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Archive for the ‘Confidence’ Category

During my travels I speak often about our Emotional Guidance System and the importance of trusting our vibes. I genuinely believe that our unconscious mind has so much more wisdom than what we contain within our conscious awareness. This means that when things are not going that well for you and your emotions feel more negative rather than positively orientated you are receiving signals that you are out of alignment with your true self.

This year I noticed that the whispers from my unconscious mind started shouting at me. A month ago my whole world – the world that had become so familiar to me began to shake and collapse. Cracks in my relationship appeared and as the reality of separating became stronger a cold hand of fear clutched my stomach and heart causing anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Not great states when my job is showing others how to feel better about their lives! I recognise that the man who I see as my soulmate was living in an environment that did not enable him to thrive. Whilst we love each other with all our hearts we were draining each other’s energy and both of us felt a sense of being in a survival state. This wonderful man is loyal, genuine, sensitive, deeply kind and has a real connection with nature. He sees kingfishers every time he looks out onto the river from the deck of our house. When he walks our little Yorkshire Terrier – Mindy – he regularly connects with a white squirrel. He is the first one to point to the abundance of bluebells in the woods and nurtures our plants with the tenderest patience. As my own energy has increased in direct proportion to the glorious career I have seen expanding quickly in the last two years, my partner lost touch with who he really is at his core. We both see this, we both understand this and we both know that the best way to handle this personal crisis is to separate. How can you be true to another if you are betraying your own soul? However this awareness does not take away the fear and I have found myself waking up in the small hours of the morning, shaking. I can’t eat ( I quite like this side effect though!) and I’m struggling to concentrate. My lesson is to accept what I’m feeling, and I really do appreciate that we are both honouring the importance of being true to ourselves. ( this is much harder to actually do than to say). As Easter approaches, so does the knowledge that he will soon be gone from our home, gone from our bed and gone from the intimacy we have shared together for eight years. I am preparing myself for floods of emotion even though I know that I am strong and will survive this ending. I want for him what I want for everyone, including myself – the ability to live life his way and loving and accepting that he is perfect just as he is.

When people enter phases of operating in survival there is a sense of being shut down that effects us at a cellular level. Fear based chemicals such as cortisol, adrenalin and norepinephrine cause cells to seal and create a vacuum within that cell. This protects the cell initially but it also creates damage if this protection based operating system remains in place for too long. As people this cellular response causes us to crave safety and security and as an employee regardless of our job role our performance at work diminishes. We become a silo – blocking off our connection to others. This survival or growth cycle is part of life yet I’m not convinced that organisations are fully aware of the frequency employees experience survival phases. Over the years we have seen a growing emphasis on employee well being programmes designed to support people at a holistic level. One of the most powerful tools available today for helping those in survival is Emotional Freedom Techniques – it’s like acupuncture without the needles. You gently tap on certain parts of the body and as the person tunes into the negative emotion they are holding in their system, they experience an intense build of that emotion before it is released. It really is an extraordinary therapy and I have been using it in my one-to-one sessions for years. Even though it is simple, effective and easy to use, some organisations refuse to even evaluate it and see the workplace as ‘not an appropriate context’. Other organisations on the other hand are continually looking for new innovative ways to support individuals in a way that is respectful, impactful and sustainable over a longer term. I am working with those brave organisations and together we are achieving some powerful transformations as people transcend their deepest fears and begin to trust that they have all the resources they need inside to create what they want in their life.

So maybe I should choose to pay attention to what I help others to do. Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and let go of my fear and trust that everything we go through in our life is part of our journey, part of the adventure of simply living. Sometimes the adventure of life gets a little too much and those sensitive souls surrender their dreams in search of a calmer, safer and more peaceful place. I do believe that the world we live in has a magical quality that supports us with an infinite source of universal flow. If we open our hearts with honesty and listen to how we truly feel then we enable ourselves to get back into balance and harmony.

I hope that Nature Boy continues to see kingfishers and white squirrels and may I continue to trust that all will be well in the knowledge that I am safe.


The latest craze that has exploded onto the Facebook social media platform is the no make up selfie to raise money and spread awareness for cancer research. For those of you who haven’t heard about it (where have you been?) is that you nominate your female friends – those who need to put on make up just to post a letter – and you donate if they post of selfie of themselves without make up. According to cancer research, this was not an initiative started by them yet the massive spike of donations during the last three weeks is attributed to these brave make-up free souls!

Many of my friends seemed a little bit anxious about bearing their entirely naked face to the FB community. To me they looked younger, fresher and radiant – they genuinely look gorgeous. In almost every case there was a touch of vulnerability about them that compelled me to leave a reassuring comment. Then, last Thursday my own sister nominated me. I suddenly connected with a rising anxiety that I was about to reveal too much to too many people. Waiting for the sun to rise, I fluffed up my hair, cleaned my teeth and figured out which icon to press on my iPhone to take my own picture. The great thing about taking a selfie is that you can delete the really crappy ones and keep going until you’re remotely satisfied with the end result. In many ways It was a strangely liberating experience although my harsh inner voice told me I had frog eyes, wrinkles in abundance and a double chin! Who cares? I’ve had numerous publicity photos taken in the past to convey ‘the real me’.Make up, clever lighting and a brilliant professional photographer managed to capture a few stills suitable for self promotion as a speaker. I guess the last thing I should want to convey as a professional speaker is vulnerable. Yet the truth is I am vulnerable at times. I did secretly admire my guts when posting my own au natural selfie onto Facebook and if I blurred my eyes ( a bit like you do with those 3D images) I did look younger, which is very welcome in your fifties. My daughter Rose who is yet to do her own selfie left her copy of Heat magazine lying around this weekend. Sometimes there is nothing better after an exhausting week than gorging on celebrity mags with titillating photos and minimal words. There was another car crash article about glamour model Jordon. I felt chilled when I read how many surgical interventions she has had. The huge amounts of make up she wears paints a Barbie like quality to her appearance and the extreme ways she vies for attention causes my heart to cry for her. Behind the multitude of her different masks there is a deeply insecure woman who doesn’t feel that she is loveable. Instead of allowing her vulnerability and fear to show she acts tough, adopts a confrontational approach with interviews and exudes an air of someone who gets impatient at the thought of sitting quietly with her own company.

A powerful reminder that many of us have all types of ‘protective shields’ that we erect in a bid to prevent others from seeing our real selves – us at our most vulnerable. Whether our protective wall is make-up, power dressing, humour, sarcasm, toughness, coldness, plastic surgery, alcohol abuse, binge eating, we all have walls to a greater or lesser extent.

Imagine a little child on their first day at nursery. They say something and everyone laughs at them. It hurts and so the first layer of their wall is built. Then in junior school they come last when running the 100 metres and the humiliation of such a catastrophic defeat ( everything seems catastrophic at that age) adds another layer to their wall of protection. Growing up, their awareness about the opposite sex results in a broken heart and they vow that no one will ever get as close to them again. As the years pass the school of hard knocks transforms dreams into bitter sweet moments as compromise becomes the word of the decade and settling for second best becomes almost appealing. Whilst these walls might protect us to some extent they also cut off our connection to how we really feel and we stop listening to the whispers from our true authentic self. We become fearful about showing others our heart, we become guarded that ‘they’ are out to get us and the vitality of the world we live in ceases to cause our heart to sing. Our world becomes tarnished by hues of grey ( not the Fifty Shades kind) just greyness, as ordinary living becomes just that in our eyes – ordinary. The first step to colouring the landscape of our soul is to find the courage to express how we really feel and be ready to show our vulnerability. Only when we take off our mask, let our barriers down can we start to transcend to a higher level of spiritual and emotional awareness.

