Many people I encounter in my day-to-day business activities often have a stereotypical perception that to be charismatic you have to shout and show off – exude an air of invincibility.
Charisma is an authentic power that captivates the hearts and minds of others. Regardless of whether you are introverted or extroverted, your own natural charisma is expressed when you allow the real essence of who you are shine out into the world.
Whilst this may sound relatively simple, it actually takes real courage to become the person you were always meant to be. When you reflect upon the times in your own life when you experienced hurt, fear or perhaps betrayal of trust your instinctive self-protection mechanism kicked in and you probably began to build invisible walls around your heart to block the potential for further pain.
The conditioning of your own childhood and your life’s experiences shape the beliefs you hold about yourself and your ability. If any of your beliefs limit you in any way then these are further protective walls that are blocking your own light from shining more brightly. Beliefs such as, “I’m not good enough.” “I’m not worthy of this.” “If I’m not perfect then no one will love me.”
Within a work context imagine that every employee is surrounded by invisible walls. Some peoples’ walls are thick with multiple layers indicating that they are shrivelled from life’s pain – hiding their true potential for fear of being hurt or damaged further. Communication can only ever be at a superficial level all the time that people have their walls up. But the fear that keeps these walls firmly entrenched around you is one shared by most people. Many of us have an excruciating fear of being seen for who we really are and being judged as not worthy. At some point in our lives we formed the belief that just being ourselves falls short in some way. Rather than feel vulnerable and exposed it becomes easier, more comfortable to simply operate from the perceived strength of the ‘the wall’.
Connecting with your own innate charisma is only possible when you let down your walls. This leaves you feeling vulnerable and exposed. It takes great courage to reveal your true nature to the harsh world, but it is only in this moment of fragility can you reunite with your true authentic essence.
At work there is a pressure to perform, a pressure to conform and a pressure to normalise the periods of change, stress and uncertainty. The stakes are high. “If I show my vulnerability I might not be respected.” “I might lose my job if I’m seen as weak and over emotional.” “I need to be ruthless to climb the career ladder.” “People will take advantage of me.” “If I don’t please these people I won’t be liked.” There is a perception that if you are seen as ‘not coping’ you will be judged as not good enough. Asking for help maybe viewed as a weakness and in a company where everyone is cleverly masking how they are really feeling it seems too scary to show any sign of vulnerability. Everyone else’s mask is so tightly fixed on that we believe that everyone else has got it sorted. Why are they so confident, so together, so in control? Showing your vulnerability feels like putting a cut finger into shark infested waters – you might lose your life, at least your entire arm. So you bleed a little in the solitude of your own mind, patch yourself up with a plaster, pop a few painkillers and the wall remains intact. Whenever someone asks you how you are you smile and that outrageous lie escapes from your own lips, “I’m fine.”
In an organisation where vulnerability is not demonstrated by leaders then this superficiality permeates through and poisons creativity, innovation, unfiltered disclosures in relationships. This creates a barrier to engagement because if people are truly engaged in their work they are emotionally invested in that work. You can’t be engaged without being vulnerable. Actually just being alive makes you vulnerable. Rather than pretend you ‘don’t do vulnerability’ why not embrace that being vulnerable means you acquire a depth of insight into the emotions of self and others?
The charismatic individual, the charismatic leader demonstrates that being vulnerable is a necessary part of creating deep connections. As they allow their own vulnerability to be exposed they send a strong message to others that it’s a safe environment to be vulnerable. It’s a safe environment to care about others, to care about the work. In the moment when you allow yourself to reveal just how vulnerable you are, you will shine more brightly than you have ever shined before.
Charisma and vulnerability walk hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other.