Barack Obama: Lessons on Charisma from Obama’s Campaign Trail

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

With the news today that Barack Obama may have defeated Hilary Clinton in the race for the leadership I felt inspired to talk about a few of Mr. Obama’s better qualities. In this post I want to look at some things we can learn from Obama about developing charisma.

How to develop charisma like Barack Obama

Charisma is hard to define. It comes from the Greek word “karisma” and means divine or blessed quality. It is difficult to define because it means different things to different people. Some people will perceive a person as charismatic while others will not. However, people who are widely accepted as charismatic often share similar behavioral traits.

Obama has a lot of them. Let’s take a look and see if we can learn a few things.

1. Charasmatic leaders empower people

“I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington… I’m asking you to believe in yours.” – Barack Obama

Barack Obama has the makings of a truly great leader. Take a look at the quote above. It is typical of his style and is reminiscent of every great leader. Why? Because he leads by empowering people.

We all know the manager in the workplace who attempts to hold on to his power by taking away and demoting everyone else. It is counterproductive and it doesn’t work very well. A good leader, on the other hand, will empower his/her people and make them feel like they are an important part of the process. Obama does this extremely well.

Charismatic people empower those around them. Take a look at how Obama kicks of this Q and A session and how he empowers the first South Korean speaker:

2. Charismatic people inspire confidence

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America – there’s the United States of America.” – Barack Obama

One of the main traits of a charismatic person is that they inspire confidence. When you talk to a person with great charisma you will often feel protected and re-assured because they know exactly what to do and how to do it. You leave thinking that everything is going to be okay because this person knows what they are doing.

Obama does this all the time. Take a look at this video of Obama on 60 minutes. Calm, collected and very confidence inspiring.

3. Charismatic people use people’s names and physically interact
One thing that most charismatic people do is engage people by asking their names, remembering those names and physically interacting with them.

Asking a person their name (or remembering it when you reconnect) is the single best way you can show that you are interested and care about what they are feeling/have to say. The next thing you can do is physically interact with them by shaking hands or touching their shoulders in a friendly way. Take a look at Obama at this meet and greet:

4. Charismatic people speak well

“A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, ‘Huh. It works. It makes sense.” – Barack Obama

The final thing I am going to talk about today in regards to charismatic people is their ability to speak extremely well. Their words are carefully thought out and always meaningful. It is very unlikely that a charismatic person will waste his/her time talking about unimportant issues. The words they speak somehow carry a great weight.

Think about some of the greats: Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Lincoln, Gandhi… every word they spoke had a purpose.

Take a look at this speech Obama gives where he talks about “Just words”. The first one and half minutes of this speech are the most inspiring and charismatic moments I have seen come out of a presidential hopeful in a long time.

Conclusion on developing charisma like Obama

Many people believe that it is impossible to develop charisma. Those who have studied it think that it is an innate quality that people are born with. However, by studying people who are considered charismatic we can pick up some tips and tricks. Keep in mind, however, having charisma is utterly useless unless you use it to make a difference.

top image:Creative Commons License photo credit: Barack Obama

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7 thoughts on “Barack Obama: Lessons on Charisma from Obama’s Campaign Trail

  1. What a great set of speeches! This was like speech week here at the daily mind! I quite enjoyed it.

    As for Obama; I really hope he wins. I hope the supers put him in charge and I hope he wins the federal election. We need this kind of hope in our country again. I need it!


  2. Motivational post……… i really enjoyed it. Keep up the good work i have added you to my rss list.

    btw – do you have a posting schedule?

  3. Ben – no we don’t have a schedule but that is a really good idea. It might make it easier for people to book in some time to come over and have a read. Thanks!

    Question – This blog is for the people, not a party.



  4. This really shows how Obama would lead our country if he became president. I loved this article!

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