So for all women out there who wear make up – take it off for a selfie and dare to go bare! Not only do you further raise awareness and much needed funds for cancer research, you might even feel comfortable with your own vulnerability. When you do, you’ll see the yellow brick road stretching out in front of you as you here yourself mutter ‘ there’s no place like one’s own self’.

Have a great week!

Extensive research and numerous studies examining the benefits of charisma confirm that people with high levels of charisma are happier, healthier, enjoy more success in their chosen careers and possess increased resilience to the challenges and difficulties that life presents. If the advantages of charisma are so appealing, why then do the majority of organisations shy away from developing the charismatic potential of their leadership team?

An undesirable attribute
There are people who subscribe to the theory that charisma can not be taught, you either have it or you don’t. Other people perceive charisma as a form of psychological bondage that poses an inherent risk for their organisation. I remember when our Business Development Director had a meeting with a major High Street Financial Institution. During the presentation he was a little surprised when their HR Director asked: “Do we really want charismatic leaders?” Charisma can trigger a strong negative reaction because of the legacy left by disgraced and selfish charismatic leaders. Remember the public outcry about the former CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland, Fred Goodwin, media publisher, Robert Maxwell and disgraced jewellery tycoon, Gerald Ratner?
Even when an organisation’s charismatic leader has proved to be an asset to the organisation, what happens to the business after the leader has moved on? How would the public and investors of the Virgin Empire react if Richard Branson exited his connection with the Virgin brand? The former CEO of Sainsbury’s – Justin King optimised his charisma and created a tripling of profits during his ten year tenure. Yet on the day he resigned almost £400 million pounds was wiped off of Sainsbury’s share value. Little wonder that corporate values across the world rarely feature charisma as a desirable leadership competency.

The dark side of charisma
This corporate prejudice against charisma pales into insignificance when looking at the impact of charisma on an entire nation. Historical writer and documentary maker Laurence Rees produced a disturbing 3 part series -The Dark Charisma – based on Adolf Hitler, an awkward, dysfunctional man who developed a level of charismatic attraction almost without parallel in history. Memories of Hitler sends many subconscious messages that charisma is an evil manipulator and highly dangerous when possessed by a meglamaniac. Adolf Hitler was without question an extraordinarily charismatic presenter. Certainly in terms of his rise to power, his personal charisma was one of the most effective tools that he used to tap into the collective psyche of the German people. The Harvard Business Review published an interesting view from Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic , international authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing. Dr Premuzic argues that, amongst other things, charisma disguises psychopaths, distracts and destructs, and is responsible for ‘downgrading leadership to just another form of entertainment’. Whilst I disagree with much of Dr Premuzic’s article, it is well written, and certainly mirrors the distrust that the business community seems to have about charismatic leaders. This sweeping generalisation that some individuals may use their charismatic presence inappropriately, often prevents corporations from taking charisma seriously. Whilst I concur that charisma can be used for good, or for evil – that distinction need not prevent an individual or their organisation from benefiting from what is a genuine competitive advantage. As with any soft skill, there is a mantle of responsibility inherently implied for the charismatic leader.

Charisma increases success
Today most leaders, acknowledge that a charismatic leader appears to effortlessly attract loyal and supportive followship. Charismatic leaders attract more publicity and more attention from outside groups as well as exerting a strong (albeit invisible) bond with their organisation’s workforce. Numerous studies and experiments have been conducted that prove conclusively that charismatic leaders are more successful. According to many different credible research sources* Charismatic Leaders, outperform their non-charismatic peers by an average of 60%.

Charisma improves engagement
Charismatic Leaders build higher levels of workforce engagement and there is a proven link between double-digit growth and high engagement levels. The Cremer and Knippenberg report, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, 2002, used scenario experiments, cross-sectional surveys and laboratory studies to prove that inspirational and charismatic leaders had a stronger effect on cooperation than their non-charismatic counterparts. Charismatic leaders affect both their followers and the organisational culture. They are capable of altering workforce attitudes, beliefs and motivation, making changes that are not easily implemented through conventional leadership approaches alone.

Charisma and talent
A 2014 survey that analyses employment trends* revealed that attracting the right talent and skills as biggest challenges for employers over the next decade. Great people want to work for great leaders. The greatest differentiator among the organisations of the future will be the ability to build world-class capability and skills. The war for talent exists at all levels of an organisation and charismatic leaders are more effective with attracting and retaining talent because they enjoy better quality relationships. It’s little wonder that the leader who possesses most charisma also has a natural tendency to attract followers who are the crème de la crème of talent. Mark Carney, the Canadian who took over as the governor of The Bank of England in July 2013 has a movie-star brand of charisma that has seen people’s perceptions towards Canadians move from zeros to heroes in the UK. People are now queuing up to work for the trendy and eco-friendly Carney who has transformed the staid Bank of England culture into a genuinely exciting and collaborative place to work.

Charisma and resilience
The belief that leaders have the endless stamina, ideas, and skills it takes to deliver success year after year is an old fashioned fallacy. Today’s Leaders have to be able to bounce back, cope, renew, and revitalise. They need to be tough. They need to be resilient. There are two related issues with regards to resilience. Firstly, a passion for excellence can take them only so far; leaders will burn out if their physical, emotional and mental limitations are ignored. A recent study by Korn-Ferry found that 90% of leaders were let go due to physical or mental conditions that impaired their leadership effectiveness. Secondly, organisational changes planned without consideration for the impact on the human condition, will not only cause current leadership to falter, but they will also cause the next crop of leaders to be inefficient and ultimately everyone will suffer. Charismatic leaders possess more natural resilience because they are ultimately more authentic and more ‘heart’ focussed. They tend to have high self worth and greater self awareness. It takes less energy to be yourself than it does to be the person you think others expect you to be. Charismatic leaders place more importance on heart count rather than head count efficiency. You can read more about why charisma naturally builds high levels of resistance in chapter five.

Charisma and health
Charismatic people have a positive acceptance about themselves and often have the same positive belief in others. This provides the ideal inner environment for developing our potential and the qualities of charisma. Because charismatic leaders are more comfortable in their own skin, they operate in synchronicity with their immune system and consequently their health. When we feel good our brain releases chemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin that perpetuate this feeling of balance and strengthens our immune system and ensures good health. When we feel stressed, our hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of our brain sets off an internal alarm system. Cortisol is released into our system and activates our fight or flight response. Cortisol is not supposed to remain in our system for long because it alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive, reproductive and growth systems. When we experience long term stress at work our whole system becomes anxious, paranoid and fearful. Our job is then literally killing us. Consequently charismatic leaders tend to be healthier when compared to their less charismatic peers.

What is charisma?
How can you develop your own charisma without knowing exactly what it is? During general and everyday communication, different words mean different things to different people. Certain phrases trigger a strong emotional response in some people yet not in others. So imagine the variety and scope of meanings people can attribute to something as abstract and intangible as charisma? When I don’t understand the meaning of a particular word, a quick look at the online dictionary gives me instant clarity and understanding. So at first glance, Wikipedia and The Oxford Dictionary both describe charisma as a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others and a divinely conferred power or talent. As you then start to explore under the surface of what charisma really means, you’ll find a multitude of leadership experts, scholars, sociologists, organisational psychotherapists, coaches and gurus, who give numerous and contradictory views on defining charisma.

Defining charisma
In 1947, renowned German sociologist, Max Weber, categorised leadership into three styles and defined the charismatic style as a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which one is ‘set apart’ from ordinary people and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These as such are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as divine in origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader. Webers choice of language is very provocative; ‘supernatural’ ‘superhuman’ ‘exceptional’. These words immediately place charisma into the scarcity box because how many people do we know who we could describe using those three words? Weber perceived charisma as a set of traits or distinguishing qualities, such as being visionary, energetic, unconventional and exemplary. This view contrasts with studies by Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Robert House, who determined in 1977 that charisma is a set of behaviours. House cited behaviours, such as exhibiting high levels of self-confidence, persistence, determination, passion and optimism. More recently, the theory that charisma is created from different component parts or behaviours and can be learned and perfected by anyone is cited by Olivia Fox Cabane in her book, The Charisma Myth. In 1995, Fernando Molero, an expert researcher in charisma and Transformational Leadership proposed a new classification of charisma, based on Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. This stated that charisma is the individual’s ego, driven by a desire to become a dominant father figure. Another refreshingly different perspective is offered by Gerry Spence, renowned US trial lawyer who describes charisma as energy from the heart zone. Dr Tony Alessandra, Leadership Motivator, plays it safe with his definition that charisma is an ability to influence others positively by connecting with them physically, emotionally and intellectually. The more I searched for a definitive definition of charisma the more confused I felt. Looking closely at the Robert House/Olivia Fox Cabane definition means that you would need to improve your charisma by developing different charismatic behaviours. Yet what if these – charismatic behaviours – are not aligned with who you truly are inside? If on the other hand you accept Max Weber’s definition then you have to accept that you either have this ‘super power’ or it’s game over for you on the charisma front.

Seeking a relevant definition
Each and every one of us has the potential to be both charismatic and uncharismatic. Because we recognise and understand this shared inconsistency in others, charisma can be really hard to define. Understanding and defining charisma becomes easier when we understand what it is not. Charismatic Leadership will be effective, both in the short and long term. Uncharismatic Leadership will be most effective in the short term (as anybody who has ever needed to get a teenage son or daughter out of the house to a tight deadline will testify), but it won’t captivate hearts and minds. Charisma is not confidence, you don’t need to have a big maverick personality to possess it. Charisma is not charm and it does not appear with trained communication skills. In 2008 Alan Chapman, owner of a free online educational resource – BusinessBalls and I ran a competition for six months to encourage business people to submit their own definition of charisma. From the hundreds of responses we gathered, I became even more aware that charisma meant different things to different people and that I needed to create my own definition.

Learning from charismatic icons
I studied the behaviours of four charismatic icons who had been filmed in many different situations. These individuals, in my view, exhibited extremely high levels of charisma. I began looking for behavioural similarities. This proved to be a challenge. Margaret Thatcher used eye contact as a decisive, authoritative tool, whilst many of Elvis Presley’s most memorable performances were sung with his eyes closed. Martin Luther King spoke of peace with inflamed passion. Muhammad Ali, who made his name in an aggressive sport, spoke quickly with wit, humour and fast animated hand gestures. Thatcher and Ali both raved about their successes, regularly playing to the crowd, whilst King’s oratories appeared ignited with religious fervour and powerful metaphors. I noticed that Presley, often appeared humble and awkward when he wasn’t ‘performing’ especially during interviews when he stumbled over his choice of words. This gave me my first clue to the theory that charisma is contextual. Someone might be extremely charismatic in one context yet possess no charisma in another. My initial theory that any individual will become charismatic simply by replicating specific charismatic behaviours was completely wrong. As these charismatic icons demonstrate, they each show their charisma using different types of behaviours. Charismatic people stand out not because of their behaviours, but because of something innate within them that commands and compels our attention.

An inside out approach
Inspired by Louise Hay, renowned author and lecturer on the impact of thoughts on the body (‘when we really love ourselves, everything in our life works’), I began exploring whether charisma can be developed by adopting an ‘inside–out’ perspective. In other words, the external behaviours exhibited by charismatic people are a – ‘reaction to’ – or an – ‘effect of’ – an internal cause. I started looking at the inside causes of external charismatic effects. This eventually lead me to identify my blueprint for becoming more charismatic. Expanding on this principle, charismatic people are generally passionate about what they do yet each charismatic person manifests their passion in their own unique way. Martin Luther King’s body language, including his facial expressions, were relatively low key during his famous – I have a Dream – speech. His biblical cadences, the evocative pictures he painted and his evangelical delivery were the behaviours that indicated the passion he felt. Contrast these behaviours with those that Muhammad Ali demonstrated when speaking of his passion to win before a big fight. Ali would talk quickly with high energy and paint pictures with his hands. His varied vocal range was varied and sprinkled with lots of commanding tonality. Both Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali were passionate about their subject yet each man expressed their passion with different behaviours. Imagine if Muhammad Ali tried to emulate Martin Luther King’s behaviours? It’s likely he would have appeared fake and lacking in authenticity. Charismatic people speak with their heart and soul. If you try to emulate Martin Luther King or any other charismatic individual you admire, you are effectively putting on a mask that causes you to emulate behaviours that are not necessarily a reflection of the real authentic you. This immediately dilutes your emotional intensity and inhibits the flow of your natural charisma. If you are not behaving in alignment with who you truly are, then others will unconsciously or consciously sense – something just isn’t right about you – and they will disconnect from you emotionally.

My definition of charisma

I define charisma as an authentic power that captivates the hearts and minds of others. To put it another way, when you are being you, and you love what you do – you shine. This definition begins to explain why charisma is contextual. The charismatic individual who shines in a career context can be almost invisible in a social or home environment. A performer or a politician may dazzle when they are in the public eye, because what they are doing is important to them. Put them in another setting and they merge to become one of the crowd. If the late Martin Luther King was asked to deliver a speech on boxing, would his passion, authenticity and charisma have shone through in the same way? This definition differs from the stereotypical view in two key ways. I do not believe that an extrovert or having a ‘big personality’ is a pre-requisite to being charismatic. On the contrary. The single most important factor that determines an individual’s charisma is the extent that they are able to ‘captivate hearts and minds’. Often you’ll find that quietly confident, introverted people are every bit as charismatic as their more self-publicising counterparts.

This view is supported by a study reported in Business Week showing that a more reserved style of introverted leaders can actually inspire better performance in followers. Researchers Adam Grant of the Wharton School, Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, and David Hofmann at the University of North Carolina found that if the employees are an extroverted, proactive bunch by nature, the team will perform better under the leadership of an introvert than under an extrovert. The study goes on to explain that introverted leaders are more likely to take a team approach to problem-solving and to let talented team members spread their wings.

Within my own experience I am sure that we can all think back to leaders, managers, teachers or mentors who have patiently drawn out our opinions, encouraged our creativity and have genuinely valued and shown appreciation for our contributions to the achievement of a collective goal. These people may not all have met the regulation blueprint of a charismatic leader, but they managed to ‘captivate our hearts and minds’ none-the-less. When we think of charismatic and introverted people who have had enormous impact on the world – there are many examples. Mahatma Ghandi, Meryl Streep, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Princess Diana and even Robbie Williams, often showed a quiet vulnerability that somewhat disproves the claim that you need to be an extrovert to be charismatic.

