People are interesting creatures. One of the most interesting things that I’ve been amused by recently is that we often attribute complex behaviours to some unknown factor rather than actually trying to figure it out. Sometimes it seems better not to know.

Charisma is something that I’ve been intrigued with for a long time, and after reading the Leonardo Da Vinci I’m trying to put my finger on what made him such a compelling character for 500 years. Sure, Leonardo was an exceptional artist and had an unusual visual acuity, But that would be for nothing if he wasn’t interesting enough to work his way into the aristocracy, and as a result had the time to dedicate to so many of his personal pursuits.

Charisma was a key element of what differentiated Leonardo. He met and had conversations with lots of people and everyone seemed to like him and consider him to be a friend.

But what is charisma and can it be taught?

One of my core beliefs is that people can learn anything if given enough time, the right material, and the motivation to practice. Charisma is one of those things that I wish we had the “right material” to learn from, but which I just can’t put my finger on what it is that makes people charismatic.

When thinking about people that have that special something that makes them stand out, that makes you want to be around them. It is fun to think about people like Robert Downey Jr., Dwayne Johnson, Justin Timberlake or Jennifer Lawrence – what is that X factor that makes you believe you would be best friends if you met them in person? Has anyone put together a book about what makes people charismatic and interesting in that way.. such that it can be taught and learned and practiced?

Leadership is a comparable skill that unlike charisma is often regarded as some X factor that differentiates natural born leaders from the rest of us. But there are coaches to teach leadership, books that have dissected leadership into 100s of personalized variations to fit with any natural starting point. What makes someone a great CEO or politician is not an innate skill that kids start to display in elementary school. There are difficult and unnatural things to do and say that are the basis of leadership.

I think it’s particularly interesting that actors and musicians have an unusually large portion of people that have that charismatic trait. There might be something about learning to be in control of your emotions that actors train to do that makes it easier to ‘choose’ to be interesting?

In the end, the way we are perceived comes down to the things we say and the actions we make (or micro actions and body language). What other people see and hear of us all comes down to those visual and auditory signals. There is nothing else for others to judge us on. If we can do or say things in a charismatic way, consistently enough, then we are charismatic.

What do you think is that X Factor? Can it be Taught?