The 3 Elements of Charisma: Power

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 12, 2013 · 47 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development


According to Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, there are three components to charisma: Presence, Power, and Warmth. Last week we talked about the nature of real Presence and how to develop this vital quality. Today we’ll tackle that second element: Power.

Charismatic individuals are powerful people. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the leader of the free world or the chairman of a multi-national corporation. In fact, you can find individuals who convey Power in the humblest walks of life. Power, according to Cabane, simply “means being perceived as able to affect the world around us, whether through influence on or authority over others, large amounts of money, expertise, intelligence, sheer physical strength, or high social status.”

Being able to affect the world around us. Powerful people can get things done, or at least they give that impression. Charismatic individuals draw people into their orbit like a magnet, and Power is the crux of that magnetic force. It’s a primal attraction. Back in our caveman times, our survival could depend on being chummy with the big dogs at the top of the social hierarchy – those who could offer protection, food, and women. To better enable us to seek out and latch onto such people, our brains evolved to cue in on body language and status markers that indicate power.

We may have left the savanna thousands of years ago, but people are still incredibly drawn to those who have resources, or simply seem to know how to get them. Our very survival may no longer depend on our connections with such people, but our access to greater personal and professional opportunities can.

It’s extremely important to point out here that each of the three components of charisma must be deftly combined in order to produce personal magnetism. You may be the most affable, attentive person in the room, but without Power, people will at best just see a nice guy, and, at worst, someone who’s needy and desperate; it may seem harsh, but generally the value people place on your Presence and Warmth depends on the amount of power they perceive you to have. Here’s a quick example. If you received a compliment on a job presentation from both a co-worker and the CEO of the company, which compliment would mean more to you? If you’re like most people, it’d be the CEO because he’s got the power.

On the flip side, Power in the absence of Warmth and Presence is a charisma killer. A powerful man who lacks these tempering qualities can be seen as important and impressive, but will come off as aloof, arrogant, and cold.

The currents of Presence, Power, and Warmth must be harmoniously intertwined to produce truly electric charisma.

How to Increase Your Charismatic Power


Body language plays a big role in conveying Power, such as striking this “Power Pose.” Without Warmth and Presence, a powerful man can seem cold and aloof to others (inset).

Increasing your charismatic Power may seem difficult; it may feel like applying for a job where you need experience to be hired, but to get that experience, you need to have that job first! Remember, however, that charisma is about how other people perceive you, so you don’t actually have to have a million dollars or the Pope on speed dial. Nor do you need to be able to “crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women” (though those things can certainly help). In order to achieve Conan-esque power, you first simply need to offer the impression that you’ve already got it. Fake it until you make it! As people perceive your charismatic Power and invite you into their circles of influence, you’ll gain in real world power, which will make you feel and demonstrate more charismatic Power – setting off a virtuous cycle that leads to greater and greater success.

Offering an impression of power mainly comes down to enhancing the things humans are wired to home in on when trying to determine someone’s level of it: body language and appearance.

Here’s how to do that, along with a few other proven Power-boosters:

Boost your confidence. Power first begins in the mind. If you feel confident and powerful, others will feel it too. Self-assurance gives you an irresistible aura that draws people in and makes them want to get to know you better. Developing confidence deserves its own post, but for now know that the crux of confidence is mastery. Expertise, regardless of the skill or the area of knowledge, marks you as someone with resources, and a man with enough perseverance to plunge to the very depths of a subject. Attaining mastery over something will also fundamentally change the way you feel about and carry yourself.

Putting the rest of these tips into practice will also help boost your confidence.

Know a little about a lot. In addition to one area of expertise, you should also seek to know as much about as many subjects as possible. Intelligence is one of the key markers of a man who is able to affect the world around us, and the more conversations you can confidently wade into and add onto, the smarter (and more well-liked) you will seem to others. How do you gain a wide breadth of knowledge? Read, read, read. Read every chance you get.

