charismatic leader

Practical Tips to Raise Up and Inspire Future Leaders, Part 4

In our series, Raising Up Leaders, we have discussed that over 51 percent of a great leader’s job is to develop new leaders. This process of raising up leaders is vital to any organization’s long-term success. In a previous article, we looked at the importance of character as the foundation of all leadership. Character precedes everything else. Without character, you are building on a faulty foundation. Now we’ll focus on developing charismatic leaders.

Without character, you are building on a faulty foundation.

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Finding charismatic leaders to develop involves paying attention to how they interact with other people; the traits that make up charisma are positive and appealing to others.

The charismatic person uses their skills to influence others. If you can’t relate to people, it is impossible to lead them.

Our models of charismatic people tend to be larger-than-life public figures, but every person possesses the ability to improve their charisma. For some, this improvement will come very easily because of their natural wiring. For others, charisma will be improved at a much slower and more intentional pace because of personality traits.


Being confident is to be assured. Confidence allows us to communicate vision one-to-one, in groups and in front of audiences. This ability to communicate confidence is a skill with which many people struggle. Charismatic leaders aid and enhance the communication process. Charismatic leaders are confident in a positive way without being boastful or egotistical.

Charismatic leaders aid and enhance the communication process.

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One point post-modern literary critique has taught us is that everyone sees through a set of lenses. However, how that information is framed and presented is crucial. The same “bad news” report can bring morale down or be presented in a way that inspires a team with an obstacle to overcome toward victory. When a potential leader becomes aware of the importance of framing, they can avoid presenting a “woe is us” response to information.

Observe how potential leaders react to challenges and bad news. Are they able to put it into a positive light? This trait is invaluable because no one wants to follow a “Debby Downer.”

Empathy and Emotional Connection

Bill Clinton famously issued the line, “I feel your pain.” He possessed the ability to identify with people’s suffering, even if he was not suffering in the same way. Whether or not you disagreed with his policies, President Clinton will be remembered as someone who identified with his followers. A great deal of this empathy is to acknowledge the feelings of others as valid.

When looking for potential leaders in whom to invest, check to see if they are steam-rolling over people to get the agenda accomplished. Are they dismissive of others’ concerns and stressors?  If so, know you will have a challenge on your hands. Much has been written on this subject of emotional intelligence.

Compelling Communicators

Charismatic leaders are good storytellers with an engaging manner. They are able to communicate their message with precision and accuracy while involving the human element. They understand how to grasp the moment, such as when to be serious and when a moment needs a humorous breather.

Study your potential leaders, both when they are in one-on-one, small or large group situations. Strong communicators will use relaxed, open body language and good eye contact. They will watch for feedback from their audience and clarify their position accordingly. Coach them before and after communication moments. Also, consider a discreet videotaping of their communication as a coaching tool.

Healthfully Assertive

A leader, by definition, must be assertive. The power of influence is the ability to make people want what you want, or unite them toward a common cause.

If someone you are considering for leadership exhibits intelligence and generates great ideas but always submits to others (even others with inferior ideas), a huge problem exists. A great idea not implemented is not a solution. You must work with the potential leader to ascertain what lies at the root of their fear to be assertive. Is it a fear of rejection? Is it a lack of confidence? Perhaps this potential leader is afraid that being assertive will be offensive, even if they realize the idea is strong. Helping potential leaders “get over themselves” is key to their development.

Assertiveness can be unhealthy. Some people are over-assertive, using this trait to influence for bad causes or self-serving interests. Hitler, after all, was highly charismatic. We don’t want to spend our time developing dictators.

Charisma is easier to teach and shape than character.

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The Keller Influence Indicator provides a measure of character, charisma, and competence needed for strong influence. Charisma is easier to teach and shape than character. If you must select between leaders with high character or charismatic leaders, always chose high character first.

While we have natural and learned traits, with consistent coaching, growing potential charismatic leaders remains possible. It will require a strong investment of retraining, reminding and modeling, but if they possess solid character and good competence, the investment will be worth it.

In the next article in this series on Raising Up Leaders, we’ll look at how competence plays a role in the foundation of character and charisma.



Karen Keller, Ph.D., CEO of Karen Keller International, Inc., is author and creator of the Keller Influence Indicator® (KII®). She is a clinical psychologist and Master Certified Coach specializing in influence and human behavior. Dr. Keller develops programs, materials and resources relating to the Art of Influence. Her latest influence report, SOCR®, incorporates a person’s Seven Influence Traits® as related to 5 Organizational Competencies. She is passionate at helping people and companies develop their influence potential and an influence culture. Dr. Keller speaks to groups around the globe about the impact of influence in business and relationships. Contact her at or

  • Brooke Harper

    I’m not sure if I’ve read every post in this series (I’ll do review the rest of the articles later), but I’ve gained valuable insights from this one. It’s always a plus in an organization if the leader has his positive charisma that resonates to the entire team. Communication is also the key for both criticisms, feedback, and even simple praises to the members. When there’s this kind of air in the team, everyone would love to step up and bring in their A-game.

  • There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

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