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Lead Your Team Leadership

Can Steve Jobs' Charisma Be Taught?

Can Steve Jobs' Charisma Be Taught?

The death of Steve Jobs, one of the most charismatic business leaders in memory, leads one to think about charisma and charm, especially as it pertains to running a business.

Until recently, it seemes that charisma was nearly impossible to define. It was apparent that it was the thing that makes leaders -- like Steve Jobs -- great. But you either have it or you don’t. Research revealed earlier this year, however, found a way to define charisma, and suggested you just might be able to cultivate it.

"There's this illusion that we know what charismatic communication means, but in the research I reviewed, no one had ever really looked at that," said Kenneth Levine, a University of Tennessee Knoxville communications professor.

"Everyone has a leadership capacity in something," Levine said. "But we found that if you want people to perceive you as charismatic, you need to display attributes such as empathy, good listening skills, eye contact, enthusiasm, self -confidence and skillful speaking," he said. Those are the attributes social scientists can measure to more fully understand charismatic communication.

Levine says the most surprising result was that researchers found study participants believed charisma could be learned, rather than just innate.

"We asked the question 'What is charisma?' and their answers tended to start with 'the ability to…' Well, abilities are believed to be acquired attributes rather than inbred traits, so a lot of people believe that charisma can be learned," Levine said.

Levine says the research makes the case for incorporating these concepts to better measure the level of charisma of individual leaders.

Levine co-authored the research with Robert Muenchen of the UT Statistical Consulting Center and Abby Brooks of Georgia Southern University.CEO’s Play Big Role in Business Failures