Today’s Oxymoron Is: Everyday Charisma


If I were to ask a crowd “what do great leaders have that others don’t seem to,” it surely wouldn’t be very long before someone would say “charisma.” And someone else would say “presence.” You might wonder:  Who has it? Do I have it? Do you have it? And, what the heck is “it,” anyway?

We would probably quickly agree on who has charisma: Dr. King, Meryl Streep, Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan, Marianne Williamson, Newt Gingrich. Okay, you can’t stand some of them, but neither can you argue the fact that they truly excite, energize, motivate people with some “thing” that they bring to the table. I, of course, want to ask about “everyday leaders” and charisma but before I do let’s try to give charisma just a little bit more definition, and more relevance for those of us who do not have Reaganesque star power.

I think Tom-I-love-hyperbole-Peters captured something mighty close to charisma, and made an audacious recommendation about who should (and shouldn’t) get promoted in organizations, when he said this in a closing line of a speech on leadership in 2003:  “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever promote any human being to any position who does not vibrate, who does not give off intensity, who does not literally exude energy.”*

Oh Lord, you’re thinking, is he kidding?  I’m supposed to “vibrate,” and to “literally exude energy?” Um, well yes. Whether you want to get promoted, and/or you want to lead from where you are, exuding energy is the key that opens the doors you need to get through.  Now, for many of you, it’s Monday morning as you read this, and that’s a tall order I’ve just laid before you.  So, let me offer a few practical tips to help you bump your charisma up.  Next week, I’ll take a very different slant on charisma and presence. For now, try this:

  • Try to gauge energy all day on a 1-10 scale – yours and others
  • Practice breathing deeply – oxygen generates energy in the system
  • When you’re on the phone, stand up – you’ll be more energized/energizing
  • Send someone a note of praise – in this case giving is getting; don’t ask me why
  • Touch other people appropriately 🙂 – it helps energy flow
  • Spend 5 minutes clearly identifying your outcomes for the day – fuzziness dissipates energy, clarity multiplies it

Do these things and you will vibrate, more than you’re used to doing. And as much as you can – with authenticity as your guide – fill your language, your steps, your gestures, and your day with intentional energy, to

Lead with your best self,


* Peters is cited in a wonderful article about charisma by Tom Bruno-Magdich called “Charisma: What is it, who has it, and where can we get it?” at his site: