While exploring some of the forums on TED.com, I came across this question. It was intriguing because I felt that as an immigrant teen of 14, I took the opportunity to try to “curate” my personality or at least my self-image. My response to the TED question is basically what I learned or gleamed from the experience.
First, we need to redefine “Charisma” based not on how observers react to it but on what the actual traits of charisma are. I’m making this list on the fly so you may not agree with these traits or I may have missed some that you feel should be on here.
1. Confidence – Ever notice that people with average looks can sometimes be more attractive than physically beautiful people? I believe this to be the effect of Self-confidence. And where does self-confidence come from? Not from thin air but from really knowing you can do something. Whether it be martial arts, sports, romance, politics or life in general, these are fields that can me mastered and therefore have confidence in.
2. Wit – If there’s one thing charismatic people aren’t, it’s boring. The ability be funny on your feet is a great skill to have when you’re trying to charm, persuade or make people feel at ease.
3. Great Public Speaking Skills – Not sure of this should be on the list as charismatic people are so whether they are on stage in front of a crowd or just standing with a bunch of people. But at the very least, it helps to be able to speak well or have awesome communication skills.
4. The Ability to Lead – Again, not sure if this is a non-negotiable. Maybe this is more of a “True-leader” trait but I think charismatic people are able to persuade people to follow him/her. Whether or not they lead people to positive results is another debate. Though some are born leaders, others grow into it or are trained for it.
6. Authenticity – I think we can usually spot insincerity versus authenticity even if subconsciously. And I think true authenticity and vulnerability can move our emotions and inspire action and devotion.
The caveat is that while all these traits can be learned, they can also be faked. Confidence can be feigned, humor can be rehearsed, speaking can be practiced, the authority to lead can be bestowed and one can act authentic. So whether real or fabricated, yes charisma can be learned.