Learn what is charisma, the 5 secrets of charismatic leadership, and how to be a charismatic personality from this list of the most charismatic people in the world.
What distinguishes people we remember from those we don’t? And I’m not talking about family and friends.
Why do some people have an impact on millions while others are barely even noticed? It’s an elusive and hard-to-define quality called charisma.
What Is Charisma?
What is the meaning of charisma? According to the dictionary, charisma is a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.
What does charismatic mean? It is the innate power or talent of being able to inspire, attract, or influence people naturally and draw them to support your cause or your beliefs.
Charismatic leadership is about leading through conviction, and charismatic leaders are driven by their convictions and commitment to their cause.
What Makes Someone Charismatic?
What makes a person charismatic? What defines a charismatic personality? An individual who possesses the ability to influence and persuade others by the sheer power of their personality can be defined as a charismatic personality.
Most charismatic people can speak with conviction and have the body language of someone who is approachable and open. Another quality that charismatic individuals have is being a good listener.
Are There People With Natural Charisma?
Charisma is not an innate trait, rather it’s derived from social interactions. There are few who are born with or possess these supernormal traits, but certain personality traits can make some people more charismatic than others.
Can Charisma Be Learned?
Yes, because charisma is not an innate skill but a learnable one. Some people exude charisma giving the impression that they are born with these traits, but charisma can also be viewed as behaviour, and not just a trait.
As charisma can be learned and developed, almost anyone with the willingness to invest time and effort can develop charismatic behaviour by paying attention to people they think are charismatic, learning from them and adapting those traits.
How Do You Know If You Are Charismatic?
Charismatic people naturally attract other people to themselves. They are perceptive, empathic and good listeners. They speak their mind and know how to control their emotional state.
Charismatic people also have strong beliefs about themselves and the world and are able to communicate these beliefs to other people in a way that is persuasive and compelling.
Charismatic individuals don’t feel the need to brag but do possess the confidence to give themselves credit for their achievements in a positive way.
If you notice these traits in yourself and see that you are naturally able to draw other people to you by the strength of your convictions and persuasive communication skills, you have charisma.
If you don’t have all these qualities, no matter. You can learn how to be more charismatic.
Who Were The Most Charismatic People Ever?
Charisma is a learned behaviour and the best way to learn and build charisma is to study the lives and behaviour of other charismatic personalities.
Here is a list of charismatic people, each memorable in their own way.
Most Charismatic Women Leaders
Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales, was a member of the British royal family and the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, and the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. Her activism and glamour made her an international icon.
Diana’s natural empathy, compassion, style, charisma, high-profile charity work, and troubled personal life as a British Royal brought her a great deal of sympathy and popularity as well as tabloid attention.
She was often described as the “world’s most photographed woman” and when she was killed in a car crash, her televised funeral was watched by a television audience of over 32 million people in the UK and millions more around the world. Few celebrities have touched people’s hearts as much as “The People’s Princess.”
Greta Thunberg, Climate Activist
Greta Thunberg is a Swedish teenage environmental activist. Although she has Aspergers and lacks the social skills that many naturally charismatic people possess, her campaign on climate change has gained international recognition and massive support, because of her sheer courage of conviction.
She gave a compelling speech at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, has received numerous honours and awards, has been named as one of the 100 most influential people of 2019 by Time magazine, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
She inspired millions of young people to hold a global climate strike. Watch her powerful and emotional speech to world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit and tell me that you were not moved.
Michelle Obama, First Lady Of The USA
Michelle Obama was the first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, and was the first African-American first lady.
She was considered a fashion icon, with Essence listing her among “25 of the World’s Most Inspiring Women” and Vanity Fair listing her among “10 of the World’s Best Dressed People”. She also appeared on the 2008 People list of best-dressed women and was praised by the magazine for her “classic and confident” look.
Obama served as a role model for women and worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity and healthy eating. Her memoir, Becoming, sold 10 million copies.
