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Archive for the ‘Confidence’ Category

I belong to a Fabulous Women’s Group where successful business women who are at the top of their game meet every quarter to provide peer group mentoring for each other. One of the group usually runs a morning session for the others on our specialist skill then the afternoon is devoted to resolving issues raised giving us more perspectives than just our own when creating solutions. I adore this group, the woman are so inspirational and are exceptional role models of excellence in their chosen fields. So imagine my excitement as I travelled up to Pitsford, just North of Northampton to learn how to do horse whispering with the master (or in this instance mistress) of horse whisperers – the charismatic and utterly authentic Lisa Brice. Watching Lisa with her beloved horses was in of itself a magical experience – it was as if there was an invisible thread connecting Lisa and her horse so that an unseen puppeteer was orchestrating the synchronicity of fluid movements between animal and human.

All of my life I have avoided horses in the belief that they are frightening and give me an extreme allergic reaction. Consequently I was thoroughly armed with an Epipen, Ventolin  inhaler and a sackful of tissues (not very ‘Louise Hay’). Yet I found myself mesmerised by the intuitive horses in front of me. It was as if they could see into my soul and were listening intently to the beating of my heart. For two hours I learned how to understand and connect with these beautiful majestic animals and recognised that any changes in my energy were instantly picked up by the horses who gave me feedback in their own decisive way. Watching my fellow Fabulous Women connect with their horses I saw their charisma expand and engage the horses so that collectively it felt as if we were one entity in constant contact with the rhythm of the earth and nature. After a sumptuous lunch in Lisa’s farmhouse kitchen we sat outside in the paddock with the horses. Amanda Waring used her shamanic wisdom to drum an uplifting melody to our emotional hearts as we connected with the full beauty of this tranquil afternoon. In this moment all of us experienced a profound peace that left us feeling simultaneously vulnerable and strong. In this moment I would be prepared to do anything for any one of these women whose hearts seemed intrinsically linked with my own. So this is what engagement feels like. So this is the power of collaboration in its purest form.

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 increase empathy, feeling good and trust.

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 suggest 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.

Horses have a sixth sense for people who have learned how to activate their vagus nerve. You can’t pretend to be calm with a horse, you can’t pretend to be confident – these magnificent creatures reflect back to you, that emotion you are feeling deep down – the one you may have worked hard to suppress. So to invest a day learning from horses is day where you automatically learn how to boost your own natural charisma. As for my own limiting beliefs around allergies and fear of horses – I now recognise that they are simply delusional thoughts that are not real. What’s real is the feeling of connectedness to all that surrounds us.

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 (or horse) 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.

How are you feeling inside as you think about it now? I mean if you could choose any feeling that would enable you to get the most joy from today, what feeling would you choose? Take a minute to read through these quotations and notice your emotional response then read on to discover why your emotional reactions send vibrational waves into your environment.

  • Music is what feelings sound like
  • “What day is it?” asked Pooh. “It’s today.” squeaked Piglet. “My favourite day.” said Pooh.
  • We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
  • When asked how they managed to stay together for 65 years, the woman replied, “We were born in a time where if something was broke, you fixed it…not throw it away.”
  • Always remember that your present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come.
  • When nothing goes right….go left.
  • Be thankful for the bad things in life. For they opened your eyes to the good things you weren’t paying attention to before!
  • If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?
  • The mind replays what the heart can’t delete.
  • If you are depressed you are living in the past. if you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
  • Be someone who makes you happy.
  • Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90…..time is a concept that humans created
  • You cannot hang out with negative people and expect to live a positive life.

