Charisma can be measured – and taught

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Researchers at MIT claim they can now measure charisma with 87% accuracy.

I’ve posted on charisma before; “Leadership, charisma and NVC” and earlier asking the question; “Have you got charisma?“.

But this research on social signals moves it a step forward.

Researchers Pentland and Olguin fitted executives at a party with recording devices that captured social signals eg tone of voice, gesticulation, and proximity to other people. 5 days later the same executives presented business plans to a panel of judges in a contest.

Without reading the plans or hearing the pitches Pentland accurately forecast the winners based on the data collected at the party.

The researchers have used this kind of data before in accurately predicting the outcome of salary negotiations and who would survive in the well-known NASA “plane crash role-playing” game.

They use the biological term, “honest signals“, to describe the non-verbal cues that social species use to coordinate themselves – gestures, expressions, tone etc. (language is perhaps 50,000 years old but long before that species communicated and worked together to survive using non-verbal signals).  The honest signals are the ones that cause changes in the receiver of the signal. So if you are happy it rubs off on other people.

They have confirmed that more successful people are more energetic, talk more, and listen more. They spend more face-to-face time with others (this is really important – perhaps 2.5 times as important to success as having additional data), pick up cues, and draw people out, Similar in many ways to the emotional intelligence models.

So it’s not just what they project but what they elicit which makes them charismatic.

They also believe that by using this knowledge they could decrease stress, increase job satisfaction and improve productivity (they believe that they could improve productivity by 10% just by re-arranging the work environment so that people can interact more).

Source: HBR January/February 2010

Updated 9 November 2011: Charismatic behaviours can also be taught. Research has shown that charismatic behaviours include use of body language (NVC), moral conviction and using metaphor.

Now a team at the University of Lausanne has taken 34 managers and given them a 360 feedback survey on their charisma and leader-like qualities.


3 thoughts on “Charisma can be measured – and taught

    No country for grey-haired men | EI 4u said:
    January 20, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    […] First impressions are obviously important in the job search process and employers may have stereotyped ideas about whether older candidates are still up to the job […]

    Have you got charisma? « EI 4u said:
    November 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    […] have now found ways to measure charisma and also to teach it. Advertisement Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Not So […]

    Charisma pays off « EI 4u said:
    September 8, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    […] seems much of what she teaches clients is about assertiveness and the use of NVC (she mentions the MIT research I’ve posted about previously). She also uses visualisation and anchoring techniques used by […]

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