Mother Teresa, Humanitarian Icon
As a nun, she devoted her life to charitable and humanitarian work by helping the poor and destitute around the world. Because of the courage of her convictions, she was able to garner many followers, admirers and much financial support to her altruistic cause and charities and became a role model for many Indian women.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
Sandberg was the first woman chosen to be on the board of directors by the existing board members of Facebook. After giving a popular TED Talk on developing women leaders and authoring the book, Lean In, this charismatic woman leader became a powerful voice in the fight for gender equality and women’s leadership.
Most Charismatic Politicians
Eva Peron, First Lady of Argentina
María Eva Duarte de Perón was the wife of Argentine President Juan Perón and First Lady of Argentina. Using her weekly radio show, she delivered powerful speeches with heavy populist rhetoric campaigning for her husband, Juan Perón’s movement, in an election that he won in a landslide.
This charismatic woman leader was well-known for her charitable and feminist activities and worked incessantly against the existence of poverty and social ills. She was usually referred to as Eva Perón, or Evita, and has become a part of international popular culture, most famously as the subject of the musical, Evita, starring Madonna.
Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor Of France
This French statesman and military leader became Emperor of the French as Napoleon I and dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade.
He is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. His Napoleonic Code has influenced the legal systems of more than 70 nations around the world.
Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Freedom Fighter
As a freedom fighter who fought for Indian independence using non-violent protest, Gandhi became one of the most charismatic leaders the world has ever seen, thanks to his ability to galvanise a massive movement that was one of the reasons the British were forced to leave India.
His dogma of non-violence inspired and was adopted by other leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr., who were also charismatic leaders in their own right.
John F. Kennedy, American President
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (also known as JFK), served as the 35th president of the United States, from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963.
One of his most famous quotes was delivered in his inaugural address, where he famously said: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
Kennedy was a compelling communicator who set an example of an authentic conversation with an audience, rather than lecturing to them. He believed a good speaker is also a good listener.
Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist who became President of South Africa and its first black head of state. He served 27 years in prison and gained international acclaim for his activism.
Widely regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, he was awarded many honours including the Nobel Peace Prize. In his later years, he became an elder statesman and focused on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the charitable Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Most Charismatic Actors
Dame Helen Mirren
Dame Helen Lydia Mirren, DBE is an English actor and one of the few performers who have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting.
She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen and will lead miniseries Catherine the Great as the tumultuous monarch and politician who ruled the Russian empire and transformed its place in the world in the 18th century.
Even in her 70s, she can dominate the screen and steal the show from much younger actors.
A realistic and incredible stage actor, famous for his vulnerability and honesty, his method acting won him the Oscar for Best Actor twice, once for playing Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), a role critics consider among his greatest.
In his youth, he developed an ability to absorb the mannerisms of children he played with and display them dramatically while staying in character. During a career spanning 60 years, he was also an activist for many causes, notably the civil rights movement and various Native American movements.
Al Pacino is an American actor and filmmaker with a career spanning more than five decades. He has been nominated and has won many awards during his acting career.
In 2007, the American Film Institute awarded Pacino with a lifetime achievement award and, in 2003, British television viewers voted Pacino as the greatest film star of all time. He is probably best remembered for his roles as Michael Corleone in The Godfather and as Tony Montana in Scarface.
Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio is an American actor, film producer, and environmentalist whose accolades include an Academy Award and three Golden Globe Awards.
He achieved international fame as a star in James Cameron’s epic romance, Titanic (1997), which became the highest-grossing film of all time to that point.
His raw acting talent and environmental activism have made him one of the most charismatic personalities and someone who is able to effect change just by lending his name to it.
John Christopher Depp II is an American actor, producer, and musician. He has been nominated for 10 Golden Globe Awards, winning one for Best Actor, and has been nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Actor, among other accolades.
He is regarded as one of the world’s biggest film stars and is perhaps best remembered for his role as the pirate, Jack Sparrow, in Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean series.
Continuing his antics as the charismatic Captain Jack Sparrow, he charmed patients and their families leaving smiles and laughter in his wake during a spontaneous visit to the BC Children’s Hospital. He also supports a number of charities and foundations.
James Byron Dean was an American actor from Indiana. He is remembered as a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause.
After his death in a car crash, he became the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations.