Charisma and authenticity
The key to charisma is authenticity. One of the most exciting television projects I did was as an Official Political Commentator for Aljazeera during the 2010 live UK election debates. Working with the Professor of British Politics (who was required to commentate on the leaders’ policies), my role was to commentate on their authenticity and charisma. I remember watching Gordon Brown as his insecurities around being pitted against his two younger adversaries were demonstrated in the form of aggressive and often rude behaviour. Shortly afterwards I watched Gordon give his resignation speech that he had written himself. As he spoke from his heart, his warmth and ‘humanness’ shone through and I wondered why he had not just been himself during ‘The Lives’. In business, as in politics, alarm bells start to ring when a leader’s ‘from the heart’ emotional response seems a bit too coached. I remember watching Tony Blair in 1997 as he announced the death of Princess Diana. I was filled with a sense that he was delivering a brilliant speech designed to tug at our heart strings. It felt a bit too contrived. When the words just don’t match with the body-language, and especially when our hard-wired unconscious mind just feels that there is something less than authentic about them, we will experience a negative reaction that we often can’t quite explain logically. This may well be why we love our sporting heroes to be charismatic in the absolute stereotypical –big, brash, confident, sense of the word! When Muhammad Ali, with absolute unshakeable self-confidence, stared down the camera and stated that he was ‘The Greatest’, we believed him, and we didn’t start looking for any hidden agendas, because there were none. I would go as far as to say that we expect our sporting heroes self-esteem to be developed close to the point of arrogance, otherwise it just doesn’t seem authentic. Unconsciously we question whether they have that all -important ‘will to win’. For me, Andy Murray won more fans for losing to Federer at Wimbledon in 2012, and letting us see just how much that loss hurt him, than he did by reversing the result several weeks later at The Olympics. Conversely, because we have a fundamental belief that politicians are – first and foremost -public servants, for us to see them as authentic, (and therefore charismatic), we need them to show far more humility than our ego driven sporting heroes. Our Political Leaders draw their charismatic appeal not from their displays of confidence or self-esteem, but from their vision, driving force and devotion to their mission or purpose. We believed in Nelson Mandela because he showed us, with his suffering and sacrifice, that he really cared. Nobody could ever doubt that Ghandi wasn’t passionate about the plight of his people, or that Martin Luther King not only had a dream, but that he totally believed in it.
In business, the leaders that we recognise as being truly charismatic have the ability to walk that fine line between letting us see that they possess huge drive to be successful, whilst at the same time, demonstrating an appreciation and understanding of their ethical and social responsibilities. The really interesting thing is that, in business, as in politics and sport, at the point when a charismatic leader ceases to be authentic, at the moment when he or she fails to connect at an emotional level, their charisma is lost, and the spell is broken.
If an individual lacks authenticity, if they don’t mean what they say, they will dilute the strength of their character and consequently the strength of their charisma. Some individuals compensate for their lack of internal and external congruency by over developing their external charm. If you try to emulate any other charismatic individual you are effectively acting and wearing a mask of charisma.Whatever external mask you choose to wear, if it doesn’t reflect the genuine, authentic ‘you’ this will automatically convey a superficial aspect to your personality. The only way to be truly charismatic is to be authentic and speak from your heart.

Heart felt communication
In our western culture, many of the leaders that I have worked with feel uncomfortable when they see that part of my charisma definition mentions – heart – . Many organisations already have strong and robust processes in place to build employee engagement. Leadership teams are generally good at winning the – minds – of their people. Engagement and motivation are emotional responses, an unconscious as well as conscious desire to work with heart and soul for the benefit of their leader and their organisation. When leaders cannot communicate with their heart, and find difficult to express their emotional side, they generally struggle to build engagement, and often encounter even more resistance to changed ways of working. Heartfelt communication triggers serotonin and oxytocin – chemicals that naturally increases empathy, feeling good and trust.

Charisma and the vagus nerve
There is a scientific explanation that explains why some leaders can evoke a strong positive emotional response and attract massive followship. The vagus nerve is a bundle of nerves that originates in the top of the spinal cord. It activates different organs throughout the body (such as the heart, lungs, liver and digestive organs). When active, it is likely to produce that feeling of warm expansion in the chest—for example, when we are moved by someone’s goodness or when we appreciate a beautiful piece of music. Neuroscientist Stephen W. Porges of the University of Illinois at Chicago refers to the vagus nerve as the nerve of compassion. This is because it stimulates certain muscles in the vocal chamber, enabling communication and it reduces the heart rate to promote a feeling of calm. Studies suggests that there is a connection with oxytocin, a neurotransmitter involved in trust and empathy. Consequently, the vagus nerve is associated with feelings of caretaking and the ethical intuition that humans from different social groups (even adversarial ones) share a common humanity. People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, are more likely to be altruistic, compassionate, feel gratitude, love and happiness. Genuine charisma boosts the vagus nerve activators and draw people towards them without effort in an almost unconscious manner.

Classical economic theory is not enough
In a sense I agree with experts who say that charisma cannot be taught because charisma is a already within all of us. You don’t have to become someone different to become more charismatic. You just need to re-connect with who you really are inside and you’ll instantly light up like a Christmas Tree. Think about the attention a tiny baby creates. As we grow up, we learn how to play different roles that make it harder for us to remember the charisma we have inside. We wear different ‘faces’ to mask how we really feel. “I’m fine” is the biggest lie that millions of people tell every day. I once read a report about a high powered city business woman who has extensive Botox specifically so she can look neutral in meetings, fearing that her emotions may betray what she really feels inside. This struck me as intensely sad. In some corporate arenas, it’s not politically correct to show any emotion, in fact, some business people see emotion as a sign of weakness. Emotions play a far greater role in determining business outcomes across industries than many executives grasp as Gallup research continues to demonstrate. Classical economic theory says people make decisions each day by processing a set of objective information based on a rational economic model. In contrast Daniel Kahneman, senior scientist in the field of behavioural economics acknowledges that human beings are not entirely rational in their decision making. Those organisations who understand the role emotions play in predicting outcomes will ultimately perform better. Charismatic leaders emotionally engage their people because they are comfortable with engaging their own emotional responses.

Remembering who we truly are
The good news is that in order to increase your charisma you don’t need to learn anything new. You simply have to feel comfortable being you, connect with your emotions and find purpose and personal meaning in your everyday work. This may sound simplistic because it takes real courage to remain fundamentally true to who we really are inside – with every individual we meet – and in every context. Years of environmental conditioning often stops us from allowing our softer and therefore, more vulnerable side to show. Once we start to honour our true self we experience a feeling of euphoria at the sheer sensation of being alive. And in the same way that we never forget how to ride a bike this feeling of bliss is our birthright, it is a natural state that is within all of us, just waiting to be awakened.

Collaboration is a vital component to business success yet many organisations consciously and unconsciously promote a culture that creates barriers to co-operation. This silo culture happens where various individuals and departments work only with their own department and avoid interaction with other teams. Silos are perpetuated when employees are afraid to approach other departments and occur in companies where the leadership is ineffective. Silo thinking is damaging to companies because it promotes closed thinking, stagnates growth and leads to poor decisions. Typically employee engagement will suffer and this ultimately impacts on the bottom line. So how can an organisation dismantle silos and create a more collaborative culture?

The key to silos lies within our cellular biology. According to Dr Bruce Lipton, Stanford University there are approximately 70 trillion cells within our body. The cell’s intelligence is not contained within the nucleus it is actually the cell’s membrane that determines how each cell is activated and expressed. When we feel under pressure and start to experience a stressful state our body releases cortisol and adrenaline into our system that causes the cell to seal itself and move into a protective operating mechanism. Cells become closed silos protected by a wall that prevents other growth hormones from entering. Alternatively, when we feel safe and supported we release serotonin and oxytocin that decreases stress responsiveness and increases an individual’s openness towards social belonging. This chemical reaction opens the cells so they can absorb nutrients for growth. To put it simply; an environment where individuals feel stressed will actively encourage selfish, closed thinking – a silo mentality. Whilst a safe and supportive environment will actively encourage open, selfless thinking – a collaborative and caring culture.

Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs means that to fulfill the need of Belonging – an essential part of collaboration, the organisation through its leadership team needs to ensure that individuals can transcend the levels of Safety and Security so they can activate their internal biology of growth. Charismatic leaders are able to stimulate a growth mindset and a culture of collaboration that empowers others to perform at their full potential. They do this by demonstrating a growth mindset and set of behaviours that strengthen collaboration and growth.

