5 Steps to Charismatic Speaking & Leadership

Being a leader gives you charisma. If you look and study the leaders who have succeeded, that's where charisma comes from, the leading. -Seth Godin

By far too many charisma is classified as an elusive and rare trait. Like many other skills, some believe it is something we can only be born with. Truth is, charisma, (like many other skills) can be learned. If we learn to practice some fundamental skills we can change our perceived charismatic capacities. Like all else, we are not set in stone from birth with specific skills. Human beings can learn, grow and evolve. We do – all our lives. We change. Our evolution as leaders demands we embrace certain skills. Doing so, we can become more charismatic. Whether you consider yourself introverted, extroverted or even ambiverted (somewhere in between.) you CAN be more charismatic by practicing specific skills. With consistent practice you will find they are internalized and become a more effective speaker and leader.

Before we continue let’s explore more about what charisma actually is. Charisma is best defined as compelling attractiveness or charm that inspires devotion in others. This capacity is best defined in one of my favorite books on the subject – “The Charisma Myth”, by Olivia Fox Cabane. This outstanding book breaks down the key aspects that make some charismatic as follows:

  • Presence – Our ability to be present or to be focused
  • Power Projection – Our body language, voice, attire
  • Warmth – General goodwill towards others

Furthermore, the book does a great job laying to rest the myth that only a certain chosen few are born with this “magical” capacity. Anyone can learn it; anyone can practice it. There are no chosen few, just some that would like us to think so. You can through practice embrace a more charismatic character. Beyond this book I think there are further practices and skills you should embrace on the path to becoming more charismatic.

From my perspective being charismatic begins with certain habits that I expand upon here as 5 key steps. Just as an athlete doesn’t show up for a competition without having rigorously trained, you too should embrace the following practices:


Charisma doesn’t come from a place of falsehood but from a genuine, positively motivated core set of beliefs that drive actions. Without authenticity any efforts will be fruitless. We need to be grounded in an ethical foundations, focus on others first and with the overarching effort to cultivate positive relationships and outcomes for all.

Emotional Intelligence

EI or Emotional Intelligence is our ability to understand and monitor our own emotions and those of others and use that understanding to proactively guild our behavior. Developed emotional intelligence is shown by self-awareness, self-regulation, developed social skills, capacity for empathy and ability to intrinsically self-motivate. These skills are of infinite value to a leader of any kind but one practicing charisma requires them.


Being present is sometimes a hard thing to do. We have constant bombardment of work, life, that sometimes overwhelm our capacity to be present and focused. Focus in the context of charisma, means we can see past all the distractions of life and be attentive to the needs of the present situation. Focus helps us solves problem and see opportunity, one step at at time.

Project Leadership Presence

It should go without saying that how we look, speak and dress drive how we are perceived. Our body language should be relaxed but upright, we should smile, we should hold our body in open welcome stances. We should use the dynamic capacity of our voice to lend to our presence. This involves, proper (yet relaxed) diaphragmatic breathing, minimizing filler words/jargon, and speaking slowly and clearly. If we want to be reprieved as leaders we should look the part. Depending on your industry you should dress according to the social norms for what a leader looks like.


Ask an Olympic athlete if they just showed up for the Olympics and asked to compete. My guess is no. They spent 1000’s if not 100’s of 1000’s of hours perfecting their skills to arrive at their current performance level. Why then, do people assume they will not have to invest some in acquiring new skills? Practice of these skills like any other will yield success and more charismatic speaking and leadership outcomes.

My hope for everyone is that you rise to the greatest version of yourself. I hope for everyone that the practice of these skills will lead to habits that produce positive outcomes in your lives and careers. What are your thoughts on charisma? Feel free to add a comment or question below. And, as always, please to join our mailing list for monthly tips on public speaking and leadership.

Joseph Guarino is a professional public speaker, trainer and owner of the Institute of Public Speaking a Boston based international public speaking & leadership training organization. As a seasoned public speaking trainer & professional speaker he enjoys helping other succeed in this worthy and rewarding craft. The Institute of Public Speaking offers a variety of public speaking courses for individuals (1 on 1 training), executive speech coaching, one day public speaking bootcamps, advanced public speaking bootcamps and public speaking seminars for corporations & groups of any size.
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