Charisma: a Skill or a Superpower?
Charisma is personal energy, the ability of a person to catch and hold the attention of other people and to be attractive for them. This is one of the most important qualities for professional and personal growth. However, is it possible to develop that ability from scratch? What elements are most important for establishing effective communication? The Global Women Media journalists discussed that with Evgenia Sazonova. She is an entrepreneur in the field of education, experienced professional in enhancing the influence and charisma of leaders through public speaking, and business coach. During seven years of work, Ms. Sazonova has helped more than 3 thousand entrepreneurs and executives develop their leadership skills.
entrepreneur, ICF business coach, Russian ambassador of Elite Business Women, member of the main team of the World Leader Summit
Today, Evgenia Sazonova sees her mission in bringing up leaders. She strives to help them fulfil their potential and contribute to the world positively. Ms. Sazonova is involved in several activities at once. As a coach and public speaking expert, she develops effective thinking and helps leaders develop their mission and strategic vision. Thus, she works with the inner state and qualities of a person. As a team member of two international organisations, she helps Russian entrepreneurs expand their business by providing them with access to international business opportunities.
Several years ago, Evgenia Sazonova immersed herself in researching the topic of charisma. In her opinion, this is exactly the quality that can influence the scaling of a person’s personality and his or her projects. Interestingly, the expert focuses mainly on the formation of the right mindset in people. She believes that the way a person treats life and people around and him- or herself largely determines what actions and activities he or she performs, and thus what results he or she achieves.
– How would you explain the concept of charisma? Is it a natural quality of a person or a skill that can be developed?
– Talking about charisma always gives me great pleasure. My particular interest in that topic appeared a few years ago. At some point, I noticed that it was quite easy for me to establish contacts with people. Many of my acquaintances often call me a charismatic person. I wondered whether I could somehow help other people develop this ability. I decided to focus on those experiencing difficulties when establishing communication with people and attracting attention to themselves.
I found a lot of studies on charisma. Probably, one of them became the basis for my current expert views in this area. I am talking about the research by Olivia Fox Kabane, lecturer at Stanford, Yale, Harvard, and the United Nations, leadership and charisma expert, and consulting coach. She has carried out serious scientific work and she found out that charisma is not an innate quality of a person but a conscious behaviour that can be changed. The expert has even published a book with a large number of exercises aimed at developing this ability. I advise everyone interested to read ‘The Charisma Myth: How to Engage, Influence and Motivate’.
Olivia Fox Kabane believes that, to become charismatic, a person must learn to manage his or her mental ecosystem. People must know themselves with all their needs and learn how to demonstrate inspirational behaviour to the world.
In addition, Olivia Fox Kabain identified three key components of charisma: Presence, Power and Warmth. Together with many other experts, I absolutely agree with her point of view. When we talk about charismatic people, we mean firstly those who attract attention. In this case, the external attractiveness plays a very small role: quite other qualities are put at the forefront.
Only a strong and confident person of character can attract attention ‘in the moment’. People can often identify such a person by a straight and stable posture, measured and clear speech, and an open mind. However, it is not enough to be strong to lead people. It is important that those around you understand that power will be used for good, not for bad. Therefore, warmth and kindness are essential qualities of a charismatic person.
A charismatic person is not the one who knows how to present him- or herself as a ‘superstar’ or a ‘celestial’. It is the one who helps others feel significant, intelligent, and special.
Power and Warmth are always closely linked to the third component of charisma: Presence. It presupposes a person’s inclusion in the situation, his or her conscious presence ‘here and now’. Top managers always want to enhance their presence in meetings and conference rooms. Charismatic people know how to listen and hear. They focus all their thoughts, attention, and energy on other people around them. This is the only way to create effective communication.
– What kind of communication, in your opinion, can be called effective? What are its purpose and result?
– I like the way this question is formulated. I would really like to share exactly what kind of communication I consider as an effective one. A standard definition of this concept can be easily found in many sources.
Based on my experience of working with clients, communicating with colleagues, and conducting research, I see that effective communication is the one, from which both parties benefit. Here the benefit can be considered in terms of both concrete results from cooperation and positive emotions.
Effective communication is based on a win-win strategy. It is important to make sure that both parties are focused on the benefit they can bring to each other from the first seconds of communication.
Interestingly, this approach allows to not only make communication effective but also help a person get rid of the fear of public speaking. One of the most effective recommendations in this regard is the following: think about not yourself but others. When we stop worrying about how we are dressed, whether we behave correctly, whether we will succeed, and begin to focus our attention on how we can be useful to others, all fears fade away. Communication inevitably becomes effective. When a person is focused on benefiting others, he or she will certainly do so.
– Today, most of the work and communication worldwide has shifted into online space. Is it possible to build effective communication without live presence?
– There are studies demonstrating that, during a face-to-face meeting, we perceive 55% of people’s identity by analyzing their posture, gestures, facial expressions, and smiles and 38% by listening to their voice. Only 7% of us are guided by the content of their speech. And if we analyze our own perception of people, we can understand that our first impression of a person is formed largely depending on his or her self-presentation using non-verbal channels.