According to sociologist Edward Shills, charisma endows its recipients with an almost supernatural power that transcends ordinary human behaviour. A rather dramatic interpretation at first glance. Yet take a look at people with faith when they are praying. Whether in a mosque, a church or a synagogue or a temple you may notice an aura of radiance, a sense of calm peacefulness that surrounds their physical form. From an energetic perspective, the purer the person’s thinking, their vibrational frequency becomes lighter and higher. So in practical terms, emotions such as anger and sadness are transmitted on a low heavy frequency in contrast to love and gratitude which are transmitted on a high lighter frequency. As my 30 year fascination with charisma has caused me to research and study hundreds of leaders in different fields I recognise that many charismatic individuals (who use their charisma with positive intent) are transmitting their energy on a higher frequency in contrast to their non charismatic peers.

Last year I conducted an experiment based on the iconic master of self development, Napoleon Hill. In 1935 he would imagine holding a board meeting with leaders that he admired. He discovered that his ‘counsellors’ would give him inspired solutions that he had not thought about on his own. On October 26th 2013 I invited 12 intuitive people join me to an event where we channelled the essence or spirit of our chosen deceased charismatic leader. Such was the success and power of this event I decided to run another one on Saturday 12th July 2014. This time I wanted to experience whether it is possible to access guidance from a high vibrational frequency that would enable a group of us to connect with a divine source of inspiration. There were questions I was curious to get answers to such as ‘How can you know if you’ve met your soulmate?’ to ‘What happens when we die?’ Under the expert guidance of experienced and trustworthy Psychic Medium Paul Wayman, we gathered at my house by the river to devote a day to what I affectionately call ‘weird stuff’.

As the day progressed we learned how to access a deeper level of trance and experimented with techniques ranging from inspired writing to channelling wisdom from the akashic records. What stood out to me was the power of our collective group energy and the deep feeling of trust and support amongst us. We were experiencing a collaborative culture in its purest form where individuals accessed their purest creative states and enabled a stream of wonderful ideas and solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. At a cellular level our bodies became flooded with Oxytocin and Serotonin (hormones that trigger love, empathy, trust and bonding) It was a special moment as individuals recognised that happiness is not attained when we find peace and calm it is when we attain peace and calm that happiness flows abundantly through our system. The power of the group’s support was demonstrated in little acts of kindness that honoured and respected the individual and the group. Diverse personalities blended and merged to create a glorious sense of oneness that will remain with me forever.

If I imagine this state of flow and connectedness expanding into organisations I am able to grasp how new visions of growth can pioneer the frontiers of organisational development. When employees feel safe, connected and supported within their everyday workplace and are operating from an emotional foundation of calm serenity then performance, productivity and efficiency naturally follows. As authenticity, emotional intelligence and compassion for our colleagues grows, the strength and power within an organisation flows and consequently supports itself to transcend from a stuck sterile operational environment to one of pure potentiality. Today’s visionary leaders recognise that profits should never be pursued at the expense of people or by sacrificing the planet. When leaders work in alignment with the laws of Nature and in support of their emotional guidance system they transform the mundane into the extraordinary.

A few days after this event I experienced a heavy cold (I never usually get ill) as the shift in my vibrational frequency caused a release of emotional toxins. I think this sounds a bit more positive as I cough through the night and drink endless mugs of Lemsip and buying into this ‘it’s just a cold’ malarkey!

So whatever you are up to this week, this day, this moment, take a moment to pause and notice how you are feeling. If it’s a good feeling then know that you are more open, more creative and feel more connected than those ‘Moaning Mildreds’ and ‘Whinging Williams’ that try to poison your bliss.

My walk through the woods this morning was particularly magical as the sun shone through the rustling trees and the birdsong caused me to pause and look up at the sky. Something strange happened – I was transported back to a moment in time when I was a girl of fifteen having a similar experience. Another beautiful day, a morning walk in a wood in Bexley, Kent ,where I grew up. Something about the sky and the birdsong linked these two memories as if my younger self was reaching out to me, challenging me to listen. A random thought “what advice can I give my younger self?” started the writing of a letter to Nicola, the fifteen year old me.