Become physically fit. Your body shape is one of, if not the, first thing people take in when they meet you. A fit, muscular physique sends a signal to the most primal parts of other people’s brains about your strength and ability to dominate and protect. Fitness also signals to other people that you’re disciplined and capable of enduring pain in pursuit of a goal. This is likely why men with an average-to-husky build make more money than both their skinny and obese peers. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, one study found that: “Thin guys earned $8,437 less than average-weight men. But they were consistently rewarded for getting heavier, a trend that tapered off only when their weight hit the obese level. In one study, the highest pay point, on average, was reached for guys who weighed a strapping 207 pounds.”

Dress for power. Clothing is one of our strongest power cues. When we see a man in a military uniform with lots of ribbons on his chest and stars on his shoulders, we automatically think “authority.” But you don’t have to don Dress Blues to garner this instantaneous respect from others. Studies have demonstrated again and again that simply wearing high-status clothing is enough to influence people. For example, in The Charisma Myth, Cabane discusses one experiment showed that people tended to follow a jaywalker sooner and more frequently if he was wearing a well-tailored suit than if was wearing more schlumpy looking clothing.

Besides making others perceive you as more powerful, dressing well can actually make you feel more powerful and confident as well. By feeling more powerful, you act more powerfully, which makes others see you as more powerful. The virtuous charismatic cycle FTW!

Antonio will be going in-depth about the science and psychology of clothing’s effect on power and confidence in a later post, but you can start taking steps today to dress better. You don’t have to buy designer double-breasted pinstripe suits to look more powerful. Just make some small style upgrades that show you have it together. Instead of a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, don a nice button-down shirt, a pair of khakis, and some leather dress boots. Slip on a sport coat or blazer to broaden and heighten your shoulders and create a more masculine silhouette. Another simple (and inexpensive) way to improve your appearance is to take your clothing to a tailor or seamstress to have it adjusted. You’ll be amazed how much better (and powerful) you’ll look with a dress shirt that isn’t all baggy and poofy or a suit that properly accents your shoulders.

Finally, you may be thinking, “But someone like Mark Zuckerberg wears hoodies and sandals and he’s super powerful.” True, but his success is the exception rather than the rule, in that it was born in a dorm room rather than through having to impress and make connections with other people. A better example would be Steve Jobs. Today we think of him as the quintessential iconoclast, a persona symbolized by his “uniform” of jeans and a black turtleneck. But before Steve Jobs became the Apple wonder-worker of the late 90s, when he was still trying to build his success and convert people to his products and ideas, he dressed in pinstripe suits and even a bow tie. Once you attain the pinnacle of power, you may be able to wear whatever you want. But while you’re still trying to gain power, dress like you’ve already got it.

Be the Big Gorilla. After clothing, body language is the second biggest influencer on other people’s perception of your power. One nonverbal cue that indicates power is the amount of space an individual uses. As you probably intuited, powerful people take up more space than others. They act, as Cabane describes, like “Big Gorillas.”

According to organizational behavioral professor Deborah Gruenfeld, “powerful people sit sideways on chairs, drape their arms over the back, or appropriate two chairs by placing an arm across the back of an adjacent chair. They put their feet on the desk. They sit on the desk.”

To increase the level of power people perceive you to have, look for ways to subtly increase the amount of space you take up. Drape an arm over the back of a chair like Don Draper or when a co-worker comes into your office to chat, instead of sitting behind your desk, casually sit on top of it.

Another tip Cabane suggests to help you harness your inner Big Gorilla is to practice getting people to move aside for you in a crowded environment using only your body language. Imagine you’re actually a Big Gorilla — inflate your chest and stand up straight. Start walking and see if people will move out of your way as you saunter in this powerful stance. Doing this might seem a bit uncomfortable and weird, but it’s a great exercise to help you see the efficacy of body language. If you bump into someone, treat it as an opportunity to convey warmth and kindness by apologizing and making the other person feel comfortable.

Assume Power Poses.  Related to being the Big Gorilla is using “Power Poses.” These are body stances that have been proven to effectively convey power. The most familiar Power Pose is arms akimbo, with the hands resting on the waist. Superheroes are fond of this Power Pose.

Another power pose is leaning back in your chair with your hands behind your head like this:


If you’re at a meeting and you’d like to convey power to those in the room, simply stand up, lean forward, and rest your hands on the table in front of you. Instant authoritah!