Besides being noted for having “the undefinable extra something that makes a star”, Dean had a singular influence on the development of rock and roll music and acquired a mythic status that cemented his place as a rock and roll icon.
As an emerging Bollywood talent, Ranveer Singh exudes natural charm and confidence. His positivity and talent have won him three Filmfare Awards. He is among the highest-paid actors in India and has been featured in Forbes India’s Celebrity 100 list since 2012.
He was also featured by GQ in their list of the 50 most influential young Indians of 2017. In 2019, India Today featured him among the nation’s 50 most powerful people.
Most Charismatic Speakers
Martin Luther King Jr., American Activist
Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Christian minister and activist who was inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.
As the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968, he is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience.
In the March on Washington, 1963, he delivered his famous 17-minute speech, “I Have a Dream”, that is, even today, quoted as one of the finest speeches in the history of oratory.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indian Politician
In his youth, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the best Hindi orator in the Indian Parliament, keeping listeners mesmerized with “sharp oratory laced with humour” from the 1950s to 1990.
As he grew older, he was known more for his guarded speech and long pauses, but his oratorical skill is well-worth studying for any Indian who wants to become a public speaker.
Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister
Although he was not a natural orator, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill learned how to become a great orator, winning the Nobel Prize for his writings and “brilliant oratory,” because of his love of the language and willingness to study the techniques of other brilliant orators.
During World War II, his speeches were a great inspiration to the embattled British and first speech as prime minister was the “electrifying” and famous “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat” speech.
Charisma: How To Get It
If you’re asking yourself, “Am I charismatic?”, remember that we all have that special something in us that we don’t give ourselves credit for.
It’s important to appreciate yourself, to believe in your ability to effect change, and embrace the qualities you already possess, whether it is compassion, courage or style.
Your body language speaks even louder than your words. If you know how to communicate well using body language, make good eye contact, have a strong handshake and winning smile, you’re on your way to becoming charismatic.
When you see yourself as good at sharing feelings and have a keen ability to learn what people around you are thinking and feeling, you have the ability to become more charismatic.
If you’re a good listener because you pay attention, engage with people around you and react in an empathetic way then you have qualities that some of the most charismatic leaders possess.
5 Secrets Of Charismatic Leadership
As discussed earlier charisma is not an innate skill, but a learned behaviour. Almost anyone who desires to gain charisma can do it if they’re willing to put in the time and effort.
Here are the five secrets of charismatic leadership:
1. Create a signature look
You don’t have to be a style icon. Many charismatic people, like Gandhi, were not known for adopting the latest fashion trends.
However, even Gandhi had a signature style he was known for – his loincloths. And no one can imagine Mother Teresa in anything other than her nun’s habit.
As you can see, you don’t need to adopt the latest fashion trends or wear expensive clothes, but you can create your own signature style that you have become known for and that you are most comfortable in.
The clothes you wear, your hairstyle and the way you carry yourself are all part of creating your signature look.
2. Work on your self-confidence and self-esteem
Learn how to boost your own self-esteem and confidence. This usually comes from becoming good at something and becoming known for it.
If you’re an actor, become the best at your craft. No matter what you do, work on your skills until you have the confidence to back yourself anywhere you go.
If find yourself lacking in the self-esteem and self-confidence department and need some help to boost your confidence, read the articles below.
- Self-Esteem Books & Women’s Activities To Build High Self-Esteem
- 7 Practical Steps To Boost Self-Esteem And Self-Confidence
- 5 Simple Habits That Strengthen Your Self-Confidence
- 3 Ways To Grow Your Confidence (Tip: You Already Have It)
3. Speak with conviction
Conquer the stage by learning how to speak charismatically and with conviction. Speak about issues that you have strong opinions about and that benefit humanity. If you need inspiration, just watch Greta Thunberg’s speech above.
Remember that it’s not about you. It’s about the message you were put on this Earth to convey. Charismatic speakers don’t feel the need to look good. They just need to have the courage of their convictions in order to influence others.
Learn how to calm your public speaking nerves and start speaking with confidence with these tips to overcome your public speaking anxiety and fears.