Dear Younger Self,

You are going to experience life as a roller coaster rather than a roundabout. One thing I can promise you is that your life is never boring. Enjoy the exhilaration of the highs and remember that the lows give you a context for just how high you can fly. You are a sensitive soul and this is a good thing. Embrace your emotions they are powerful guides that shine light on whether your life is heading in the right direction.

You’ll have many wonderful moments; a cornflower blue sky, the night you first meet your newborn daughter’s gaze, your first kiss in Montpelior Park. Treasure and appreciate these memories because they sustain you through the dark times when you feel like giving up.

The designer stuff and image conscious choices you find yourself attracted to will not prove very satisfying for very long. Credit cards are dangerous! You can only wear one pair of shoes at a time and there will come a point when you’ll chose comfort over style. So totter with delight yet get yourself a pair of comfy slippers. Short skirts and low cut tops are not a good look for you and using household bleach on your hair will make it fall out.

Despite its allure, money doesn’t buy happiness – you can have happiness right now in this moment, it’s a choice only you can make.

Silk flowers are fake flowers so fill your home with living plants and fragrant fresh flowers and remember that bluebells last longer when growing in the wood. Do not put PVC into the tumble dryer – and remember that washing black and white together gives you lots of shades of grey.

Be kind to others and remember that children, old people and animals are drawn to your energy because you view them through the eyes of compassion. It’s a shame you are not able to express the real you with your own age group – they are distant with you because you have built a wall around yourself.

You are not allergic to dogs or horses – these are simply limiting beliefs that are dulling the rich tapestry of your life.

There will be a time when your brother stops teasing you and your sister will always be a bigger man magnet than you. Despite what Jacky Magazine says you can’t ‘train a boy to be a better boyfriend’ – in fact you can’t change other people only yourself. This is a lesson that you’ll need to keep learning, because you’ll discover that marriage is ‘not ’til death do we part.’ You may not be surprised to discover – you have already met your soulmate. A cruel harsh blow will  show you that love isn’t enough if negative programming has been turned up loud. That story has many different endings because destiny is always in your hands.

Diets and crash diets make you fat. Throwing up after every meal is not cool. Healthy eating is not boring it is essential for your physical and emotional well-being. The next time you look critically at your body, despising the bits that are too large or wishing you were model thin, remember that it’s the home that your soul has chosen to live in for as long as it feels welcome. Love and accept every part of yourself – you are exquisitely perfect in your unique imperfection and are doing the best you can. What happens will define your character in your unique imperfection and are doing the best you can. Sometimes you get it a bit wrong. Sometimes you get it gloriously right.

Remember to blow out the candles when you leave the house.

You know how painfully shy you feel? Well guess what, you become a professional speaker on charisma. Charisma is not what you think. You’ll always feel a bit shy and that’s ok. You are a much nicer person when you accept that being you is enough.

One day you’ll have a daughter of your own and everyone will tell you to enjoy her while she’s young because time passes quickly. They are right, it does. She is so much like you! She gives you a challenging time in her teens! You adore her and feel so very  proud of the woman she becomes. She teaches you how to love unconditionally and she keeps you young, even though she teases you loads.

You never learn to cook – you might want to pay a bit more attention in Domestic Science and your vividly coloured Harlequin cake makes Lizzie, the dog very poorly.

Choose your business partners with care rather than because you feel scared to go it alone.   Fear I’ve been told is simply false evidence appearing real. You will experience quite a bit of fear and panic in the next few years. See it as a workout in the skill of resilience. Remember you are not alone. What happens will define your character and you will understand why you have to go through this trauma in about 30 years time. Remember that I am here, I see you and I am watching over you always.When you have panic attacks in the middle of the night know that all will be well and you learn so much about your inner strength during times of real adversity. You are incredibly strong and you always get up every time you fall over. I am proud of you for possessing this quality. You see death as a scary end state yet with time you’ll see that it’s simply your body that gets weary because your soul never does.

Time is just an illusion there is only a never ending series of ‘NOW’ so make every moment special. Make every moment count. Never betray who you are, what you stand for and what is really important to you – people pleasing is not a selfless act. It causes more pain in the long term. Remember to view yourself as equally important as everyone else.

Nicola, as you look up at the sky, if you can hear me, be true to yourself and trust your instincts. Choose to do work that you love. Spend time with people you really care about and accept that everyone you encounter has been drawn into your life for a reason. Your ego is not your friend. Don’t let it trick you into acting in ways that cause your heart to stop singing. Right now you may see success in financial and career terms. This is not helpful.

Success is how many lives you can touch in a positive way and how many different experiences you are open to encounter. Playing it safe will suffocate your soul. Only when you dare to take risks do you honour your infinite potential as this is the only way that you grow and expand emotionally and intellectually.

As you listen intently to the whispering trees, take a deep breath and prepare for an exciting 35 year journey knowing that I’m waiting to greet you when you arrive.

On 31st May 2014 the youngest child of former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill died after a short illness. Described by those close to her as a remarkable and extraordinary woman she led a very distinguished life. For Lady Mary Soames her father’s strength, vision and ability to rouse massive followship has clearly supported and helped to nurture her own purposeful life not just in politics but in her many charities and book writing projects. This woman did not feel overshadowed by the legacy of her father, in fact quite the opposite she positively blossomed and thrived. Contrast this woman to the children of the Former Baroness Thatcher who have so far delivered a much less illustrious life for themselves. Carol Thatcher’s notoriety saw her crowned as Queen of the Jungle when she won the 2005 ITV television show – I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here amidst a media storm about her urinating on the ground. Mark Thatcher is Carol’s wayward twin who has a reputation for misadventure and is described by his estranged wife as being a corrupt womaniser who ruined their marriage with infidelity and secrecy over his business affairs. Two Conservative Prime Ministers yet their children responded very differently to their parents’ political ideals and leadership style.

Last week I calculated that I have now delivered almost five hundred one-to-one sessions with corporate leaders. Unresolved emotional reactions around parents feature regularly as one of the most common issues. It fascinates me how even the seemingly innocuous question from a well meaning mother of father can cause a child to believe they are not good enough for the rest of their life: Child: “Dad – I got 89% in maths today” Father: “Why didn’t you get 100%?” In the first six years of our life we are in a hypnogogic state, meaning that we are very suggestible as we observe, record and download programme after programme. The behaviours of parental influences will impact upon and define the adult you are today. If our parents were seen as role models of excellence then we naturally seek to emulate those same behaviours. If our parents hurt us then we consciously and unconsciously seek to rebel against their behaviours as we choose a different type of behaviour. A child who feels unloved because their father was not affectionate may become tactile and demonstrably loving with their own children. On the other hand a critical and pushy mother may create a critical and pushy offspring who is oblivious to the similarity with their mother! Yet generally speaking most parents do the best they can and will get some things right and some things wrong. So I’m not sure it is healthy for us to ‘blame’ our parents for our ‘stuff’ as adults. Some of my spiritually minded friends believe that before birth at a soul level we actually choose our parents because they can teach us to experience the lessons we need to learn from the school of life –that’s an interesting thought! One things for sure – we cannot change our past we can only change our emotional response to our past. Our parents have in one way or another shaped the adults we are today.

This parental relationship is often replayed within an organisational context, when we may perceive colleagues, line managers or leaders as manifestations of our father or mother because something about their behaviour, the way they look or how the speak triggers us back to our past. The study of Neuroscience has identified that the amygdala, located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain is responsible for triggering fear. If an organisation unwittingly triggers a negative ‘parental relationship’ emotion, the individual they will be plunged into anxiety, stress and survival model. The quickest and most effective way to combat this unhelpful reaction is explained very well in Rob Schneider’s article The Power of Positive Thinking. He provides compelling evidence that positive thinking and happiness increases our resilience, enables us to gain the gifts from our parents and significantly reduces stress and anxiety. In term of organisational culture the point is that happier employees are healthier, work harder and create a collaborative and supportive environment that inspires engagement and flushes out disengagement. Happier employees possess huge amounts of energy and shine with impact and radiate presence….. sounds a bit like charisma, don’t you think?