A final Power Pose: lifting your arms straight up in the air like you’ve just thrown the game winning touchdown pass. I’m not sure when you could incorporate this pose in your daily life without looking weird, though.

What’s interesting about all these different poses is that not only do they make others perceive you as more powerful, but they also make you feel more powerful (and manly). Studies have shown that by simply standing in a Power Pose for two minutes, testosterone levels increase, while cortisol levels decrease, making you feel more confident and less stressed. When you feel more confident, you act more powerful. Another charismatic virtuous circle! They’re everywhere!

This TED talk by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy does a great job explaining the efficacy of Power Poses:

Take control of your environment. We feel most self-assured, at ease, and powerful when we’re familiar with our surroundings. Familiarity gives us a sense of control, which makes us feel confident. This is why organizations sometimes fight over the location of negotiations before they even start negotiating. Each side wants that home-field advantage.

But how can you be familiar with a room if it’s your first time entering it? Author and magician Steve Cohen suggests doing small things to instantly take control of your surroundings. For example, when you sit down at a table in a restaurant, rearrange things on the table. Move a saltshaker or your water glass. It sounds silly, but by doing this you tell your subconscious that you have control (even if it’s nominal) of your surroundings, which in turn makes you more confident and magnetic. Look for small but polite ways in which you can take control of your surroundings in your everyday activities. You might be amazed by the results.

Speak less and slowly. Powerful people don’t just take up space physically; they also take up space in conversation. Paradoxically, this doesn’t mean you should be hogging the speaking time. Powerful people actually tend to speak less than low-status individuals. By making their words scarce, powerful people increase the value of their communication. When they do speak, people listen. Harness your inner Spartan by being a bit less chatty and a bit more laconic with your speech.

Powerful people also take up space in the conversation with silence. Unlike most folks, powerful people aren’t afraid of “awkward” silence. In fact, they relish it. They understand that people will nervously try to fill the silent gaps. It’s usually during these bouts of anxious chatter that the other man gives up some strategic advantage or useful information. This is why interrogators, job interviewers, and negotiators often resort to the silent treatment to suss out the other person’s vulnerabilities.

Another way to take up space in the conversation is to speak slowly. Speaking fast conveys nervousness and anxiety. Speaking slowly conveys the intelligence, thoughtfulness, and calmness that powerful people embody. Legendary actor Michael Caine summed it up nicely when he said: “the basic rule of human nature is that powerful people speak slowly and subservient people quickly – because if they don’t speak fast nobody will listen to them.” You’d be surprised how fast you talk. Summon your inner Sam Elliott and make an effort to slow it down. It may seem like you’re speaking… way… too… slowly at first, but trust me, you’ll sound completely normal, and even a bit regal.

Boost your poise. Powerful people are composed people. They have poise, or a certain grace and stillness about them. They don’t excessively nod (a sign of submissiveness), they don’t fidget (a sign of nervousness ), and they don’t rely on verbal fillers like um and uh. In your next encounter with someone, act natural but focus on being as still as possible. Nod every now and then to indicate you’re listening, but don’t turn into a bobblehead. Keep your hands still and don’t tap your feet. Read our article on how to eliminate ums and uhs.

Finding Your Inner Gorilla

I imagine that there’s a good number of you who are thinking, “I don’t know about this. It makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I enjoyed the article on Presence more.” I bet you did. Paying attention to people is “nice” and we’re all conditioned and raised to be nice to others. We’re not taught how to be assertive and act powerful. In fact, we’re often made to apologize and feel bad for wanting to.

Just remember that being powerful doesn’t mean being a jerk – you’ll also need to cultivate your Presence and Warmth in order to be truly magnetic. But just being nice is not the same thing as being charismatic; you might be likeable but not fascinating, not magnetic, not someone people are drawn to as soon as you walk into the room. So work on developing your Power, even if it doesn’t come naturally to you at first. With time and practice, I promise it will.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ivan November 12, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Great articles and not revealing everything at once makes me come back for more.

2 Sam Friend November 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm

This is turning out to be a great little series, I can not thank you enough. I will most definitely be using these when at work or doing group projects!