Fear/silos/selfish responses Safety/collaboration/selfless responses
Indecision, particularly during tough times         Speak truthfully and are honest
Cast blame on others                                                   Respect others viewpoint
Competitive and ruthless                                             Reliable and trustworthy
Critical and judgmental                                               Seeks to understand
Sacrifices ‘heart’ count for ‘head’ count                   Sacrifices ‘theirs’ for ‘ours’
Puts own interests first                                              Puts own interests aside
Rewards individual performance                               Rewards team performance
Managerial acumen                                                       Leadership excellence
Takes care of profits first                                                 Takes care of people first

When the people have to manage dangers from inside the organisation, the organisation itself becomes less able to face the dangers from outside. When we have to protect ourselves from each other in the form of office politics, the whole organisation suffers. But when trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together and the organisation grows stronger as a result. Nearly every system in the human body exists to help us survive and thrive. If we sense danger our defenses go up. If we feel safe among the people within our organisation, we relax and are more open to trust and cooperation.

The Charisma Model

Charismatic leaders recognise that the quickest way to achieve high performance is when the organisation’s culture is collaborative. Whilst processes and managerial acumen are important they do not win the ‘hearts’ of employees. Showing us how to perform our job is not the only factor required to ensure high performance. We need to know why we are performing our job so that our hearts become invested within the organisation’s success.

On Friday 7th February in the impressive surroundings of The Great Room, Grosvenor House, 600 Business Leaders met to hear some of today’s Thought Leaders from the US share the latest trends for future proofing business growth. This event was hosted by Vistage UK & Ireland, founded to improve the lives of business leaders by bringing together successful MDs, CEOs, executives and business owners into private advisory groups. As a relatively new speaker for Vistage I felt very privileged to be invited to this 25 Year Conference and Awards Celebration.
Keynote Speaker and author of “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action”, Simon Sinek enthralled us with his latest thinking around followship. He is an optimist and visionary with a goal to help build a world in which people go home every day feeling fulfilled by their work. His views on the principle that we are biologically programmed to follow and /or have followers resonated deeply with my own approach to developing charisma within an organisation context. A real ‘aha’ moment was when I learned about the chemical connection between charisma and a collaborative culture. Simon, who stood on stage wearing jeans and a hoodie, held the room. He is authentic, quietly passionate, exudes gravitas and blends authority with real emotional impetus.
Other speakers included David Rowan of Wired Magazine who delivered a provocative session around the key technology trends that are destined to transform business in the next 10 years. Stunningly frightening, I am sure that I wasn’t the only ‘fifty something’ who felt more than a little overwhelmed at the reality of machine and robotic capability. I’m not sure how I would greet a Drone delivering my vegetarian Pizza – but I guess it would save on tipping!
Dr Gustavo Grodnitzky showed us how demographic changes will affect traditional markets and helped to explain why as a Baby Boomer I needed to appoint my Generation Y daughter as my mentor! The vast difference in core drivers between generations was starkly clear as I vowed to try harder to understand and  appreciate what I had previously considered as her frankly odd behaviours, and alien values. As a big fan of Epigenetics – how the environment affects a cell’s expression, I recognise that this principle also applies at an organisational level. When you change the environment you change the behaviour.
The consistently entertaining Steve Head  concluded the day with his high energy approach to taking action and putting into practise learnings we had gathered from the day. I had previously met Steve in 2009 in a slightly tired little hotel, somewhere on the outskirts of Bristol when we were both speaking at a regional event for the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management. He was fantastic then, and observing him on Friday it is clear that he has now taken his own unique brand of charisma to a whole new level.
For me, however the real high point of the day came during the Gala Dinner in the evening, when I received the award for best new speaker 2013, which was presented to me by the extraordinarily funny Dara O’Briain. Now I’m sure like me you will have watched The Oscar’s and the Brits with a degree of suspicion when the camera finally settles on the apparently shocked and surprised winner. I can only tell you that for a second or two , when the big man from Ireland announced my name, against the backdrop of the image of my face projected on the huge screen behind him, I was so shocked that I couldn’t quite process what was happening. When I finally recognised that this would be a good time to stand up and move, I somehow made my way through the sea of tables up to the stage on total autopilot. When Dara asked me if I would like to say a few words ( “given as the Award was for speaking and all that”), for the first time in my speaking career no words would come out of my mouth!  Needless to say that the irony was not lost on me – or on anyone else at our table.
During the evening I shared stories and anecdotes with some of my very favourite people, many of whom just so happen to be renowned award winning speakers with big personalities and, remarkably, not an obvious trace of ego amongst them; David Hyner who delivers a potent session on massive goal setting. Phil Jesson who shares 10 top tips for cultivating your top 10 clients. Michael Dodds, an irascible Aussie who has practical and powerful ways to deal with the media. John Cremer, voted speaker of the decade a few years ago who manages to be impossibly funny with a deadpan expression, and the wonderful Roger Harrop, a hugely respected speaker with a penchant for loud ties, who was so kind and helpful to me when I was first looking to break into ‘The Speaker Circuit’.
A truly memorable occasion and one I feel very privileged to have been part of. I guess my inner Diva came out to play on Friday night as I realised that I can now refer to myself as an international award winning speaker. Luckily for those who live and work with me, my ego is back in the box this morning ( well…. nearly!)
Have a great week!
“Too many of the environments in which we work today frustrate our natural inclinations  to trust and co-operate,”
Simon Sinek: Leaders Eat Last

Weeding Your Garden of Life to Grow Your Charisma

One of my favourite books from my childhood is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I have a first edition that was given to me by my grandmother whom I adored. I loved reading about the sour-faced ten year old girl, Mary Lennox who found a secret and neglected garden that she nurtured back to its full glory. Imagine a neglected garden for a moment. A place full of overgrown weeds that are strangling the life out of beautiful plants that may be completely hidden from view. If the soil has not been turned it cannot create the right conditions for growth. Before you call in the landscape gardener, aren’t you curious about discovering what beauty is growing underneath the weeds? I see people with their own internal landscapes that have become overgrown with the trauma of simply living their lives. Their gardens don’t need anything except nurturing and a bit of targeted weeding. Sometimes the lack of light in the dark recesses of the mind cast menacing shadows that makes it difficult to see the path we are wanting to follow and we feel lost, isolated and confused.
Weeding stimulates growth
I believe that we are all born exquisitely perfect, full of a natural state of joy. We are meant to be happy. We are born with an abundance of charisma – just think about how much attention a tiny baby attracts. Instinctively you know this. Have you ever experienced a feeling of euphoria at the sheer sensation of being alive? This feeling of bliss is our birthright, it is a natural state that is within us all. Yet we become increasingly disconnected from this ability to access this state of joy because of the hurts and tough experiences that build protective walls that effectively block off this sublime state. I believe that the quickest way to empower people to transform their mindset from survival to growth is to help them ‘weed the garden of their life’ because they have an abundance of beautiful flowers and stunning plants within their potential. We don’t need to add in anything extra, we have all the resources we need inside to feel happy, calm and in balance.

Fight or Flight response
According to cellular biologist Dr Bruce Lipton, the self esteem, values and beliefs from our parents (or the people who brought us up) have been installed within us by the time we are 6 years old. These may support, empower or sabotage our thinking and behaviour as adults. Part of our evolution comes from experiencing challenges, obstacles, difficulties and traumas. The healthy way to deal with these ‘difficulties’ is the often referred to fight or flight response – intended to help you survive a dangerous situation by preparing you to either run for your life or fight for your life. Fear – and the fight-or-flight response in particular – is an instinct that every animal possesses. Animals will ‘shake’ after a trauma. Gazelles in the Serengeti will have numerous life and death chases as predators are continually hungry and on the prowl for food. After a frantic chase, Gazelles will shake uncontrollably because this is their natural way of shaking off stress and trauma.  What about people? Unfortunately, most of us have lost this natural instinct to ‘shake off‘ our fears and traumas.   Many of us ‘freeze’ and bury our responses along with all the associated negative emotions and limiting beliefs. According to traditional Chinese medicine, we have 20 meridians – these are like pathways, that channel life energy known as Qi to every organ in our body. Each buried emotional issue causes a blockage within our meridian system and starts to build a volcano of stored negativity. This creates an imbalance within our body that weakens our immune system and starts a pattern of self-sabotaging actions. Holding onto these issues becomes exhausting. Imagine trying to hold a beach ball full of air under water for any length of time. The drain on your physical strength and energy will cause you to experience emotional outbursts as you ‘release the ball’.
The unconscious mind holds so much more information compared to the conscious mind. Sir Francis Bacon, 1597 first referred to knowledge as a power and implied that gaining and sharing knowledge increases an individual’s potential and their abilities in life. So why aren’t contemporary business leaders actively encouraging employees to trust their instincts and listen to the wise whispers of knowledge that stream from the unconscious mind? The beliefs/values from your unconscious mind are not restricted by any filters processed by your conscious mind and the prime directive from your unconscious mind is to protect you and keep you safe. A memory is only ‘real’ inside a person’s mind. If you change aspects of a memory, you change how you feel about that memory – even if consciously you still remember what really happened.

Nikki Owen with Neale Donald Walsh

Four years ago, visionary, Louise Hay, founder of Hay House Publishing began holding conferences around the globe for kindred spirits to gather and revitalize their souls. I have just returned from the London – I Can Do It – conference having witnessed some extraordinary speakers who delivered powerful messages of empowerment with grace, authenticity and charisma. The event kicked off with one of my all time heroes, Bruce Lipton, cellular biologist who has transformed our understanding of DNA, genes and cellular biology.In the conventional world of physics, scientists believed that the atom was the smallest particle in the Universe and it was uncuttable. Then, in 1895, scientists discovered there was something inside the atom; electrons, neutrons and protons. Then as scientists took a deeper dive into the world of quantum physics, they discovered that there was nothing physical inside these subatomic particles – only ‘energy votices’. At our smallest, we and everything else in the universe is made out of energy. When energies become entangled with each other, if in harmony they amplify both energies, this is called constructive interference. If energies are out of harmony it cancels the energy, a process referred to as destructive interference. I have been incorporating deep energy work with my own corporate audiences since 2008 and find that the work of Bruce Lipton acts as a bridge between the world of spirituality and commercial business.

I saw Sonia Choquette, a globally celebrated and dynamic spiritual teacher who took a conference hall packed with typical constrained British people and had us moving with wanton abandonment as she demonstrated that so often we self select out of the flow of life and keep our true sprit imprisoned behind a wall of tightness that chokes our ability to experience happiness. Have you ever stopped to consider when did you lose your dance? When did you lose your song? When did you lose your voice? My family are often referred to as ‘Singing Von Trapps’ – my sister, brother, mum and dad, nephews, nieces and even my own daughter perform on stage singing with passion and soul and utter musicality. So how come this talent has completely passed me by? Why do I sound like a constipated cat on a hot tin roof despite knowing every line of every song from every musical? As a female speaker myself I was completely captivated with Sonia’s energy, her radiance and her powerful ability to engage us all using some weird and whacky exercises, including voice work when I sang like I have never sung before. Note to self at this point – I have become a little too safe with my delivery at times, a little too corporate and Sonia has helped me to see that I can push out the envelope regarding my delivery!!!

My other big wow moment came on the second day, when I finally met in person the inspirational Neale Donald Walsch who when he was fifty, claims to have heard the voice of God and has subsequently published many books on his Conversations with God. I remember one New Years Eve 2004 feeling completely alone and in a dark place. Out of the blue I received an email from Neale who inspired me to take a long hard look at my life and make some drastic decisions. His email became the start of many changes in my life that has shaped the woman I am today. Despite the hundreds of people at the conference he took time to connect with me and give me a hug, he absolutely walks his talk. His message focused on the only thing that matters. How is it possible that 7 billion people on our planet who all want the same thing create such dysfunction? We don’t question the primary assumption based on 1st century beliefs around religion – they are fixated on a separation cosmology believing everything is separate. This leads to separation psychology, separation sociology, separation pathology and so it goes on. 80% of the world’s population believes in a higher power and 60% of these people believes that God is over there and we are over here – a separation theology. Neale believes that we are all spiritual beings inhabiting a physical body and that our lives are the way God is expressed. If God is the light then how can he know himself as light without darkness. Maybe that every challenge we endure and encounter is a platform to experience a higher level of ourselves.

Maybe our life is not about us, maybe its about everybody our life touches. We are alive right now and are creating all of the time. Every thought is a creation. What you believe you are is just your point of view, your story about your perception of you and perceptions can change. Perceiving beauty causes us to feel happy. Is this not the most important day of your life because you are living it right now? What if your soul comes here not to accomplish anything, simply to experience the diversity of life so it can know itself. What if your true self loves you very much and your soul longs to draw you into love for yourself? What if you became the love of your life? Too much logical thinking is simply a voice of knowledge and can create neurosis as we nail ourselves to the cross of our own fiction. We are the main character in a story we have scripted ourselves, yet our past is in the past, a story of what happened to us. If we allow our story to create fear or judgement about ourselves then we are working out of harmony with the universe and with our true spirit. According to Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis “In the final analysis, in order not to fall ill, we must learn to love. This is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the ‘separation’ problem of human existence.” Charismatic leaders throughout history who have won the hearts and minds of millions have recognised that as a spiritual being they do not focus on attracting followship, instead they are the ones that say “I’ll go first”. Have a wonderful day knowing that life loves you.

Nigella Lawson and Mary Portas have both been making headline news recently for very different reasons. Portas, the prophet of profits as she was referred to in The Independent today is championing a changed approach to the future of high street retailing and is at loggerheads with former Iceland boss, Bill Grimsey. Nigella’s very public separation from her advertising guru husband, Charles Saatchi has also put her through the emotional wringer. Yet still these women exude authenticity, charisma and passion.

There has always been something about Nigella Lucy Lawson’s obvious passion for food that caused me to notice her. We were both born in 1960 and we both have an obsession with food. I experienced years of bulimia and binge eating during my teens and twenties and have struggled with my attitude towards food for most of my life. To me, Nigella has always been a role-model, with the way she feels about food. Her absolute passion for it, even those ‘forbidden’ foods blended with her self acceptance of her curvaceous figure is enchanting. She is an intelligent, well-educated woman who has cracked the US market with her sexy and flamboyant cooking. Known as The Queen of Food Porn, her mother was a Society heiress and her politician father became one of the most powerful men in Britain. Nigella is a media phenomenen, her tv series has sold worldwide and her books have sold over three million copies. She writes for The New York Times and has developed a collection of cooking and tableware with top designer, Sebastian Conran. According to the Vice President of Food Network, Bruce Seidel, “food is love to her and this comes across in everything she does.” Once you fall under Nigella’s spell, you just want more of her. She describes herself as “a greedy person” and shook up the US – her imperfect way of cooking and self deprecating irony caused her popularity to soar. Described as one of the sexiest women in Britain she is relaxed about her curvaceous figure and is completely comfortable in her own skin. She is very natural in front of the camera, relaxed and full of passion. Watch her whilst she is cooking and you’ll see her dip her finger into her culinary concoctions and lick her fingers !She cannot help but show her sensual nature, her obvious sexuality shines through. Her independent spirit and maverick way of living her life shows her authenticity. A trip to Florence, Italy in her teens, shaped a lifetime of enjoying eating and Nigella became passionate about food. She possesses huge resilience having lost her mother to liver cancer, her younger sister Thomasina to breast cancer and her first husband John Diamond to cancer. She has an inner strength that has enabled her to overcome her own personal tragedies without any trace of bitterness and she is frequently described as formidably charismatic, maverick and fabulously passionate. In terms of her charisma, on the surface, the attribute that Nigella does not really possess is vision. Her first husband John, had the vision for her glittering career. She publicly states that “I lurch about from one crisis to another – I don’t have a game plan – I won’t do anything that disrupts my family life.” So is Nigella’s real vision to be happy? When her first husband passed away she formed a close relationship with Charles Saatchi, whom she later married, feeling attracted by his “energy and aliveness”.