- Speaking With Confidence: How To Overcome The Fear Of Public Speaking
- 3 Presentation Skills To Confidently Stand In Your Power On Stage
- 7 Persuasion Tips To Influence Anyone You Desire
4. Be a good listener
One of the most charismatic qualities is being a good listener. That’s because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
“It takes a great man to be a good listener,” said Calvin Coolidge. Being a good listener makes other people feel like you genuinely care about them and their feelings. When you listen to people with genuine concern, you make them feel important.
Many people have the impression that only extroverts are charismatic. This is not true. Many of those on the list of charismatic people above are introverts, like Gandhi and Mother Teresa.
Princess Diana was often described as a shy, young girl when she married Prince Charles, but she possessed charismatic qualities such as empathy and compassion that endeared her to millions of people around the world.
The reason why so many introverts have natural charisma is that they listen more than they speak. As Ralph G. Nichols said, “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
5. Be mindful of your body language
Your body language says a lot about what you truly think and feel. If it doesn’t match your words, you’ll come across as insincere and inauthentic. When you’re being charismatic and charming, your words and body language come across as harmonious, not discordant.
Charismatic people know this and they ensure that their posture, facial expressions and gestures match the words coming out of their mouths. If you watch the speeches of charismatic politicians like John F. Kennedy, you’ll see that his words match his gestures to create a feeling of trust and authority.
4 Charismatic Qualities You Can Cultivate
Do you need actionable charisma tips to learn how to be charming and charismatic? Here are 4 charismatic qualities you can cultivate to exude charisma.
1. Charismatic voice
Learning how to make your voice more charismatic takes practice because we don’t really know what we sound like. The best way to do that is to record yourself speaking in different situations and listen to it.
It might be an “unconscious bias,” but study after study shows people find deeper voices more authoritative in both men and women. If you have a high-pitched voice, don’t despair! There are ways to control your vocal pitch and intonation to make it more appealing to the listener.
To improve the quality of your voice, you can take the help of a vocal coach to create a voice that sounds rich, confident and more authoritative. You’ll be able to stand in front of an audience and deliver powerful speeches that make your audience want to listen to your every word.
2. Charismatic body language
People usually make snap judgments about us within the first few seconds of meeting us. Body language is non-verbal communication and it communicates your feelings more authentically than the words that come out of your mouth.
If your body language doesn’t match your words, you’ll instantly come across as untrustworthy. Making good eye contact, smiling, having good posture are just a few things you need to be mindful of.
You can study the body language of charismatic leaders and engineer confident body language. Learn how to be a better listener, feel more comfortable in your own skin, and appear more positive and trustworthy.
3. Charismatic attitude
Your attitude speaks volumes and having a good attitude is a very important step to developing charisma. A positive attitude is very important to becoming a charismatic leader because negativity repels people.
Empathy, emotional intelligence, compassion, good listening skills, the ability to give genuine compliments and be vulnerable when you need to be, are all characteristics of the most charismatic people ever.
Learn how to develop a more positive attitude by practising self-compassion and self-love so you can treat others with compassion and love too.
4. Charismatic speaking skills
You’ll note that the charismatic speakers’ list above has a number of people who may not be style icons, but have learned how to be great orators.
Charismatic speakers tend to use humour and learn how to be good storytellers that inspire rather than force their opinions on others. In fact, all the world’s greatest leaders are great storytellers.
They are also passionate about the subject they are speaking on. Almost anyone can learn how to talk with charisma if they can speak with conviction, humour and tell great stories.
Most charismatic personalities invest time, effort and resources in learning how to be a charismatic speaker and honing their charismatic speaking skills. These skills can all be learned and today, it’s easier than ever to do so.
I hope this article will show you that it’s possible to learn how to develop a charismatic personality and be the most charismatic person in the room, so you can share your gifts and talents with the world and change people’s lives for the better.
Priya Florence Shah is the Group Editor at SHEROES and author of Devi2Diva, an emotional self-care book for women.
Images by United States Federal Government – from the Ronald Reagan Library: Public Domain and John Mathew Smith [CC BY-SA 2.0]
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