3 Hugh November 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I agree with most of this. It’s a bit affected to adopt these behaviors if they don’t come naturally, but I guess it’s worth a try.

It’s hard to make an argument against “Read, read, read, ” “stay fit,” and “dress well.” So, that’s good advice, for other reasons.

This installation of this series reminds me of a bit of “wisdom” I read that annoyed me: “Be the kind of person you’d want to meet.”

If someone needs to tell you that, I probably don’t want to meet you already.

I know, not the most charismatic response, but maybe I’m just being a gorilla at my keyboard.

I’ll listen now.

4 Andrez November 12, 2013 at 9:56 pm

While an interesting read, it seems to me to be more about appearing powerful than being powerful. The appearance of power is quickly shattered when one fails to achieve goals,and it seems to me to be harder to make up that ground afterward.

I prefer to think of power in French and Raven’s five (or six) power bases. They present a clear model of strengthening power, both in appearance and actuality.

5 Brett McKay November 12, 2013 at 10:29 pm

“it seems to me to be more about appearing powerful than being powerful.”

But of course. We are here focusing on charisma, which is a personality trait, one’s charm and appeal. Actual power is a worthy subject to be sure, but a topic for another time. Also, as the article says, cultivating charismatic power leads to real world power.

6 Hugh November 12, 2013 at 10:39 pm

True power can be used with a negative angle.

I guess the “Charisma Power” is only perceived. Or only power used toward positive ends? Or with positive results?

I agree that it’s confusing to pretend to be powerful in an effort to be charismatic without seeming manipulative or false.

But otherwise, the advice is good as secrets for success, with the gorilla behavior being the weirdest part.

7 Brett McKay November 12, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Both actual power and perceived power can be used for either negative or positive ends.

I would very much disagree with the idea that acting powerful to become more charismatic is either confusing, false, or manipulative. Take the first element of charisma: Presence. Would it be false and manipulative to act attentive and interested in what someone what saying, when it really wasn’t interesting to you? Would it better and “truer” to start looking at your phone as they talked or roll your eyes and walk away? Maybe some would say so, but most would say it’s okay to act attentive even if you don’t feel like it, not only to be polite but to be more likeable. And I don’t think it’s any different with power and with acting confident and influential even if you are not (yet) in hopes of making a better impression and gaining real power.

The “act to become” principle is a very powerful one that I think is unfortunately misunderstood and maligned in a culture that I think is too often obsessed with the very modern idea of “authenticity.” People prize doing what comes naturally, but very little of the best of ourselves comes naturally and instead must be cultivated. Acting to become even applies to manhood itself. For more on this subject, I recommend this post:

8 Kammes November 13, 2013 at 12:30 am

What are some power displaying poses while sitting? Power movements while walking (with a backpack on)? Half joking – honestly curious

9 Victor November 13, 2013 at 1:09 am

Great article. I’ve really gotten a lot of out of this series.

I don’t think acting powerful if you don’t have “real” power is manipulative. It’s not like you’re lying and telling people you have this money or this position. You’re just putting your best foot forward, acting like a guy who has it together and can get things done, because you can.

10 Wolf November 13, 2013 at 4:43 am

This is a nice article in terms of some general guidance given the frame of reference but I think it should be noted that none of these things are as universal and easy as we might think they are.

Sure, there are tendencies and certain interpretations of social behavior in a given context but they are often hilariously inadequate. While humans aren’t bad at subconsciously interpreting non-verbal cues we tend to be extremely inaccurate when it comes to interpreting someone else’s cues when we’re not familiar with them. Ekman has already demonstrated this countless times in the context of lying. And there has been some more observational research and testing – I think actually quite a notch was done in business settings/within firms – where they noted that the discrepancy in what somebody will perceive as this or that are far beyond marginal. Someone’s anxious is someone else’s happy. Someone’s excited is someone else’s nervous and so on. It is always dependent on experience, how well one is familiar with a given person and social context.