Mary Portas is another impressive woman who was also born in the same year as Nigella. She made her name transforming Harvey Nichols into a fashion powerhouse. Her career as a retail expert bagged her a government appointed position to lead a review of Britain’s high streets. Mary is upbeat, remarkably convincing and her Portas Plan garnered support from David Cameron and is triggering a heated national debate. Mary has shown that she has incredible vision with how she commissioned artist Thomas Heatherwick to design fabulous window displays that won her a D&AD Gold Award that celebrates brilliance in commercial creativity in 1997. Her creative vision was then applied brilliantly to transforming charity shops during her television programmes in 2009 when she had to engage an army of volunteers with an average age of seventy eight. Mary is outspoken, unafraid to share what she really feels and has a wonderful ability to connect with people from all ages and from all walks of life. Mary struts into any new retail challenge (note her strident trademark walk) with purpose, steely determination, fiery red hair and a beady eye for the missed opportunity. She shows her emotions, wears her heart on her sleeve and she doesn’t try to tone down what she really believes. Mary is completely tuned into energy and frequently refers to negative people as being draining. At times she is an overt bully as her fanaticism for detail and the main chance over-rides her need to be liked yet ultimately most people become engaged and converted fans of her recommendations. Like Nigella, Mary has experienced tragedy in her life. At sixteen her mother died of meningitis and at eighteen her father died of a heart attack. Yet you never catch Mary showing any evidence of a ‘Poor Me’ attitude – she simply gets on with it and continues to move forward towards her next exciting challenge. Like Richard Branson, Mary has sought more from her projects than success and material acquisitions as she established her charity concept – Living & Giving developed for Save the Children following her 2009 television series. She has cleverly combined her life’s passion with a life’s purpose showing that this charismatic heroine has a big heart.

I cannot decide which woman, Nigella or Mary has the most charisma because they both score highly in each one of the five attributes of charisma. Nigella’s vision in terms of her career and life purpose is at its purest – happiness – so who am I to judge whether this is any less noble or important that Mary’s vision to help disadvantaged children. Whilst there are hundreds of inspirational and remarkable women who are making a massive difference to the world we live in and show great courage as they make their mark on our society, very few can be described as having that transcendental and allusive quality of charisma. What thrills me is that both Nigella Lawson and Mary Portas are great examples of charisma and charismatic women are quite rare to find these days!

August is the month when I take the opportunity to completely recharge my mind and body. Given that the only topic I work with is charisma – it’s important that I am a role model of excellence when it comes to energy and feeling in-balance. By the time August arrives I feel a little weary from travelling and almost constant delivery of masterclasses and keynotes. This year I booked my daughter, Rose and I, into Champneys, Forest Mere.

One of the hedonistic joys of Champneys is being able to wander around in a white fluffy robe and flip flops, with priorities becoming which treatment shall I book and where is the Thalassotherapy pool? Whether its wearing flat shoes or no make up, or just eating healthy stuff, my mind and rather reluctant body starts to focus on my fitness. The array of exercise classes cause me to feel like a little girl in a sweet shop, such choices on offer.

Rose and I decided to try the Zumba class and as we entered the studio felt a mild relief that the women were all age groups and levels of fitness. Sean our instructor created a whirlwind of energy as he breezed in wearing red dangly bits on his trousers and a huge grin. Ramping up the music, he managed to transform 25 rather inhibited women into smiling, energised ‘groovers’. He was expressive, funny, full of vitality, likeable and a great teacher. It was during the Zumba wiggle that I realised – this man has genuine charisma and the impact on the class was breathtaking. The next day his ‘fellowship of fans’ were eagerly awaiting his next Zumba sensation, proving that charisma really does have the power to engage and motivate.

I noticed that Champneys are now also offering treatments that work from the ‘inside out’ – like the amazing Indian Head Massage, acknowledging that it isn’t enough to simply work on your external self. True beauty comes from within. Wandering around these grounds I see serenity and grace in some guests whilst others seem to be fighting their buried demons that are unlikely to be resolved with a quick massage. True charisma cannot be developed by working with ‘behaviours’ alone, it becomes present when you feel comfortable in your own skin, happy with the real you inside.

In today’s western culture, we are so busy demanding more from ourselves, that we sometimes become deaf to the whispers from our unconscious mind, urging us to slow down and recharge. Holidays, mini breaks or just a quiet walk in a beautiful wood can restore our inner tranquility enabling us to give back even more to this wonderful planet we inhabit.

When we feel in balance we radiate a positive energy that enables us to connect with our environment so we can feel ‘at one’ with nature as well as ourselves. So now I’m back in balance I thought I’d share my six summer suggestions for attaining alignment between your conscious and unconscious minds for increased well-being and impact on others:

Treat all emotions as friends. There are only two categories of emotion; those that make you feel good and those that don’t. If you are experiencing any negative emotion, pay attention because your unconscious mind is giving you feedback that you are acting in a way that’s not authentically you.
Avoid ‘Man Up’ Syndrome where you struggle on despite feeling ill or tired. You put on a massively brave face and keep pushing on regardless of all the signals that are desperately telling you to rest. The mind and body are totally interconnected so even a mild cold is telling you that something needs resolving.
Meditate daily for 20 minutes. In the same way that our body needs to rest after a bout of exercise, our mind needs to rest from the constant monkey chatter of our thoughts. More and more research is proving that meditation is one of the most beneficial actions you can take to combat depression, boost your immune system and balance your energy.
Spend time everyday walking in a natural environment and allow your senses to soak up the energy from trees and plants. Urban living exposes you to harmful gama rays (from technology) that damage and weaken your aura/electro magnetic field.
Find an energy balancing therapy you enjoy; Reiki, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Acupressure, Emotional Freedom Techniques, Shiatsu or Tui Na and schedule monthly sessions. You will be amazed at the difference this can make to your well-being.
Make a list of 20 things in your life to feel grateful for. Our mind cannot process a negative and a positive thought at the same time. Therefore if you remind yourself of all the good things in your life then negativity cannot get a look in.

Whatever you are doing this summer, I hope you indulge in you and support your mind and body to perform at its best. When this happens your personal charisma flows, your sprit begins to dance with the butterflies and life really does appear a lot sunnier.

Just after midnight of 7th August 1944 a Lancaster fighter plane crashed into the outskirts of La Frenaye, France, killing the pilot, the wireless operator and the navigator who was my uncle; Reginald John Owen.

As a child I was always aware of Uncle Reggie’s presence whenever we visited my grandparents because they had created a shrine to him on their sideboard. As I grew older my father shared the story of how Reggie died and how the initial uncertainty surrounding his death caused huge trauma to my grandparents who at Christmas would lay a place for Reggie at the table. Then, at the end of blissfully happy summer holidays spent camping in the South of France, Dad would take us to visit Reggie’s grave in a cemetery located in a tiny village in Northern France, La Frenaye.

