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For other uses, see Charisma (disambiguation).

The word charisma (from the Greek word kharisma or "gift"), is often used to describe an ability to charm or influence people. It refers especially to a quality in certain people who easily draw the attention and admiration (or even hatred if the charisma is negative) of others due to a "magnetic" quality of personality and/or appearance. Though the term as it stands is extremely difficult to define, other similar terms/phrases related to charisma include: grace, exuberance, equanimity, positive energy, 'right stuff', joie de vivre, charm, personal magnetism, personal appeal, and allure, among others. Usually many of these qualities must be present within a single individual for the person to be considered highly charismatic by the public and their peers.

Charismatic individuals generally project unusual confidence, calmness, assertiveness, and focus, along with superb communication skills. To the early Greeks, charisma was said to be "a divine gift" or "gift of grace," implying that this quality was an inborn trait; although now, many believe it can be taught and/or learned despite the inability to fully define or even understand it.

In a more general sense, the term charismatic is also used by certain Christian denominations and movements to indicate that they believe in and practice the spiritual gifts of tongues, prophecy and words of knowledge, as well as other gifts of the Holy Spirit as found in the Bible (I Cor. 12:2- 11; Eph. 4:11-12), without the preeminence of glossolalia and legalism prevalent in Pentecostalism.

Charisma is also commonly referred to in RPGs, being one of the abilities of a character. Charismatic ability modifies dice rolls concerning communication, persuasion, lying, inspiring trust in others, etc. Charisma is one of the most important abilities needed specifically by Paladins; additionally, charisma affects the effectiveness of Paladin spells like Lay on Hands and Turn Undead.

The Psychology of Charisma

The study, recognition, and development of charisma in individuals is of particular interest to sociologists/psychologists, popular politicians, movie-stars/movie-producers, casting directors, pop-music stars, trainers/coaches targeting the upper-echelons of the business community (CEOs), and academics or others involved in leadership studies or leadership development. In some cases highly-extroverted and brutally controlling charismatic people/leaders can invoke envy and/or hatred among those that do not possess "It," and indeed many cult leaders or leaders in general (Adolf Hitler, Jim Jones) have wrongfully used their personal charisma in extremely destructive and damaging ways throughout human history.

The German sociologist Max Weber defined charismatic authority to be one of three forms of authority, the other two being traditional (feudal) authority and legal or rational authority. According to Weber, charisma is defined as:
a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which s/he is 'set apart' from ordinary people and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader.

Pierre Bourdieu did not have a very different position from that of Weber's, but he stressed that a leader has charisma only if others accept that s/he has it. Bourdieu argued that charisma usually depends on an inaugural act such as a battle or a speech after which the charismatic person will be regarded as such.

Charisma has also been studied as a set of behaviors or traits, a theatrical approach to the quality -- sometimes, charisma can be performed on-stage and in films, and is encapsulated in verbal and non-verbal communication.

An informative article on the psychology of charisma can be found here.

See also


  • Dr David Boje, Charisma lecture notes, Leadership & Society course at New Mexico State University College of Business Administration & Economics, Retrieved 28 July 2005.


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