This is not to say that these can’t be some useful guidelines, it should just be noted that there are limitations to this – especially when it comes to a more conscious level of processing in addition to the fact that “charisma” tends to be something suited to a certain audience. (e.g. the reawakening priests or certain political figures)

And when it comes to learning more effective communication – whatever it be that one wants to communicate – it is always good to know the limitations of an approach and where things have a potential to go awry – which they ALWAYS do when it comes to communication, no matter how powerful, charismatic, concise or well-versed someone is.

I also think that “power” – as touched upon in some parts here – extends way beyond traditional “dogmas” of power – I don’t know where I read that but I once read something about power and responsibility which I found to be quite interesting as “power” sometimes seem to have this connotation of forcing something upon someone or something else.

11 Wolf November 13, 2013 at 4:57 am

Also, really good point on the “act to become”, while I also value a certain “authenticity” I don’t see any reason why a definition of “authenticity” would exclude any notion of progress.

I mean when somebody says “that’s just not me!” as an excuse to rationalize their behavior (which they sometimes know is detrimental to their own well-being) I don’t see that as being “authentic”. Striving to be true to your principles (within reason, stubbornly refusing the implications of conclusive evidence or the likes is a whole host of other problems) is authentic IMO. Striving to be a “better version of yourself” in every possible aspect.

I don’t see why “authenticity” would rule out learning and growing processes. I will also say that I think that this whole “things come naturally” can actually be somewhat dangerous. Humans tend to be really bad to evaluate dangerous situations for example and act accordingly or waiting for everything to just fall into one’s lap, e.g. the fatalist notions regarding relationships and such. I mean, opportunities always roll along or are to be found – but there is always an agent needed to realize them.

12 Zed November 13, 2013 at 5:27 am

I’m really enjoying this series, and looking forward to the next part. Thanks very much, Brett and Kate.

13 Brian November 13, 2013 at 6:27 am

This is a wonderful article, you’ve hit on so many different points that I may have to come back and reread some parts.

14 Kyle November 13, 2013 at 8:19 am

Enjoying the series, but found the dress logic confusing. We’re to dress for a position of power, yet it was stated that those in power can dress as they please(once power is attained.) So if we were seeking to display true power, why would we not simply dress in a fashion that engenders our confidence? Then we can focus on acting assertively, rather than mimicking power in our dress. The point is small, but I’m not following the logic.

I also can’t help but think assertiveness is a more important quality than power displays – acting assertively will no doubt lead to confidence – to body language – to influence – to power. Would it not be better to focus on the building blocks, rather than mimicking the end game?

Just a thought.

15 Rilind November 13, 2013 at 10:37 am

What if you get trapped by your ego

16 Janos K November 13, 2013 at 10:42 am

Really enjoyed chewing through this one, and the comments as well. I can confirm, works like a charm. Just met a lady-friend of mine, whom I have not seen since June. Equipped with a new coat and a straight back I was perceived as taller, more confident, and thoughtful.

I do not think it is a deception of any kind, just becoming the best You.

17 Mato Tope November 13, 2013 at 10:51 am

“Assume a virtue if you have it not.”

18 John Weiss November 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I would caution on overdoing the slow speech. I have a co-worker who speaks very slowly to the point that people jump into the conversation thinking his is finished, when he was just in the middle of a thought. It is infuriating and honestly makes me think he is dimwitted. On top of that he has a Texas draw, which isn’t bad in itself. But couple that with his eternity like speech and I honestly can’t stand working or interacting with the guy.
Which is a shame because I can say he is a decent fellow – character wise. It’s just his slow speaking style is beyond annoying.

I think you should shoot for a concise speaking style rather than slow speech. Say a great deal with a smaller number of words. English has the largest vocabulary of modern languages. Utilize it.

19 Brett McKay November 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm


While it’s true that a few people with real world power dress very casually and however they please, the idea is to dress similarly to how most men with power dress. Generals, presidents, ambassadors, CEOs, ect., almost without exception, dress in more formal, tailored clothing. For this reason, people associate that type of clothing with power, and thus wearing it signals power to them. Because hoodie-wearing powerful men are the exception rather than the rule, such clothing has no associations with power and does not signal power to other people. Thus it can be advantageous to dress as most men with power dress.