I’ve always chuckled at Philip Larkin’s poem as it conveys the secret and sometimes not so secret thoughts that so many of us share (please excuse the swearing, which is shared because of artistic license):

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don’t have any kids yourself.

Whatever impact your parents have had on you, your inner child and the adult you are today, just remind yourself that you are here because of them, their parents, their parents, parents – in fact you have evolved from a rich tapestry of ancestral descendants so I guess they got something right – YOU!

So Nigel Farrage and UKIP have topped the European Elections. Watching this ‘everyday bloke’ who has clearly engaged the UK voting electorate I feel a tremor of concern that the collaborative intention behind the European Union is being killed off by a rising voice exalting the desire to focus on nationalism. This silo mentality is based on a strong undercurrent of fear as people in Europe have drawn their lines in the sand and shouted a loud resonant “no” to diversity. Whilst I recognise that this voting trend could be explained as a protest vote caused by the frustrations around the economy and overly strict austerity measures, I sense this is a retrograde step not just for Britain but for humankind.

Political rhetoric focuses on damming the policies of other parties, attacking other parties’ values and passing critical judgements on the characters of those ‘villains’ who happen to be with ‘that political party and not my political party’. It happens also in acrimonious marital breakdowns – two people who at one time loved each other turn into silos and view their ex-partner through harsh and judgemental eyes ‘he did this to me’, ’she did that to me’. In religion, fanatics are prepared to kill others as they defend their God, their views. How many times have you heard ‘if you don’t confess your sins you’ll go to hell’ so God is perceived as omnipotent and judgemental. In street gangs there is a sinister sense that it is acceptable to control others because there is a right way and a wrong way. My gang’s way is right, your gang’s way is wrong. We will destroy your gang because you are all wrong. In organisations, pressure of delivering high returns for its shareholders leads to more re-structuring and heads roll in yet more cutbacks, leaner processes and sod engagement scores in the moment. More fear and uncertainty that triggers employees ( who also happen to be human beings)  to close down in a bid to protect themselves. Separatism doesn’t work. Separatism is damaging the fabric of our society.

When Nations, Religions and People continue to view themselves as separate from everyone else, this breeds a ‘you and us’ perception that creates walls and ultimately stimulates more selfishly orientated behaviours. When we view others as either ‘better or worse’ than ourselves we are sending a clear message that we are different and therefore not connected to them. This feeling of separatism is the cause of wars, issues, illness, disagreements and general dissatisfaction.

In the world of science, there are 50 open questions – these are questions where scientists have admitted that they don’t know how to answer them. One of those questions is ‘what is the universe made out of?’ Interestingly with the relatively recent advances of Quantum Physics – scientists now know that at our smallest we are made of energy. Pulsating packets of energy that are continually interacting and impacting upon the energy of others. We are all connected energetically and the impact of one person’s thoughts, intentions and actions will send reverberations through this invisible web of energy that connects us all and is referred to as The Field. When we start to view others as connected to us at a subatomic level then we recognise the importance of embracing the diversity of others because this enables us to experience a previously hidden facet of our own humanity.

Organisations appreciate that when employees or departments act as silos these walls, whether perceived or imaginary, become  barriers to high performance, engagement and growth. When walls are dismantled and employees see that they are all vital elements within their organisation, they begin to work collaboratively as a collective team. Behaviours orientate from selfish to selfless and ultimately everyone becomes open towards change. Resistance stems from a fear of not being safe and triggers a protectionist mindset. At a cellular level when chemicals of stress such as cortisol and adrenaline are present in our body, the gate to each cell closes and creates a vacuum inside. This is damaging in the long term because the cell is unable to absorb nutrients that enable it to grow and flourish. So this cellular operating mechanism of either survival or growth is being played out across Europe right now. When countries focus on keeping their borders closed to others they are choosing a selfish orientation that is unsustainable over the longer term.

