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Peter Jackson column.

Byline: By Peter Jackson

A new scientific study claims to have found the secret of charisma, that quality much admired in great leaders.

It's hard to define, but the general view is that we know it when we see it. Napoleon had it, Hitler had it and the late Pope John Paul II also had it.

According to the study, led by Professor Richard Wiseman, charisma involves having an infectious personality, which induces other people to copy your body language and facial expression.

Also, a charismatic person, it seems, has three traits: they feel emotions strongly themselves, they induce these emotions in others, and they themselves are immune to the influence of other charismatic people.

And, according the study, even if you haven't been born with these qualities, you can learn them. Yes folks, you too can become charismatic.

Apparently, it's a question of, among other things, keeping an open body posture and communicating your ideas clearly.

This is the part of the report which will, I suspect, have many an ambitious young business person salivating.

For, it seems to me, charisma is something we hear more and more of and it is now almost regarded as a must-have quality in any leader. We can expect to hear much talk of charisma as the Tories agonise over their new leader.

It's also regarded as terribly important that business leaders should be charismatic and, in this context, the name of Richard Branson inevitably crops up.

My own observation, for what it's worth, is that a personality which is merely open, extrovert and informal is often mistaken for charismatic.

And this is perhaps why, in an age which is much more open, extrovert and informal than those that preceded it, the word charisma is bandied about so much more.

My second observation is that having a charismatic leader is not an unmixed blessing for those who are led.

I mentioned Napoleon and Hitler as two of history's great charismatics and they only head a long list of fanatics, criminals and tyrants who, directly or indirectly, wrought death and destruction.

Single-mindedness, utter self-confidence and refusal to be swayed by others more often leads to disaster than triumph. I would rather be led by ( or invest in ( the grey man or woman any day.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2005
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