Once you attain power, you may choose to dress as you please, but even then, continuing to dress in a way that traditionally signals power can continue to offer you an edge. For example, President Obama is the “leader of the free world” but he would not show up to meet with other leaders in a t-shirt in cargo shorts — they would not take him seriously.

Dressing as you like might engender your own confidence, but it will not likely do so in others. And even the proposition that doing so would make you feel more confident so you can focus on being assertiveness may not be true, as studies have shown that dressing in clothing traditionally associated with power like suits actually makes you feel more confident and assertive.

Finally, I think assertiveness and charismatic power are both equally important and in fact work hand in hand. Creating an appearance and behavior that looks powerful makes you feel more confident which makes it easier to act assertive, and acting assertive makes it easier to act powerful.

20 Ben November 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I have often used my hard won charisma to further myself socially and professionally. It is a most useful tool, and I would argue with those that perceive it as dishonest. It is about perception, and when I was younger (shy and alone) I discovered that I could alter peoples perception of me with my own disposition. That in itself is very empowering, and I have been the epitome of charm and charisma ever since. (debatable depending on who you talk to… :P)

21 Ben November 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

A short man gets totally screwed in this area. I’m 5’8″ at 160lbs. I’ve never had a boss who was smaller than me. It’s not the fault of the short guy being self-conscious and meek. It’s just that larger men are respected (feared) more. Short men are quietly and internally laughed-at. There really is no such thing as “large OR in charge”. The two go hand-in-hand.

22 Mike November 13, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Having lived in Asia for several years, my prediction is Being the Gorilla in Japan or China will get your branded as ”just another pushy American”. I think the research you referenced tells us more about how Americans perceive body language than humans in general. A lot of psychological and sociological research has (and is being) done using college students from western countries as test subjects, which is hardly a representative sample in America or Europe, let alone the world.

See this article for a brief explanation of this problem:

23 Kyle November 13, 2013 at 5:38 pm


Agreed. There’s no denying that the power suit has its influence and assists with portraying charisma. But while the power suit is appreciated by some, there are also many who distrust it. With recent negative newscast regarding investment bankers, politicians, military officers, etc., the power suit worn by many of these seemingly influential men is now equally viewed with skepticism, by some. I suppose this comes down to playing to the audience you wish to influence, but a power suit is only powerful to those who perceive it as such. One can say that these people are close-minded and prejudice if they judge a man negatively because he dresses in traditional “power” attire. However, those of us utilizing the power suit are banking on the prejudice of our audience to perceive us as powerful.

Comment section isn’t the place for thinking this through, but your articles are much appreciated…often walk away pondering.

24 Matt November 13, 2013 at 7:09 pm

This series reminds me of a portrayal of thumos and fatherhood I once read (can’t remember the title presently). Children take great comfort in knowing that they have a big, tough guy on their side. An advocate, if you will. At the same time, that thumotic power becomes frightening and destructive if warmth and selflessness are lacking.

25 John November 13, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I spent most of my summer trying to learn new skills, be more confident, open and social. And it worked. But I sure wish I had this series as a guide earlier. Just the sort of thing I have always wanted to see this site do. Thanks!

26 Jason Keough November 13, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Women seem to be more attuned to perceiving men’s postures and the “vibe” we put out. I’ve had many women tell me that I look I “own the room”. It usually comes when they see me relaxed when others aren’t; arms stretched out across the top of chairs, patting friends on the back, etc. good article and I’m surprised at some of the comments. Some cultures are different, like Asia and France. But, who cares about the French anyways?

27 kristen dalton November 14, 2013 at 12:22 am

this is amazing!

28 Yaseen November 14, 2013 at 2:34 am

Great article this is, and very true. I’ve been applying a number of these steps for the past few months and I’ve noticed a massive change in the way people interact with me. I especially like the awkward silence point and true I am no longer afraid of the awkward silence as I once was. Btw, the beard helps as well (although I’m 20 people treat me like a more mature person at first sight)! Still got to work on some others though.

29 Aamer November 14, 2013 at 9:45 am

Excellent Post.

To me, there is a fine line between a charismatic individual and one that comes off as arrogant and full of him/her self.
Many a times people appear the later in their attempt of the former.

30 Alex Birkett November 14, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Awesome article! I’m enjoying the series.

Lots of nods to Robert Greene in this one-notably the part about not speaking as often. “Always say less than necessary,” is it?

I liked the “fake it ’til you make it” advice as well. Think and acting like who you want to be tends to turn you into that person.

31 Peter November 15, 2013 at 2:07 am

@ Aamer

Your right, it can at times appear arrogant. Fortunately the third pillar, warmth deals with that issue (once that article comes out it’ll tie everything together).

32 K November 15, 2013 at 3:28 am

One of the best articles since I follow the blog. Can’t wait for the final part.

33 Delphine November 15, 2013 at 7:16 am

Dear Brett and Kate,
Thank you for this great article ; I am really looking forward to the next chapter of this series.
As a young woman, I like heels to assert my position: I like the height (particularly in a male-dominated workplace), I like the noise (people know I’m coming) and I like the poise (you can’t go too fast on heels – slowing down pace and movement (a little) dignifies the manners).
Improving my charisma is my new big homework (until last week I really thought you had to be born with it… this article really changed my perspective on this matter).

34 Mark David Fourman November 15, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Good article. I liked this quote: “Without Warmth and Presence, a powerful man can seem cold and aloof to others.”

Amy Cuddy and I had a debate in the comments on her Ted talk about this. I think it’s a mistake to focus on the traditional “power” poses without including warmth. Here’s my article on how to develop powerful and warm body language, “The Body Language Of True Power” at

35 Timothy November 15, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Lots of good points made in the comments and article. I would argue that though there are many good tips made, Brett, this series strikes me as looking through a lense of self-centeredness and insecurity. These last two posts are framed as “do this for your personal success”. That may be your intention, but I personally want to be charismatic because I recognize a need for leaders. Being charismatic draws people to you, and that gives you the ability to lead. I don’t care to influence people for my own success. Instead I do because there is so much confusion and desparation in the world, and I think this is partially due to weak-hearted, narcissitic men. I want to be one to start a change in the world around me, including being a role model for other men. I would encourage other readers to have a similar attitude and become charismatic in order to do good for others. As a previous commentator said, kids want a dad who is like a “big gorilla”. Love the people around you by being the manliest you that you can.

A short note on my “insecure” comment. A line that tipped me off is “…the more conversations you can confidently wade into and add onto, the smarter (and more well-liked) you will seem to others”. What does it matter how well-liked you are? If you hang onto the affirmation of others because you need their approval, their money, whatever, then that’s the definition of insecurity. Hold true to what you believe and don’t back down. You may face a short-term (or even long-term) loss, but at least you can know that you made a difference and lived truthfully despite the risks. I argue this is a manlier option.

Thanks for your hard work Brett. I feel like a bigger man-gorilla already.

36 Christofe November 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

Grace came from charis (Greek), charisma then was seen as a gift from God, talents, skills, a 6th sense or more that was God given and offered to the community, for the community.

Charisma nowadays is about the individual.

Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day, had charisma, a little too much and was famous for this line, “King Kong’s got nothing on ME!!!”.

Arguably the biggest Gorilla to date.

37 porkchop November 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm

@ Ben: a man is only as shrimpy as he is. At 5′ 9″ / 265 pounds I am not a wee fellow nor am I rotund -most of my colleagues rate me thinner and taller. A good western boot adds 1-2″ in height but more importantly the distinctive sound of a walking heel on tile announces my arrival thus building anticipation. I dress and converse 3/4-step above my position at work: $2.00 words (without pretense) and shirts with more than three buttons…

Charismatic Power is the subtle but significant diference between a 600-pound gorilla and an ape of a man. Think dagger eye vs wink-and-a-nod.

38 Brian W. Parker November 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I’m loving this series of articles so much! I had a big interview last week, and the information about Presence really came in handy.

39 Brian November 19, 2013 at 11:51 am

Good article. I liked this quote: “Without Warmth and Presence, a powerful man can seem cold and aloof to others.”

40 Olga November 19, 2013 at 11:54 am

I’m loving this series too. +5

41 dbdweeb November 20, 2013 at 7:55 am

It’s getting cold out… Where’s the warmth?