The survival of humanity depends on the ability of us to see others, the planet and our very existence as part of a greater whole. One person’s pain damages all of us at a deep level. One person’s fear impregnates others and sends far reaching reverberations that transcends borders and countries. One person’s suffering is our suffering. Seeing that we are all connected, all part of the same universal energy enables us to empower ourselves as well as others because we are part of The Field of collective energy. If voting to close our borders is based on protecting our country’s resources from the demands of others from a different country then we are closing down our spiritual awakening and ultimately dooming our emotional reactions to those gravitating around and towards fear.

These are turbulent times and fear rages across our land and penetrates our emotional landscape. Closing ourselves to the plight of others is closing the road to a humanity who values compassion above judgement, love above hate and the welfare of people above process and profits at all costs. UKIP’s victory is humanity’s defeat.

Kevin Dwyer - one step

Imagine for a moment a charismatic family man on top of his game as a Business Development Manager working for a global organisation. Good looking, hugely likeable with an effortless skill of engaging people. Kevin Dwyer transcended his tough rebellious teenage years to emerge as a man whom upon meeting oozes presence and gravitas.

Fiercely loyal, Kevin always put his family first and is a role model of excellence as a father and good ‘all round bloke’! Sure, Kevin had gone through some difficult times yet who hasn’t? These challenging times simply rounded off the rough edges as he continued to shine as the man he was destined to become.

Then, one year ago, just when he was least expecting it – something happened that rocked his world and threatened to extinguish that shine, once and for all. Kevin felt ill and passed out one morning in May 2013 and when he awoke he couldn’t feel his hands or anything from his waist down. Kevin recalls that his overwhelming fear swung from being calm one moment to completely freaking out. He was transported to St George’s in Tooting. That night, Kevin was faced with a tough decision – how was he going to cope? In the early hours of the morning, the darkest hour before dawn, Kevin started to visualise himself walking and walking and walking. As he fell asleep he dreamed about walking and despite the vagueness of doctors about the extent of his recovery Kevin was walking tentatively with a gutter frame after just 2 weeks. Such was the severity of his injury that after 5 weeks he was moved to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, with the largest National Spinal Injuries Centre in the world. When other patients on the same ward who have less serious injuries tell you that they have been bedridden for eighteen months, most people would feel the bursting of their inner balloon of joyous living as all hope for their future turns futile and black.

Luckily Kevin isn’t like most people – he has an extraordinary gift of seeing the positive message in the bleakest situations. Rather than act like a victim who had been unlucky he chose to interpret his ‘accident’ as a gigantic wake up call. Kevin recalls “it was as if The Universe had been wanting me to do something and I hadn’t been listening – now The Universe has my attention!”

Kevin continued visualising himself walking again, he imagined taking that first tentative step unaided and trained his self talk to empower his thinking rather than block his ability to recover. Kevin became obsessed with The Law of Attraction and doggedly read books on the subject. Every day tiny and often subtle changes were coaxed out and encouraged by Kevin’s calm conviction that he was going to walk. Then one beautiful day in late June, Kevin took his first unaided steps. Just like Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon opened up a whole new world of possibilities – Kevin’s world started to deliver daily progress. He recognised that his mind was omnipotent – with much greater power than his body. He simply took control over his mind and made the decision to walk.

It was on the 26th October last year when I saw Kevin again after his accident. I had asked him to participate in one of my more ‘unusual’ charisma projects. Walking slowly into the room and in all honesty looking physically frail and tentative I was then dazzled by his huge smile, a kind of Cheshire Cat grin but bigger. His eyes radiated an inner strength and there was an aura of calm serenity around him. I felt deeply moved by this man’s courage in the face of real adversity as I witnessed an extraordinary man on a journey that he was determined to walk himself, every step of the way.

