Is it possible to cultivate your charisma from the position of a coach, manager or gym teacher? And if so, how?

Since ancient times, people have been fascinated by the phenomenon of charisma. What all shapes it, why do some people have it and others do not, and how does it affect everything? Indeed, it seems as if charismatic people have been given something that others have not. Charismatic people are able to communicate with others in such a way that people follow them, conform to them, or at many times adopt their views and values at the expense of their own. That can be the difference on the scales between merely good and excellent coaches or sports managers.

17 Feb 2023 Adam Blažej

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Over the course of time and research, several characteristics that charismatic people possess have been identified. These, based on their nature and in terms of their potential achievement, can be divided into traits tied to the physical side of the individual and traits intra-psychological (related to the characteristics of the individual) and inter-psychological (related to communication). Obviously, the first group of traits can be influenced by the coach or sports manager only to a limited extent (e.g. appearance), but conscious work with the other two traits is within his/her capabilities.

Traits related to the physical side of the individual

As already mentioned, this group of traits can only be manipulated to a limited extent. At the same time, it should be known that these traits also affect the overall impression in terms of charisma minimally.

Several studies (Judge & Cable, 2004; Stulp et al., 2013; Gawley et al., 2009) have shown a relationship between the quality of relationships or success in life and work and the height of an individual. It is arguably the most obvious trait, but not a determinant of charisma. However, it is generally accepted as a fact that taller individuals are physically stronger than shorter ones, which is subconsciously accepted by others as a sign of dominance.

Attractiveness is also a trait confirmed by research (Friedman, Riggio, & Casella, 1988) to influence charisma. This may be the result of several factors - the first, and probably most important, is the fact that attractive individuals easily gain the attention of other group members. Attractiveness has also been shown to correlate strongly with social ability (Feingold, 1992). However, this trait is only confirmed as important until other group members recognize the individual's other traits.

Members of social groups also prefer to follow their leaders if they possess certain facial features that are considered masculine. These include, for example, a prominent jawline, lower eyebrows, facial symmetry, or a wider nose. These features are then most often the result of elevated levels of testosterone in the individual, a hormone associated with dominant behavior (Apicella et al., 2008; Carré et al., 2009; Stenstrom, Saad, Nepomuceno, & Mendenhall, 2011; Keating et al., 1977).

Features of inter-psychological substance (related to communication per se)

Many of these traits relate to communication techniques per se, however, despite their simple use, studies have confirmed their positive relationship with higher-level charisma. These traits then focus primarily on influencing the emotions and needs of followers of "charismatic" leaders.

From the position of a group leader, the key aspect may appear to be to evoke a sense of belonging in the remaining group members. A way of functioning in a group in which members feel that they are "us" and not "them" or "me" increases the levels of the hormone oxytocin in these members. Therefore, when communicating with the rest of the group from the position of a leader, the use of the word "we" or the use of the first person plural at the expense of the second person is recommended.

Baumeister and Bushman (2008) then report that people feel much more affection for those from whom they receive (public) praise. However, this ability, or communication technique, may be conditioned by an individual's high self-esteem, as it is thought that individuals with low self-esteem may find it difficult to praise someone else publicly.

Probably the most frequently researched feature of charisma is its relationship to body language (nonverbal communication). Its positive character has then been confirmed in a number of studies (Carney et al., 2005; Tiedens & Fragale, 2003; Carney et al., 2010), and the use of gestures in which the individual extends into space (high-power poses) is recommended in this sense. This is because these evoke a sense of dominance, high self-esteem, or relaxedness in the other members of the group.

Paraverbal communication also has an influence on charisma according to several studies (Klofstad et al., 2015; Puts et al., 2006). By this, in relation to higher levels of charisma, we mean a lower (deeper) and resonant voice. It is interesting to note that the only common feature of the winners of the US presidential elections from 1960 to 2000 was a lower-pitched voice compared to their opponent.

However, it must be said that the lower voice and dominant body language are only a reflection of our perception of reality. In other words, they are only a reflection of intrapsychological traits.

Features of intra-psychological nature

This group of traits appears to be the most important in understanding charisma. From the position of a coach or a manager, we can perceive them as self-confidence, fearlessness, boundless belief in oneself, and, last but not least, freedom from inner insecurities.

Probably the most charismatic trait of all is the last one, namely the freedom from inner insecurities and perceived shortcomings (Bass, 1985). Thus, if we as human beings fully accept our strengths, but above all also our weaknesses, other people will feel more comfortable in our society. This will happen for the reason that they themselves will not feel the need to hide anything, which will reflect in their momentary satisfaction. They will therefore seek out our company.

Charisma is therefore a concept that is made up of several traits of different natures, which are equally influential from the individual's point of view. It can be assumed that a large number of traits are endowed to each individual at birth. However, during adolescence, most people lose these traits through the negative consequences of the process of socialization and adaptation to society (many of the consequences of the socialization process are, of course, positive). These consequences can be understood as the formation of irrational fears, self-limiting tendencies, or ego. The moment we free ourselves from these negative consequences, we will converge towards more charismatic behavior, whereupon the social environment will perceive us as such. Thus, it is evident that, for the most part, charisma can be regained (or rediscovered) during one's lifetime by consciously working on some largely intra-psychological aspects (especially the acceptance of one's own shortcomings and insecurities).

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