The International Square Dance Magazine

Stan Burdick

Developing Charisma

Assuming charisma is an admirable and advantageous quality for a caller (or anyone) to have, maybe we ought to examine first what it is, and second how to acquire it.

Webster’s definition: “Charisma...a rare quality or power attributed to those persons who have demonstrated an exceptional ability for leadership or for securing the devotion of large numbers of people.”

There’s more. From other sources, we read:

• Charisma is personal magnetism. It’s a certain je ne sais quoi.
• It’s something we recognize, but can’t define. It’s a feeling; an immeasurable, innate quality that turns the heads and stirs the souls of others.
• It’s a mark of distinction. It’s something one possesses that tugs at the heart. It stirs the imagination. It’s a flair for the dramatic.

I think the best definition I’ve heard goes something like this: “A charismatic person is someone who is a reflection of what you are or want to be.”

If we analyze that statement and think about those we wish to emulate, or those who look or act like we do, or those we gravitate to, or those we reserve a special niche for, or those who prompt a kinship feeling for us, the bottom line seems to be “reflection”. Homo sapiens are a gregarious lot. We want to gather closer to people like us or people who are better than we are. We want to be like someone we admire.

Certain insights into this magical quality of charisma can be illustrated in reference to three people I know, all possessing slightly different shades of charisma. Interestingly enough, each is a different size, which shows that size is not a factor in analysis.

A. Ben Black (not his real name): He is tall. His height certainly commands attention, if not admiration. Many of us would like to be a little taller. He’s a scholar – knowledgeable on many subjects. His diction is superb and he speaks interestingly and with authority; however, he draws people into conversation with no trace of a superior attitude.

B. Barbara Brown, who is of medium height: She is effervescent (bubbly) most of the time. She’s witty, has an easy laugh (giggle), is not too shy, but also not too forward, likes people, likes animals, and draws attention to herself – not with unusual beauty, but with an inner love of life that shines forth in her conversation.

C. Bob Boyd: A small guy, with rough-hewn features, who seems to love everybody and creates fun wherever he goes with quick wit and an engaging smile. He loves to hug everybody, especially the gals. His speech is not perfect, he is not a fountain of knowledge, but there’s an earthy simplicity about him that generates instant affinity and curiosity. He’s an excellent caller. I asked one of his devout fans once why she liked him so much, thinking she’d tell me about his superior calling ability. She immediately responded, “Oh, he is so – so cuddly!”

There you have it: knowledgeable; bubbly; funny; cuddly. The formula seems to have wide dimensions. Let’s narrow it down a bit with a test for you to study to measure your own “charismatic characteristics”.

  1. Do you have a ready wit?

  2. Are you bubbly? Full of life? Effervescent?

  3. Are you knowledgeable? A good story teller?

  4. Are you a good conversationalist?

  5. Do you genuinely like people?

  6. Do people gravitate to you in a crowd?

  7. Is your attitude generally positive?

  8. Are you neat, average looking (not necessarily handsome or pretty) with an engaging smile?

  9. Are you glad to be alive? Do you express this attitude in subtle or obvious ways?

  10. Are you cuddly?

The notion of cuddliness may be a bit “tongue-in-cheek”, but there’s a certain truism to it after all. If you’re cuddly, you certainly have the capacity to draw people to you in amicable, affectionate, maybe intimate ways. Think about it.

This special article appeared in the February 1996 issue of Mikeside Management, a caller note service published by caller leader, Stan Burdick. Stan and Cathie Burdick are CALLERLAB Milestone recipients and received many awards for their leadership and tireless promotion of our dance activity. They were also Editors of American Square Dance Magazine for many, many years 

Fun set to music!