Developing charisma

Scientists have discovered that when we listen to a charismatic speaker, the parts of our brain responsible for analytical thinking, logic, and attention are deactivated. Instead, it triggers passive brain activity, or, as it is also called, SPRRM, the network of passive brain activity. It is also the neural network of operational rest. In the SPRRM state, a person can dream, philosophize and feel nostalgic. It does not interact with the analytical center of the brain and sometimes even suppresses it, for example, during a charismatic speech.

Think back to when you talked to this person or at their lecture. Can you quote anything from the speech? No. It’s as if you can’t remember words. But we remember the emotions that the speech evoked in us. We remember an inexplicable admiration of this person and consequently what they were talking about. The most vivid example is Steve Jobs’s presentation with the next know-how from Apple Inc. Even if you are not a fan of Apple products, you must have seen the huge lines the day before the launch of sales of the new iPhone.

We believe people like Steve Jobs because we are fascinated by them. And next to a great speaker like Tony Robbins, our brain goes into a state of “awe.” There is a complete shutdown of our inner rationalist. Instead, we subconsciously feel admiration for this person.

German sociologist and philosopher Erich Fromm believed that such awe is caused by an unconscious desire to shed responsibility and find someone to follow to eliminate feelings of loneliness and social confusion. Why do you think this happens? 

The fact is that with the admiration reaction, our brain gets a chance to “escape” from complexes, anxieties, and the need to make decisions. In other words, trusting a charismatic individual’s opinion is much easier than taking responsibility. Sigmund Freud suggested that most people see such people as paternal. So, unconscious copying of their behavior occurs, and the model “head of the family and a child” is activated.

John Antonakis, head of the doctoral program in management at the University of Lausanne, has long studied the behavior of charismatic leaders. As a result, he found that all U.S. presidential candidates diligently and deliberately learned such behavior. According to Antonakis, the well-known techniques of charismatic leadership helped the last eight presidents win elections. Moreover, these invisible techniques subtly affect our perceptions, evoking trust and sympathy.

Fortunately, it is not necessary to run for president to develop charisma. It is enough to know just a few secrets of a naturally charismatic leader and apply them to your life now.