When I became a mother, my own daughter, Rose, was tasked to complete a project about Normandy and she too became gripped by Reggie’s story. In 2007, my brother Johnnie took my father to visit Reggie’s grave in La Frenaye again, an event that moved my father to write an 11,000 word account of this perfect day.

Last year as I was preparing to deliver four of my seminars on Charismatic Leadership in Mauritius, I received an email from Philippe Mourand, a resident of Mauritius whose parents live close by to La Frenaye. Philippe is a kind, sensitive man, with a genuine fascination about the human stories behind the Second World War. He knew so much about the three airmen who died in La Frenaye in 1944 and we agreed that I would bring my father to La Frenaye again in 2013.

Our trip to La Frenaye was scheduled for 12th July when Philippe informed us that the Municipal Counsel and The Mayor were planning an inauguration ceremony in honour of the three British airman and wanted to name a square after them!

We travelled by car to La Frenaye on Friday morning arriving to the sound of the church bells chiming one o’clock as we approached Reggie’s grave. My father looked visibly shaken for a moment then quickly got himself in balance as he laid a beautiful wreath onto the grave. The residents of La Frenaye had carefully painted the headstone which was decorated with flowers,British and French flags. As we reflected on the bravery of these airman I was struck by a sense of utter peace and tranquility. I completely understood why my granddad had refused an invitation by the British War Graves Commission to inter the remains of Reggie into a military cemetery. Here was a place where these airman had received the care from La Frenaye’s residents for sixty nine years and I could feel that love whilst we paid our respects.

We chose to stay in a typically French hotel in Lillebonne – simple, clean and wrapped up with plenty of warm french hospitality. Lillebonne was full of patisseries and had the atmosphere of a town untouched by time, even the church was riddled with bullet holes from attacks during World War Two. After a delicious meal and in high spirits, Dad looked excited and almost serene as he bid me goodnight.

The next day dawned with glorious blue skies and scorching sunshine and we met for breakfast, fully prepared and ready for what we had anticipated would be a special yet low key ceremony.

As we walked around La Frenaye there were flowers everywhere and in the square next to the main council building was alive with an abundance of Union Jack and Tricolore flags. Even at 10.15am the square was a hive of activity as the final preparations were being made. Monsieur Lucien Dessolle, Head of the Municipal Counsel greeted us with an impressive array of medals adorned to his chest. He then ran to get the Mayor.  Dominique Annetta (or Monsieur Le Maire as we called him)  walked across to us resplendent in a red, white and blue sash.

As children started to emerge from the side roads carrying more flags, our attention was drawn to the British Ambassador from Paris, Lieutenant Colonel Graham August wearing his full military uniform. The fact that my father hadn’t spoken French for many years did not deter his ability to greet and connect with all the people in the square as they gathered for what was now turning out to be a pretty big occasion. Then, a hush descended on the crowd as an elderly man with a regal demeanor shuffled into the square wearing a green beret, jacket and slippers. This was Monsieur Levesque, who at 82 years old had lost his older brother within hours of Reggie’s plane crashing. When the Lancaster had gone down with its bombs on board they had failed to explode on impact. The next day, two boys of eleven, one was Monsieur Levesque’s brother, had gone to explore the crash site when the bombs had finally exploded, killing them both.

More people kept arriving including journalists from three different newspapers, a local MP, Christophe Bouillon and villagers whose lives had in some way been affected by the airman. Even a couple of Americans who had just walked The Camino de Santiago Way, James Gray and his son Josh turned up to pay their respects.

At 11am The Mayor gave his speech followed by Lucien Desolle then Monsieur Levesque said a few words that were deeply moving ‘ Let us never forget these three Bristish airman’. My father had prepared a speech in French (thanks to Philippe for his wonderful translation work) and had been coached by my daughter Rose. His voice was clear, strong and he felt every word he spoke. As I watched my father, full of pride for his courage, I wondered, why after all these years my father remains so emotional about the death of his older brother. I had naively thought that time was a great healer yet in this moment I too grieved for the terrible losses, the sacrifice and the bravery of all those men and women who had given their lives to guarantee our freedom. As Philippe continued to film every speech in his trademark Texan hat, Lieutenant Colonel Graham August delivered his tribute in perfect French. His military attire added to his presence and whilst I could only understand bits of what he said I was riveted. Christophe Bouillon, a Member of French Parliament gave a beautiful summation of what these three British airmen symbolised for the people of France. He was confident, genuine and completely at ease behind the podium. Although he had prepared a speech he spoke with a personal touch – I sense a rising star of French Politics in the making.

My father was ushered towards a plaque covered with a Union Jack where he and the Mayor revealed the sign – Place Des Aviateurs Britanniques showing the names of the three airman and the date they died – 7th August 1944. Everyone stiffened as I felt the emotion and pride well up in my father – this was such a moment in our family’s history, a legacy of courage that I was part of and felt privileged simply to be there.

The crowd then moved towards the town’s memorial for World War Two, where Lieutenant Colonel August laid a wreath of poppies, whilst the crowd remained silent remembering other loved ones lost during this time.

Villagers then urged us into the hall where marriages were conducted, causing me to reflect on the special relationship our family has had with La Frenaye over the years. We were given glasses of local wines and canapes as we circulated, enjoying the warmth of these wonderful people.

Astonishingly, the Mayor then invited us to stay for lunch and the celebrations continued. The local Postmistress had prepared the food and each guest had a personal reason why they were here. One lady hugged me and told me how grateful she was to the British Airman who had helped fight for the liberty of her father. Another man told me how there was a yearly ceremony around Reggie’s grave to keep their memory alive.

Then, Monsieur Levesque, shuffled into the room showing a piece of paper with the address of my grandparents and a photo of my parents on their wedding day in 1957. I was overcome with emotion at this point, seeing this photo of my parents that had been kept by this lovely man all these years. Philippe then had yet another surprise in store as we called Edward Hearne in Switzerland, now in his 90s, the only remaining survivor of Reggie’s crew. I spoke briefly to Mr Hearne who immediately asked about my father so I let them both talk for a few moments in privacy.

As if from nowhere, gifts were given to my father, a book of La Frenaye, a huge bottle of red wine ‘Offerte par La municipalite de La Fenaye’ a bottle of local cider and even a bottle of Calvados, one of my father’s favourite liquers. My father then scribbled another short speech of thanks that was hastily translated by Philippe, then the Mayor gave his final speech:

“It was a pleasure to receive you in our small town La Frenaye. Your presence gave more value to this ceremony. Thank you. You are now citizens of La Frenaye.”

That evening we dined with Philippe and his wonderful parents Jacques and Christienne along with James and Josh from Texas. This gave my father the opportunity to reminisce and exchange stories of Reggie and La Frenaye whilst watching the sun go down over the River Seine. A beautiful and fitting end to a day that I shall always remember.

Who would have ever thought that Reginald John Owen’s short life would be so vibrantly honoured 69 years after his death? How many of us have the opportunity to leave such a legacy? Sometimes life can deal us  harsh blows and we may question why we are here. Yet I am reminded of the paintings by Rolf Harris; whilst watching him paint it was impossible to understand what he was painting until right at the end. He would step back and he had painted a masterpiece. In his final moments, might Reggie have glimpsed that his death would be a masterpiece of such magnitude?

Wish me luck, as you wave me goodbye.

With a cheer, not a tear, make it gay.

Give me a smile, I can keep for a while,

In my heart while I’m away.

Till we meet once again You and I

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.

Gracie Fields