- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Portfolio; 2/24/13 edition (March 26, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591845947
- ISBN-13: 978-1591845942
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 609 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism Paperback – March 26, 2013
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“The top book I’ve read all year.”
—Dr. Tina Seelig, Executive Director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), the entrepreneurship center at Stanford University's School of Engineering, and author of inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity .
“Olivia Fox Cabane offers hands-on advice and a practical guide to humanizing leaders without comprising integrity or authority. She focused on the ‘it’ factors that can make a real difference.”
—Laura Lang, CEO, Time Inc.
“Cabane has done us a big favor. She’s woven solid science and engaging narrative into an instructive treatment of the role of charisma in leadership—a topic that (until now) we only poorly understood.”
—Robert B. Cialdini, author of Influence
“If you are interested in increasing your ability to be charismatic in your unique setting or employment, this book will give you direct skills to use.”
“The Charisma Myth is an easy read, effectively integrating stories and research, strategies and applications, techniques and practices.”
— New York Journal of Books
“We can’t all be as charismatic as Alexander the Great or Madonna, but with Cabane’s help, we can sure get close!”
—Marshall Goldsmith, author of Mojo
About the Author
Olivia Fox Cabane has lectured at Stanford, Yale, Harvard, MIT, and the United Nations. As an executive coach to the leadership of Fortune 500 companies, her clients include Google, Deloitte, and Citigroup. She is a regular columnist for Forbes and has been featured in The New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and The Wall Street Journal. For more information about Olivia Fox Cabane, please visit: AskOlivia.com
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One of the core messages of this book is that you have to feel the emotions you want to project. If you're feeling anxious or generally negative, as the book says, these emotions will "leak" out (in the form of micro expressions, which are pretty much agreed to not be detectable by almost all people), and turn people off. I can't really accept this idea mostly because I've seen so many counterexamples of it. I've seen and known lots of incredibly anxious or depressed people project intense charisma, usually out of their own social anxiety and desire to be accepted. There's no way you can put former idea forward and not acknowledge the latter. I don't have any problem accepting that positive emotions will help you perform charismatic behaviors, I think that's true, but it's simply not true that one feeling negative emotions will never be charismatic. Charismatic behavior is charismatic behavior. To be charismatic, perform charismatic behavior. That's all there is to it.
Running with this idea, the book then tries to present, in a few chapters, some kind of platter or quick fixes to treat negative emotions. This part really confuses me. What is she trying to do? Write a self-help book for every negative emotion, anxiety, and depression? Again, these are certainly useful for psyching yourself into a mood that will assist you in performing charismatic behaviors, but it's like she's trying to conjure up some mindfulness based self-help treatment for everything. Cabane is a coach, not a psychologist. But she writes like she has that authority. And it comes down hard.
So what does this book do well? In her element, Cabane's classification of charisma styles is brilliant. She has wonderful advice and presents and explains lots of charismatic behaviors. She's great at this! I've remembered lots of the tips and ideas from the latter part of this book and have used them to great success. The stuff about conscious mirroring is fantastic, as well as the "presence, power, and warmth" framework of charisma. I liked the stuff on warmth the best.
Overall, I'd recommend this book but only if you take the "you have to have positive emotions to be charismatic so here's how to deal with all negative emotions in 3 chapters" part with a grain of salt. Oh, and google the replication crisis of psychology, and take a clear mental note of the pop star researchers and smash hit theories that have been debunked. You'll encounter a few of them in this book. Finally, don't get discouraged, because most of what comes after is absolutely solid advice on being charismatic, and what factors make up charisma.
I don't really gush about things. If anything I tend to be very demanding and therefore very critical. Like I said, I think most books in this genre are essentially useless.
The Charisma Myth is a truly phenomenal book. It's so good that I have recommended it to several of my colleagues and it has already changed the way I manage my team and relate to my coworkers. In fact, my first gut reaction when I read it was "I guess I should stop speaking, now, because everything I'd want to talk about is covered in here."
Here's the thing: most of these kinds of books give you a few things:
1. Platitudes: useless, pithy sayings.
2. Random Anecdotes: stories that don't really offer any takeaway you can act on.
3. Abstract Imperatives: things like "be a good listener!" If you're not already a good listener that's kind of like saying "Roast Beef Recipe: Get some beef and roast it." It's not helpful - it doesn't tell me what actual specific actions to take.
Here's what this book gave me:
1. Extremely concrete, specific actions: Every piece of advice about conduct or mindset is accompanied by direct actions to take. When you're in a conversation and find your mind drifting, bring it back to a physical sensation in the present, like the feeling in your toes. That's just one example of many, but they're all things you can actually DO, not abstract imperatives like "be a better listener" or pithy-but-vapid stuff like "smile more!"
2. Visualizations: I've never seen anyone push visualization like Olivia does. She makes the compelling point that visualization is something top athletes and actors have known about forever. In my talks I've always felt slightly uncomfortable urging people to do visualizations, but not anymore, not after reading this. She runs through a lot of specific visualizations, and they're immediately useful practices.
3. Taxonomies: Of the most useful business and management blogs I read, some of their most useful posts (I'm thinking of randsinrepose.com, for example) are taxonomies. "The five kinds of meeting attendees." "The four kinds of firefighting." Or whatever. These are helpful to me because by enumerating a problem space as a handful of distinct categories they help me crystallize my own thinking about it. Olivia does this when she enumerates the four kinds of charisma. Look, I think I'm a good manager and leader, an empathetic guy and good at my job, I'm not gonna lie, but I'd never thought about it in this way. This was pretty eye-opening to me. I read this part and thought, oh yeah, I've got the "focus" and "kindness" charisma but less of the "authority" and definitely least of all the "visionary" charisma. And that gives me specific things to work on, and a way to understand why I'm better at motivating people in certain circumstances rather than others.
To anyone who wants to be more charismatic: to be more successful at work, more able to positively influence those around them, more able to open up and make real connections with others, and just more able to lead a rich and happy life - and I know how this sounds, I swear I don't usually gush like this! - this book tells you everything you need to know. Everything! No other book I've read does that.
To be clear, that's like saying Rippetoe's "Starting Strength" tells you everything you need to know to be a very good, extremely strong weightlifter. You still have to do a ton of really hard work! This book doesn't make you magically charismatic. But it gives you direct, specific, applied practices that, if you do them, will make you more charismatic and enrich your life. Of all the pop psychology, management, leadership, and professional self-help books I've ever read, I cannot say that about a single other one.
I give this book my absolute highest recommendation. It is absolutely superb. I don't say that lightly.
I got this book mainly so I could better improve my interaction with friends, and the tools I found in this book have impacted my life in such a way that I never expected. Now I recommend this book to anyone who struggles with friendship problems, social situations, business situations, or even self-esteem. I have never expected to learn so much from this book and would recommend it to anyone.