Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Power and Politics of Charisma

We're in the middle of the most exciting political season this nation has experienced in a really long time and being the politico I am, I can't help but blog about some of my thoughts. And seeing that I am an advocate of owning and working what you've got this election gives me pause to talk about the one thing that may be the deciding factor in the 2008 presidential election--charisma.

Before I go on, let me clarify what charisma actually is. Charisma is not WHAT you are--your job or status--but WHO you are. Charisma is not simply about beauty, sex appeal and physical attraction. It's your own secret sauce that helps you connect emotionally, intellectually and even spiritually to others. Every man, woman and child has his or her own distinctive brand of 'star quality' and you don't have to be famous to use it to your best advantage.

Your personal charisma might be flashy or flamboyant. Maybe it's quiet and intoxicating or warm and witty. Once you identify yours and really own it, it can become one of your greatest assets when it comes to making friends and influencing people.

Charisma is one common quality shared by some of America's greatest leaders. FDR and JFK had it. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton too. Nixon, Ford, Carter, George H. Bush not so much. W has it, bless his soul, but stupidity and arrogance are never cute, so his charisma gets canceled out.

Which brings us to our current crop of presidential candidates. Hillary has it in abundance but doesn't seem to feel truly comfortable with her natural charisma and prefers to hide behind cold, no nonsense efficiency. John McCain, well when it comes to charisma he's like white toast--dry and bland. Mitt Romney has an air of charisma about him but his, like Hillary's, appears faux and forced. Mike Huckabee definitely has charisma and works it to his advantage to the dismay of McCain and the RNC. But no person in this campaign comes close to putting their God-given charisma to such successful use as the next President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama.

Have you seen the man work a room? On television you get a sense of the excitement the anticipation of his appearance creates. It's like a Beatles, Jackson Five, Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Hannah Montana concert all rolled into one. In person, his power over the crowd is palpable. I had the privilege of attending a couple of fundraiser for Barack and he has perfected the art of making you feel like you are the only person in the room when he is talking to you. He's witty and charming, exudes confidence and his eye contact and genuine smile project strength. And can I tell you, when Barack unleashes that smile you can't help but smile in return and feel great. And as with any great charmer, making the other person feel good about themselves in your presence goes a long, long way in selling them on your ideas.

Both Hillary and Barack are intelligent and experienced and strongly believe in their policies and commitment to the country. But it's Barack's outstanding charisma, warmth and passion that enables him to challenge other people--people very different from himself--and sway them to his point of view.

In this race, one that is so very tight between two extremely capable candidates, I believe that the razor edge will be Barack's likeability, soulfulness and ability to connect to the hearts and minds of the electorate that will put him over the edge and into the White House.

Study and learn from charismatic people around you. And never underestimate the power of charm and your VOTE!

What do you think?


Justine said...

I agree totally. With all things being equal, you'll always go with the one who you like the best.

Terry said...

You said everyone has their own charisma. How do you recognize it?

Dr. Gordon Patzer said...


I agree fully with your definition of charisma and how it applies to the current political frontrunners. And, in addition, the most charismatic among them also seem to possess the historically aligned traits of good looks or what might be called physical attractiveness. Like charisma, although physical attractiveness is not an easily defined concept or feature about a person, a few more objective contributors to a person or a politician’s physical attractiveness are the objective physical features of height, hair, and weight.

Historically the voters in the United States have overwhelmingly voted in favor of those candidate finalists of higher physical attractiveness. In this election run-up, we have Obama who possesses both charisma and good looks. For example, in the latter case, he is taller than average by a whopping 4-1/2 inches (he stands 6’1-1/2” while national adult male height in US is 5’9”), he sports a full head of hair (albeit neither long nor voluminous in style), he’s thin in weight and toned in body structure--both which communicate health, strength, and endurance, and he flashes a weaponry appealing smile.

Gordon Patzer
author of "Looks" book