For every upside in life, there is often a downside.

In this regard, charisma is no different. While many people strive to be more magnetic under the guise of being unique, there is some anguish for bona fide charismatic personalities.

Charisma, at first blush, seems oppositional to the hardwiring of introverts.

However, researchers suggest that introverts may possess attributes that make charisma more aligned with long-term achievement than extroverts.

Also, some schools of thought suggest that charismatic leaders can be introverts but are unwilling to let introversion get in the way of bringing their ideas to fruition.

The late singers Michael Jackson and Prince showed this epic power on stage.

Many charismatics are highly sensitive and feel the ebb and flow of human nature at a core level. Tuning into the nuance and connections with others requires substantial psychic energy.

The animation and zeal exhibited by charismatic personalities are ignited by a high interest in an idea, project, or mission. This is why introverts come alive when they are in their “zone.”

The late business guru, Peter Drucker, noted that successful innovation revealed a unique story, usually about a monomaniac consumed by a challenge (Flaherty, 1999).  Drucker was not specifically speaking about charismatic leaders, but the commonality is eerily similar. Drucker’s analysis of this fearless leader, who goes against the norm and is unorthodox in his desire to shatter the limitations of conventional wisdom, is the foundation of this leadership style.  This leadership brand does not listen to the crowd’s roar and insists on proving an idea correct despite overwhelming criticism.  Pundits can attribute extreme confidence, relentlessness, and steel determination to charismatic leaders. But what spurs this level of insanity from these individuals, and what can be learned by introverts who aspire to showcase their creativity and ingenuity?

In interviews, basketball great Michael Jordan said his athletic achievements hinged on an insatiable desire to succeed. The late Steve Jobs indicated that “insanity” was a prerequisite for phenomenal success. Jobs articulated that the time, attention, and hard work it takes to achieve high levels of success would naturally cause the average person to give up.  This purported insanity allows individuals to lead breakthroughs in traditional markets and innovations within new markets. So, how could introverts adopt the monomaniacal and insane traits of charismatic leaders?

Being charismatic requires much more than drawing people in; it often means pushing people away. The energy absorbed by psychically engaging others can be extremely draining. The charismatic personality cannot afford to expend energy within inconsequential venues. Often, non-charismatic characters believe charisma is about constant connections and being all things to all people. This could not be farther from the truth. Not only does the charismatic personality not desire to connect with all people, but he may also view his mission as limited to a finite number of individuals. Mentally, his mission is clear, and he sets out to impart only the variables that tie directly to the mission. Focused discipline requires a highly evolved filtering process to ensure the completion of the mission. Completing the mission is a do-or-die proposition for the charismatic personality.

charismatic introverts

The charismatic personality, which is driven by an internal passion and missionary zeal, may show sparks of charisma throughout the charismatic’s life and at other times remain dormant. In other words, the charismatic personality is not always exhibiting charisma. He is not constantly spewing nuggets of wisdom or astounding the world with his brilliance. Often, he may be “picking his spots” or looking for advantages to further his mission when times are not the most ideal for movement. Excellent preparation is mobilized at the visceral level when nothing appears to be going on at the surface. This is a far cry from merely possessing highly evolved interpersonal communication skills.

If one were to peruse the mind of a charismatic personality, he would see pulsating energy, filled with color and verve, with seemingly discordant concepts darting after one another. This kaleidoscopic picture would inspire great emotions like the fast-paced action at a circus. Still, it would all be aligned and sequential if the charismatic personality was asked to explain it. The charismatic personality lives in the field of ideas and thus needs an excessive amount of information in his efforts to complete a mission. Active listening, storytelling, eye contact, and strategic touching connect to others to gain buy-in. These traits engage others by creating a sense of connection and magnetism as a conduit for moving the mission along.

There are several strategies that introverts can exercise to become more charismatic, which are:

Have a deep, burning desire for acclaim and distinction

The insatiable desire of charismatic leaders to overcome impossible odds developed from an early childhood desire to be significant.  Early experiences stemming from abandonment, isolation, or mere low self-esteem sparked imagination in the mind and heart of the budding, charismatic leader.  For individuals devoid of these life-altering experiences, build a desire from something of general interest and let it consume you. Revisit your childhood and determine what interest or idea has persisted within you but was placed in the background out of a sense of being a “responsible adult.” Charismatic leaders follow this idea as if their life depended on it.

Become a voracious reader and use history as a template for transformation

William Duggan, in his book “The Art of What Works: How Success Really Happens,” suggested that if a concept or strategy worked in the past, with some tweaking, it would work again in the present. The Biblical Solomon’s proclamation to the world that there is nothing new under the sun is prescient for Duggan’s analysis. Shakespeare said that he made new words out of old words. Charismatic leaders study historical figures’ biographies, strategies, and tactics to conquer new territory that changes old systems of thought and operations. By becoming a voracious reader of subject matter pertinent to your ideas, you can begin imprinting your impression on the world.

Dream big and spend large chunks of time in isolation

Although charismatic leaders are viewed as “People Persons,” they create and develop many of their ideas in isolation.  Thomas Edison spent excessive time in his laboratory before inventing the incandescent light bulb.  In Dean Keith Simonton’s “Greatness: Who Makes History and Why,” Simonton noted that Albert Einstein professed that his work did not lend itself to social interaction.  Einstein reportedly said, “I am a horse with a single harness, not cut for tandem or teamwork…for well I know that to attain any definite goal, one person must be thinking and commanding (p. 388). 

Use current technology to lead

Charismatic leaders become an army of one before the rest of the population has caught on to an idea.  Twenty-two-year-old Molly Katchpole started an online petition against Bank of America (BOF) after discovering that BOF would begin charging a $5 monthly fee on debit card transactions.  After a month, 306,000 people signed Katchpole’s petition causing BOF to reverse its decision to levy the monthly fee. The Internet and social media have allowed individuals to lead crusades that would have required enormous human capital once upon a time. Start a blog, petition, or Facebook page on an important issue that you and others are passionate about and become the vanguard for change.

Document your work

Charismatic leaders reflect on their achievements by documenting the challenges and triumphs of their feats for future generations to follow. Niccolò Machiavelli wrote the book “The Prince” to advise leaders on acquiring and maintaining political power. “The Prince” is required reading for world leaders and students of Political Science interested in political theory. “The Prince” has remained relevant for over five hundred years.  As you develop strategies and tactics for changing the world, keep a journal of your process to provide a tutorial for those who aspire to pick up where you left off.

Changing and influencing the world is an arduous task. However, by emulating charismatic leaders’ transformational strategies and tactics, introverts can make a lasting impression on the world’s stage that will never be forgotten.

—Edward Brown

References

Brown, E. (2010, Dec. 26). Charisma: A misunderstood concept. Charisma Today. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3NF72r4.

Brown, E. (2011, January 2). The price of charisma. Charisma Today. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3K3lvee.

Brown, E. (2012, March 6). Charismatic leaders are monomaniacal, relentless & focused on changing the world. Charisma Today. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3tXabdZ.

Flaherty, J.E. (1999). Peter Drucker: Shaping the managerial mind, how the foremost management thinker crafted the essentials of business success. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

“Michael Jordan” by iccsports is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view the terms, visit:  https://bit.ly/3qUPCgo.

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