I knew right away she wouldn’t like me. She embodied authenticity with her tattoos and loop nose ring. I, however, was a walking stereotype with my highlighted hair strategically pinned to appear messy, feeling edgy in my Keds. One of us seemed to belong, and the other one of us was me. It was my first day at the cafe and she, of course, was the barista who would train me.
This girl, I came to find, knew no strangers. She seemed to have a sort of magnetic force that drew all types of people to her. It was not her appearance or her talents, though she was both attractive and talented. She seemed to have an uncanny ability to see the best in everyone — strangers and friends alike.
That first day I watched her welcome a hodgepodge of patrons ranging from the wealthy businessman to the construction worker from across the lot. Whether it was a retired Veteran planning to read the day away, or a hurried traveler just passing through, she radiated kindness as she greeted each the same. More often than not she knew the patron by name and would ask about the kids, or that concert from last weekend. These interactions were mere moments, but what she did with such little time! “I want to be like her,” I remember thinking, “but I’m simply not.”
Once the morning rush passed she turned her attention to me. I wanted so badly to win her approval, but something about her assured me that wasn’t necessary. With a look of genuine interest she said, “There’s something about you that I like. I want to learn what it is. Tell me about you.” To her, our external differences were not threatening, but intriguing. So her confidence and interest were not intimidating but rather inviting. That’s charisma.
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” This was the mantra of the charismatic statesman, Benjamin Disraeli. In “The 21 Indispensible Qualities of a Leader”, John C. Maxwell differentiates between Mr. Disraeli and his political opponent, William Gladstone, by quoting a woman who dined with each of the statesmen on consecutive evenings. She said, “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.”
Charisma, by definition, is a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. Peculiar then, that Maxwell argues that Disraeli was the more charismatic of the two, since the woman thought Gladstone was the “cleverest man in England.” The difference exists in the subtleties. While Gladstone was preoccupied convincing the woman of his riches, Disraeli prioritized revealing to the woman her own riches.
In essence, charisma is being more focused on making others great than on making ourselves great. But there isn’t much room for that behavior in the era of selfies, personal branding, and self-promotion. With so many social media outlets and networking opportunities, convincing the world of how great we are can feel like a full time job.
… charisma is being more focused on making others great than on making ourselves great. But there isn’t much room for that behavior in the era of selfies, personal branding, and self-promotion.
Disraeli’s philosophy, counter cultural as it is, makes sense. To attract people not by impressing them, but rather by highlighting their strengths, is at the very least unique and at best empowering. Everyone wants to feel validated and affirmed; this is an inherent desire and we all appreciate it, even from the unassuming barista behind the bar. Therefore, it seems only natural that we would seek to be surrounded by people who pour courage into us — not flattery, but insightful exhortation. Not in a manipulative fashion, but in such a way that is free of charge.
However, to exude charisma in today’s society by revealing to others their riches rather than our own seems both awkward and intimidating. And to a certain degree it is awkward and intimidating, but that’s not because doing so is either of those things; it only feels this way because it is rare.
Charisma is a product of confidence — such that another’s greatnesses or differences are not threats, but rather things to be celebrated. This confidence, the type that enables one to be charismatic, is essential to the art of being a woman. It is, in essence, lovely. But a confident, charismatic woman is hard to come by in this day in age.
So may we strive to be among the rare.
So may we strive to be among the rare. Let’s choose to say, “there you are!” instead of, “here I am.” Let’s choose to see differences not as threats but rather as learning opportunities. Let’s celebrate each other with our chins held high, looking to strangers and friends alike to say, “You go girl!” Let’s choose to exude charisma.
Who is someone you’ve met that exuded this kind of charisma? How did it make you feel?
Images via Candace Molatore