, schooling, and experience.

"But what about charismatic leaders? There is a strong belief that charisma is some innate quality or characteristic. You either have it or you don't. Truly charismatic leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and FDR seemed to possess some 'magical' qualities. Likewise, everyday charismatic leaders seem to have some sort of gift (after all, charisma is defined as a "divine gift of grace"). But there is growing evidence that people can become more charismatic.

"Research has determined some of the key elements of charisma. Some are related to style (and personality), and may represent the 'born' part of charisma, while other elements are behaviors that are acquired, developed, and honed over time. Some recent dissertations sought to train people to be more charismatic, and there was some success in doing this. Of course, individuals in these training programs were not transformed overnight. Developing the qualities associated with charisma requires a lot of effort and energy, and some people are better at developing charisma than others.

"However, charisma is not something magical or mysterious. It is deeply rooted in ability to communicate emotionally (related to the notion of 'emotional intelligence') and relationship skills that allow charismatic individuals to make deep connections with others. Oratorical skills, being positive and optimistic, and being emotionally expressive are also part of the building blocks of charisma.

"Years ago, I wrote about our research with charisma and our early efforts to train people to be more charismatic. We are continuing this research, but focusing more broadly on developing emotional and interpersonal skills and helping leaders to become more skilled communicators in general. Of course, as one becomes a more skilled communicator, he or she is more likely to be perceived as "charismatic" by others.

"So, the answer to the question is this: Yes! Charismatic leaders are both born and made. No doubt there are 'naturally' charismatic individuals, but leadership, like charisma, can be developed and trained.


"Avolio, Bruce J. (2005). Leadership Development in Balance: Made/Born. Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.

"Riggio, Ronald E. (1988). The Charisma Quotient: What It Is, How to Get It, How to Use It. Dodd Mead.

"Test your personal charisma here."

Now that we know Charisma can be learned, let's learn how...from, a few (.pdf) paragraphs on "Charisma: The Key To Hitler's Rhetoric," an essay that gives us the flavor of Charisma:

"Hitler as a Charismatic Leader

"Hitler once declared, 'everything I have accomplished resulted from persuasion.' Rhetoric was the key to
Hitler’s success. Charisma was the key to Hitler’s rhetoric. I will describe several topics relevant to his ethos, illustrate Hitler’s acknowledged skill as an orator, and, using German sociologist/economist Max Weber’s definition and description of charisma, focus on four main characteristics of 'the Hitler Myth':
"• Hitler as a man of conviction
• Hitler as a successful leader
• Hitler as a man of destiny
• Hitler asChrist’s disciple"
Rhetoric was the key to Hitler’s success. Ethos/charisma was the key to Hitler’s rhetoric. Aristotle describes ethos as one of three means of persuasion, along with emotional appeal (pathos) and logical argument (logos). Writes Aristotle, 'the character of the speaker is a cause of persuasion when the speech is so uttered as to make the speaker worthy of belief.' For Aristotle, 'the speaker’s character [as perceived by the
audience] is the most potent of all the means of persuasion.'

"Several assumptions underlie charismatic leadership. First, it is based on perception not necessarily on
realty. Weber explains, “what is alone important is how the individual is actually regarded by those subject
to charismatic authority, by his ‘followers’ or ‘disciples’. The validity of charismatic authority rests entirely on
recognition by the ruled, on ‘proof ’ before their eyes.” Adds Willner, “it is not what the leader is but what people see the leader as that counts in generating the charismatic relationship.” Secondly, charismatic rhetoric is amoral. Aristotle explains, 'If it is urged that an abuse of the rhetorical faculty can work great mischief, the same charge can be brought against all good things (save virtue itself), and especially against the most
useful things such as strength, health, wealth, and military skill. Rightly employed, they work the greatest blessings; wrongly employed they work the utmost harm.”  Declares Willner, charismatic leadership is 'inherently neither moral nor immoral, neither virtuous nor wicked. Such questions arise only when we wish to evaluate whether a particular charismatic leader has used the relationship in the service of good or evil.' 

"Finally, because it rests in the eye of the beholder, charismatic leadership defies a standard profile.  Nyomarky explains that confirmation to a 'definable pattern of traits' is unnecessary for charismatic leadership.

"Hitler’s charismatic appeal was not limited to the German public. Close associates also succumbed to his ethos. Hitler’s secretary, Christa Schroder, writes in her memoirs, 'He possessed a gift of a rare magnetic power to reach people, a sixth sense and a clairvoyant intuition. He could in some mysterious way foretell the subconscious reactions of the masses and in some inexplicable manner mesmerize his audience.' Erwin Rommel, Hitler’s greatest general who was involved in the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, wrote to his wife in 1943, 'what power he radiates. What faith and confidence he inspires in his people.' Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect and munitions minister asks rhetorically in his memoirs, 'How is it possible that he captivated me so – and for more than a decade.'  Leni Reifenstahl, an award winning film director/producer and actress before Hitler came to power in 1933, recalls hearing Hitler speak for the first time in 1932: 'It seemed as if the earth’s surface was spreading out in front of me, like a hemisphere that suddenly splits apart in the middle, spewing out an enormous jet of water so powerful that it shook the earth. I felt quite paralyzed.'  After this experience Reifenstahl wrote to Hitler offering to produce movies for the Third Reich.

"Success Vital to Charisma
“'The Hitler Myth' portrayed a leader who possessed numerous charismatic characteristics including: courage, intelligence, goodwill, aloofness, benevolence, asceticism, even sex appeal. Most importantly 'the Hitler Myth' projected Hitler’s 'exceptional, supernatural, and extraordinary powers' by emphasizing his success and strength of character. He was perceived by millions of Germans to be providential – even messianic.

"Germans were not alone in lauding Hitler. One of his strongest admirers was Winston Churchill. In 1936 Churchill writes, 'Hitler is the greatest German of the age… he has restored Germany’s honor.'  In 1937 Churchill describes Hitler’s achievements as 'among the most remarkable in the whole history of the world.' In 1938 Churchill’s admiration for Hitler was almost ecstatic: 'I have always said that if Great Britain were
defeated in war I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among nations.'

"Supreme Self-Confidence
"German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche expressed a quality indispensable for charismatic leadership:  'Men believe in the truth of all that is seen to be strongly believed.'  Hitler projected unbounded self-confidence. Walter Langer, a Harvard psychologist, prepared a profile of Hitler for the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor of the CIA) in 1943. Langer listed Hitler’s 20 strongest qualities, emphasizing that 'Hitler’s strongest point is perhaps his firm belief in his mission. It is the spectacle of a man whose
convictions are so strong that he sacrifices himself for the cause that appeals to others and induces them to follow his example.' Otto Dietrich, who saw Hitler regularly for 12 years as his press secretary, avows, 'Hitler’s dominant characteristic was his extraordinary will power. He considered himself one of the very great men of history.'"

The simple, yet effective view on how to inject charisma into your public speaking comes from Gary Genard in an article at, "4 Easy Ways to Become a More Charismatic Speaker.":

"Here are four simple yet powerful techniques to make your presentations enjoyable for audiences. They work for informative speeches, motivational speaking, and persuading listeners. Equally important, they'll help you shine in your audience's eyes:

"1. Make eye contact. Simply put, no behavior is as fundamental to persuasion as looking at the person you’re talking to. When was the last time you trusted somebody who wouldn’t look you in the eye?

"So actively look at and relate to your audience when you speak. (When I say actively, I mean let your gaze linger for a half-a-second to a second. Don’t “flick” your eyes at your listeners.) They’ll like you more. They’ll decide that you’re basically honest. Most important, they’ll be more willing to be influenced by you.

"Avoid their gaze just because you’re nervous—or weakest of excuses, because you’re busy reading your manuscript out loud—and you’ll have virtually no chance of changing their thinking or behavior for the better.

"2. Enjoy yourself. Now there’s a novel concept! Our culture has somehow invested public speaking with an aura of inconvenience, horror, and even torture—as if the entire experience belongs in an Edgar Allan Poe story.

"But think about your own experiences as an audience member. Are you comfortable listening to a speaker who is clearly embarrassed or fearful?

"A speaker who instead presents with verve broadcasts a completely different message. Audiences instinctively feel that this is a person who has something valuable to say. It must be good stuff, they think—look at how much he or she is enjoying talking about it! Pretty soon, we as the speaker are enjoying ourselves as well.

"3. Smile. As public speakers we don’t smile enough, period. Smiling is another prerequisite to establishing trust with audiences (though it’s not as critical as eye contact). At the very least, it’s visual evidence of the speaker’s enjoyment I just mentioned in the last paragraph.

"In speaking situations where you feel a smile is inappropriate, take one of two alternate paths: (a) “open” your countenance by assuming a pleasant expression; or (b) raise your cheekbones.

"To explain what I mean by that last point, look at the famous painting American Gothic. That’s the one of the grim-faced farmer and his wife, complete with pitchfork. Now compare it to the Mona Lisa. There’s a lady with some raised cheekbones . . . and look how successful she’s been.

"4. Energize your voice. Have you ever had to strain to hear what a speaker is saying? Soft-talkers and under-energized presenters make us work too hard just to hear them. Worse, these speakers seem distant, as though we've been left out of the communication loop.

"Instead, be sure to generate enough vocal power and energy to reach every listener in the room. That includes not only people in the back, but those who are hard of hearing (always assume there is someone in this category in your audience). Remember also that your vocal energy must change in different spaces: the larger the speaking venue, the more you must project your voice. In auditoriums and lecture halls that echo, you’ll also have to speak slowly enough for the echo to reach your listeners before you go on.

"When you project sufficient energy in a presentation, you make everything easier for your listeners. Now they feel they can relax, instead of working overtime to do part of your job for you.

"(This article originally appeared in Dr. Gary Genard’s book available online at How to Give a Speech.)"

Almost every article on developing a charismatic presence carries the same information, and we present a few links to get you started on your way to fame, power, and fortune:


How to be a compelling and charismatic speaker

How to be a charismatic speaker

Communicate with “Charisma”

How to become a powerful charismatic public speaker

The Führer as a Speaker, by Dr. Joseph Goebbels

12 tactics to become more charismatic and influential

Can Charisma Be Taught?  Top 10 tips to be a more effective leader.

Charisma: who has it, and how to get it.  Are you simply born with charisma, or can anyone be taught the art of ‘lighting up a room’?

Charisma: charisma theory, charismatic powers and force of character - definitions, understanding, developing qualities of charisma, personal presence and gravitas.

How Charisma Is Perceived From Speech.  A Multidimensional Approach. (.pdf)

The photographs of Hitler were taken by his personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann to give the 'showman' Fuhrer an insight into how he looked to the German public.  They show the dictator rehearsing for his hate-filled monologues using a range of bizarre expressions and hand gestures.
The pictures, taken in the late 1920s, show Hitler addressing a pretend audience.  Once he saw them, he would vet the pictures and decide whether to incorporate the various animated movements in his engagements.  He would vet the pictures and decide whether to incorporate the various animated movements in his engagements, as the pictures, taken in the late 1920s, show Hitler pointing at a pretend audience, raising a clenched fist, opening his palms as if imploring a crowd to stand up and frowning angrily.

The concluding paragraphs from the essay, "The Fuhrer and the power of oratory,"

"Standing on a podium before thousands of Nazi party members, Hitler crossed his arms... and waited a full minute before starting to speak.

"The audience had already been kept waiting over an hour for his arrival into the hall.

"When it came to making speeches, the Fuhrer was a master of manipulation and presentation.

"In the early years of his rise to power, he often spoke in Beer Halls - and tailored his style of talking accordingly as the crowds became more inebriated.

"He would begin precisely, logically and in a restrained manner.

"But as his audience warmed to him - and had drunk more - he would launch into a ranting, raving, almost hypnotic speech style.

"Hitler was fascinated by mesmerism and even hired a voice trainer to hone this talent.

"By 1932, German production had fallen by half, with 6million unemployed during the depression.

"So in order to sway the masses, Hitler would speak of his vision of a 'great national revival'.

"And his largest asset was his oratory.

"Egon Hanfstaengl, the son of Hitler's foreign press officer, said during a recent documentary, Fatal Attraction Of Hitler: 'He had that ability which is needed to make people stop thinking critically and just emote.

"'The ability derived from his readiness to throw himself totally open - to appear bare and naked before his audience, to tear open his heart and display it.'

"And he displayed well. In his carefully orchestrated public addresses, with its grand ritual and sense of unity, Hitler gave the people what they wanted."

No one has suggested anywhere in this article or anywhere on this site that National Socialism is the way to eliminate Conservative politics from the face of the earth, but lessons can be learned from this post on political speaking and Charisma, lessons that might transform an ordinary man or woman to a position of power that can be used to wipe the Conservative scourge from our lives once and for all.


"Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education."

Bertrand Russell


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