42 ryck November 20, 2013 at 10:12 am

Contrary to what you imagined, I find this article more useful than the one about presence. With presence, it kind of sum up to only becoming a good listener whereas with this one, it covered a lot of different aspects involving charisma like confidence, intelligence, fitness, style, poise, and even the way of speaking. Bottom line: power makes more sense than presence.

43 Daublin November 21, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Several commenters have mentioned feeling sleazy about “faking” their appearance of power. At least one person also asked why we should want people to “like” us. These are good points on their own, but they are way too fast to dismiss the point of this article.

To build intuition for that, try turning it around. Just like projecting power is something you can do on purpose, you can also project weakness, either intentionally or–if you don’t read AoM–by accident. If you do that, people will often assume you are just what you say you are: ineffective. They’ll start to undermine you in a variety of ways, and before you know it, you will in reality be weakened.

As a simple example, imagine how it will play out if you act uncertain around your boss or in front of a client. They’ll assume you have a real risk of failure, which first of all will reduce the business you could have been doing. It will also cascade, as you lose access to any positive reviews they might have given you. On top of that, you’ll find that resources you need to do your job are harder to get to, because you’ve impressed people that they had better put more oversight between you and anything dangerous.

Another simple example is how you act around people that are vastly less expert in a particular field than you are, such as students in a class. Such people will typically not be able to judge for themselves how powerful you are in that domain. If you want to be the expert in that relationship, you need to ask for it. If you project false modesty, you probably hope that they’ll go, “oh shush, you are great at this stuff and everyone knows it”. What you might get instead is, “even *he* doesn’t think he’s any good.”

In general, sure, you may not want to over-sell your capabilities. Do not correct that error by the worse error of underselling.

44 Adam November 27, 2013 at 12:37 am

The talk from TED was excellent in my opinion. Almost every time before I give a presentation in front of my peers I act confident; puff my chest out, take up space in my seat, and be open with my body. Seems to work for me and I’m glad this has been scientifically proven so I can show t his to some of my colleagues.

45 Brian November 28, 2013 at 4:33 pm

So when I go into my office, kick my feet up on my desk, throw my hands behind my head and take a nap, it’s a good thing? Sweet!

46 Steven November 30, 2013 at 5:46 am

This series is great. I have always gotten mixed reactions from people, and wondered what I was doing wrong. This series pointed out where I was messing up.
These life skills should be taught in schools right along side manners and sex education.

47 Rob December 3, 2013 at 1:56 am

Good ideas. Great series. Brett I think you’re right about a lot of physical traits that project power. There are psychological traits that project power as well. One of the key psychological traits is being emotionally non-reactive to problems: you react with decisive action, but not negative emotions like anger or fear.

Someone who gets upset easily over small things is popularly said to be “neurotic”. Think of either of the characters in “The Odd Couple” though it is more noticeable in Felix Unger because of all the comorbidities like OCD. Or Woody Allen. Neurotics project weakness. The opposite trait, for which we don’t have an exact word, but something like “unflappable”, projects power. Like the hero in an old-fashioned tough-guy detective movie, or maybe a spy thriller. Their emotional state does not visibly change when things go wrong, or when the bad guy is taunting them. The more personal power reserves you have, the less negative energy you need to unleash.

Do a youtube search on “Jim Eastwood the apprentice”. A man with remarkable negotiating skills due to his combination of rapport-building skill and unflappability.

Unflappability is the result of successful “framing” of what happens to you–like the example you gave in the article about warmth of how you interpret someone cutting you off in traffic so as not to get upset over it. Something else that helps is a “small ego”. Not identifying strongly with your “sense of self”.

Late in the series in which he appeared, Margaret Mountford gave Jim Eastwood a hardball interview, and in the midst of it called him an “ass”. He performed OK, but someone who is very comfortable in his own skin could grin back and her and say “Well, maybe I am an ass, and…” (down the rabbit hole…diversion technique…) and turn it around. Not needing approval avoids the overly-eager-for-approval issue you warned about in the artice about warmth.

Keep the articles coming; we appreciate them!

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