When communicating face to face, we have the opportunity to influence others on several levels at once. When we talk, a lot of energy comes from the way we stand, move, gesture, and smile. In online communication, the range of opportunities for such influence is narrowed. Voice, diction, and words that we use start playing a much greater role than in live communication.
To maintain a sense of ‘liveliness’ in online communication, for example on a video call, I always advise getting as much as possible into the frame to be able to use not only facial expressions but also gestures.
It is essential to be sincere during online conversations. When we are passionate about what we are talking about, that passion is transmitted to our interlocutors.
In addition, in online communication, we need to pay more attention and constantly communicate with our opponents. In live communication, it is often easy enough to re-establish contact. However, in a digital environment, it is very difficult. I am constantly watching how I speak or communicate in an online format. I gradually formulate new rules and principles for myself. I can say that my whole life is a constant study.
– International cooperation is an important part of your professional activities. What organisations do you cooperate with and what tasks do they work on?
– I am a member of the main team of the World Leader Summit and Russian ambassador of Elite Business Women. Both organisations focus on working with leaders and providing entrepreneurs and executives with multifaceted support.
It is vital for me to participate in the work of such organisations, to be a part of them. I believe that the culture of international relations has not yet been fully formed in Russia. We tend to live as a separate community and often rely only on our own experience and knowledge. The situation is gradually changing today. I would like to contribute to this process by bringing some useful international practices to Russia.
In Russia, people are often not inclined to tell a lot about themselves not to show off. However, is it possible to convey your ideas to the world and be heard in any other way? That is why I would like to bring the experience of public speaking from international cooperation and foreign practices to Russia.
Speaking about the World Leader Summit, it is a great honour for me to be part of its main team. The mission of the organisation is to promote entrepreneurship worldwide. The World Leader Summit is aimed at supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs. There are six key programmes: mentoring, networking, education, financing, B2B and B2G, and incubators. The platform hosts regular events in a variety of formats with powerful speakers from around the world. For example, in December, we managed to bring together 120 speakers from 90 countries. They shared their expertise in areas ranging from investment and women’s entrepreneurship to health and entertainment.
As a member of the main team, I always try to attract experts from Russia to events like this. We have many outstanding personalities and strong specialists who could share useful experience with the international community. Their voices should be heard.
The World Leader Summit carries out mentoring programmes and educational projects for entrepreneurs.
On March 8-10, the World Leader Summit will hold a special event for women leaders. It will coincide with International Women’s Day. We have already managed to attract more than 50 top-level speakers and celebrities from 27 countries including Russia. They are all incredibly successful, deep, and wise people who can change the way of thinking and world picture of both women and men on the example of their life and activity. Of course, I believe that they will inspire listeners to incredible accomplishments. The speakers’ reports will be based not just on bright theses but on concrete personal examples.
It is extremely important that one of the areas of the World Leader Summit’s activity is related to funding and investing in startups, building communication between projects and consumers. Thus, the organisation has not only a huge number of tasks but also a lot of opportunities to develop and support leaders worldwide.
The World Leader Summit is a non-profit organisation, which employs top-level experts caring about the future of the world. The organisation emphasizes the spirit of philanthropy in all aspects of its work. It is important for it to support entrepreneurs, people who create jobs, and contribute to social and environmental development.
Speaking about Elite Business Women, it is a project for women entrepreneurs and executives that has been operating since 2015. We have just launched it in Russia this year. On February 18, there will be an official opening of the office. We invite everyone to join it. I am glad to be its representative in our country: despite the ‘young age’ of the initiative, we have very ambitious goals and objectives. Today, the organisation includes 12 thousand participants: women entrepreneurs from 11 countries including European, Asian, and Gulf states.
Elite Business Women supports women worldwide. My goal is to help Russian women entrepreneurs to become part of this international community. I find it necessary to create a local community in our country where women leaders can get business education and communicate with leading Russian and international experts. We need to give them an opportunity to promote their businesses and ideas at the international level.
Life-work balance is one of the most important topics of the women’s entrepreneurial community. Success in business largely depends on personal success and harmonious and comprehensive development of a person.
Why do we focus on women’s entrepreneurship? We should understand that it is in no way a question of struggle and competition with men. Women’s strength is different from men’s. Women do business in a completely different way, not worse or better, with their slightly different worldview, abilities, and needs. It is important for us to be loved, to be happy, and to please ourselves with little things. We can succeed in life and in business only after realizing and accepting our needs. It is important not to try to adapt to men’s style but to accept our distinctive features as the advantages and to run the business while maintaining our femininity, using intuition, flexibility, and other women’s strengths.
– What would you wish women of the world?
– To always stay true to themselves, not to betray themselves, listen to their hearts and maintain harmony, to keep a balance between work and life. When women are happy, they can spread positive energy everywhere and thus inspire others to become successful and happy. Perhaps, that is one of the main abilities of women.
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Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov