Book Review: The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane

Can we strengthen our charisma or is it something people like Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, Mother Theresa and Princess Diana were gifted with at birth?  According to Olivia Fox Cabane, it’s a myth that charisma is some innate quality we’re born with; charisma results from learning specific non-verbal behaviors.  The Charisma Myth is full of practical techniques and strategies to strengthen our personal appeal.

According to Cabane, charisma is critical in our careers and our personal lives.  Research shows that charismatic people are liked and trusted more and receive higher performance ratings.  They are viewed as more effective by their colleagues.

The three core elements for charisma are: 1) presence, 2) power, and 3) warmth.

Presence is focusing on the person we’re speaking to and tuning out all distractions, from background noise to our wandering thoughts to cell phones.  If we’re not fully engaged in listening to the other person, it will show up on our faces and will trigger a subconscious reaction in the other person.  We will be viewed as inauthentic, which is charisma Kryptonite.  So if we find our mind wandering when someone is talking to us, Cabane suggests directing our focus back to our breathing, the present moment, and then back to the person speaking.

Power is being able to affect the world around us through influence on or authority over others, money, expertise, intelligence, physical strength or social status.  “We look for clues of power in someone’s appearance, in others’ reactions to this person, and, most of all, in the person’s body language”  (Cabane, page 18).  Warmth is goodwill towards others – being perceived as benevolent, altruistic, caring, or positively impacting the world.  Warmth is assessed almost entirely through body language and behavior.

With regards to warm and power, people tend to accept whatever we project.  Therefore, charisma begins in the mind.  Body language is very important to charisma.  Our body language reflects what we think and feel.  Therefore, charismatic behaviors start in our minds.

Cabane provides practical strategies for replacing negative thoughts with positive ones supporting charisma.  There are four different charisma styles: the Authority, Visionary, Focus and Kindness Charisma styles.  We can pick the one best suited for us, depending on our personality, goals and the situation.  Lastly, she provides practical techniques for cultivating charisma in specific situations including making a first impression, making a presentation, handling a crisis or just writing an email.

I was intrigued to read this book because it had 4.5 stars from 239 reviews on  I recommend Cabane’s practical strategies for cultivating a charismatic mindset to strengthen our relationships with others in our personal and professional lives.

Written by Career Services Director Lisa Cook