Charisma is a wonderful quality. It refers to someone who has a compelling charm or a magnetic presence. When you think about charisma, who comes to mind? Great leaders like John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. Movie stars, rock stars, sports players.
We assume these famous leaders and personalities have been blessed from birth with that magnetic appeal. But all of us can develop charisma. I met someone recently and was taken by his ability to draw me and others in instantly. I began to think, “What is it that he has?” It was charisma.
His name is Vinh Pham. He is founder and chief creative officer of Myodetox, a group of lifestyle physical therapy clinics in Toronto, Los Angeles, and Vancouver. He also has more than 600,000 followers on Instagram, where he posts videos of his work with clients.
In observing and talking with him, I discovered six qualities that can make anyone charismatic. When practiced, they will make others see you as a captivating leader.
The starting point of charisma is to be totally present. When I first met Pham, he walked into a group of four or five of us who were chatting over coffee, acknowledged each of us with a warm smile, and began chatting to the group. When he left, he came over, shook my hand and said how nice it was to meet me.
Being present means being present to each individual, even when you’re in a group. If you’re in a meeting, reach out to individuals as you speak to them, turn your body toward them, and radiate warmth in your face and voice. When you leave, share a parting word, a handshake, or a touch on the arm.
2. Eye contact
To be charismatic, make one-on-one eye contact. “Eye contact is way more intimate than words can ever be,” says Pham. “Being attentive with your eyes, emoting with them, is hugely charismatic.”
This is because the human retina can process 10 million bits per second, while our conscious mind processes only 2,000 bits per second. Our eyes take in more than we can absorb from spoken cues.
In an office environment, look at people whenever you are talking to them. Hold your gaze, and make your eyes resonate with warmth and empathy. People will feel the power of your eye contact, and will find you more compelling.
Your energy is what makes people want to be around you, work with you, and follow you. “Energy is also an important part of charisma,” says Pham. “Energy is infectious, so be mindful of the energy you put out.” Also, make sure to spend time around people who energize you. Pham says he surrounds himself with people he feels he can learn from. He will fly across the ocean to work with a soccer player because he is inspired by that athlete.
In the office, gauge how others are responding to you, and adjust your energy level. If they’re indifferent when you’re pitching an idea, rev up your energy level to create a better vibe.
Charismatic leaders love others. They’re selfless, not the big personalities we sometimes associate with famous people. Why do we shine when we are selfless? It’s because everyone likes to feel they’re worth knowing.
When I saw Vinh Pham in his clinic he told me he had read some of my Fast Company articles and liked them. I was touched that he’d done so. You’re not going to read everything your acquaintances have penned of course, but make sure to do your research and study the background of those you’re meeting.
Take time to reach out to everyone in your office—not only those you naturally connect with, but those who might be working alone or might be shy. Ask about their families, their holidays, their lives. People will be drawn to you if you show a keen interest in them.
To be charismatic, you need a compelling profile. For starters, speak up at meetings. Attend company events, and show up for networking opportunities. Build your leadership presence and realize that every meeting, every conversation, every encounter is an opportunity to develop your profile.
Social media is another way to expand your reputation. If you check out Vinh on Instagram, you’ll see him sharing ideas, rehab techniques, and professional wisdom. You’ll see why he has so many followers who tune in to his Instagram posts and stories; it’s because they find him charismatic.
Finally, having a larger purpose will also make you charismatic. With purpose comes a vision—something others can buy into or be inspired by. John F. Kennedy envisioned a country where people would be inspired by patriotism to do noble acts. Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate because of her dedication to female education. These leaders are hugely charismatic because of what they believe and inspire us to believe.
Think about whether you have a purpose, or a dream that others can believe in. These dreams can come in all shapes and sizes. Pham founded Myodetox because he wanted to help people learn to value their bodies. After all, says Pham, “our body is the only thing we truly own. I wanted to educate people about their bodies and enable them to live more successfully.”