So here we are one year later and Kevin is preparing for his return to work. His daily workouts at the gym have strengthened him physically and he has learned to use pain as a feedback mechanism that warns him when he has overdone it. Above all, Kevin has connected with a deep desire to give something back and to share his message of hope and optimism with others less fortunate. As Kevin eloquently states “when we’re prepared to dig deep and show resolve to achieve what we really want, the mind and the human body in combination are insurmountable. ”

As I sat and watched Kevin tell his story last year I had a strange feeling that he reminded me of someone – another time, another nation, another man with a powerful presence and a heart full of courage. If Martin Luther King, Jr was around today to witness Kevin’s resilience I wonder if he might ponder on a phrase from his I Have a Dream speech: “With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

Kevin is an extraordinary man who has arduously conquered a mountain of fear and is living proof that whatever we believe we can do, we will. The impossible is always possible especially when you have men like Kevin around.

One of the biggest influencers around the development of my sensory awareness was attending a weekly psychic workshop with the intuitive and gifted Paul Wayman. This opportunity gave me the ability to connect with and sense emotional issues in others based on their energetic field. In a business environment I give leaders feedback based on the impression they create within the first few seconds of meeting and people are often startled by the accuracy of my awareness and wonder how I can know so much about then. I have been working with the extraordinary powers of the unconscious mind since 1999 and recognise that everyone has a psychic ability and a sixth sense. Racing thoughts and monkey chatter tend to keep the conscious mind busy with background noise and this blocks the innate ability to tune into the whispers from the unconscious mind.

At the beginning of the year I decided to start my own fortnightly meetings to help others deepen their intuition and enhance their awareness of self and others. People from all walks of life sit in a circle and collectively we build our energy and practice exercises to sharpen our sensory acuity. Last night Paul joined us and helped build our confidence and deepen our abilities to trust our vibes. The energy in the room was palpable as collectively we witnessed some extraordinary moments that were for most of us unexplainable. Accessing a stillness of the mind for just a moment opened up our channels of communication so we were able to vibrate at a higher frequency and consequently connect to information that had formerly been unnoticed. There was a point in the evening when I felt the strength of our collective energy and my heart overflowed with love for the difficulties and traumas that the group had endured. This intense collaboration demonstrated that individual potential is indeed limitless and when we work collectively towards a common goal everything is possible.

Tammy Clark, a member of the group is a talented writer who paints with exquisite mastery. She has had her fair share of difficulties so it is all the more remarkable that after 4 years she has finally got her children’s book selling in Waterstones. She is a role model for all young women with her sunny disposition, dogged determination and utter passion with helping kids to feel better about themselves. When Tammy asked me to write the forward for her book I felt thrilled to associated with such an inspirational women and her empowering story. Tammy’s ability to bounce back against all odds is impressive and she deserves an abundance of good fortune. Tammy shows me that each of us has a truly divine purpose that only we can fulfil in our own special way. Often when we experience dark moments of despair what we perceive as ‘a bad time’ is really a turning point and a chance for emotional re-birth. If we can accept the place in which we find ourselves as an experience and a development opportunity rather than judge it as good or bad, we instantly become more detached from the explosive mixture of stirred up emotions. Our authentic self will emerge when we are no longer performing, pretending or denying what we are feeling. When we are being true to ourself we access a magical state of flow that I call – charisma. This magic works through you, not beside you or around you. Everyone can access it so choose your stage, do your dance and stake your claim. This moment right now has the potential to give you a feeling of pure joy, utter bliss. Simply open your heart, acknowledge the truth of what you are feeling and accept that you are exquisitely perfect just as you are. No more ‘should haves’ – you are who you are right now because of your story.


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.

Namaste

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.