Monday, August 10, 2015


Leadership Aura

Confidence and Charisma for Effective Leadership

I know you have felt it… the presence of a strong leader when they enter a room? Of course you have. There are people out there who command such an aura everywhere they go. When they enter a room, their aura leaves no doubt that they are in charge. There’s just something about them that is confident, projects authority, and commands respect, even before they speak a single word. Yes, you know the aura of which I speak.

In 1992, I had the pleasure of seeing (Then-Arkansas Governor) Bill Clinton speak at the University of New Mexico during his Presidential Campaign. At first sight, before even stepping up to the podium, you could feel the presence and Leadership Aura that he projected. In the moment, I thought it was commanded by his status as a politician. Afterward, I had the pleasure of meeting him briefly and shaking his hand. At that moment, I realized it wasn’t his status as a politician that commanded the aura… it was him. During that brief social gathering, President Clinton showed his charm, his charisma, and his authentic-self by discussing – not politics or the state of affairs – but discussing jogging, golf, and how his tailored suit was biting under his armpits. Fifteen minutes later, as he was leaving after shaking hands and meeting approximately 20 other people, he looked me in the eye and said, "Don't forget to vote, Joe". That's right, he remembered my name. President Clinton showed his confidence in every facet from speech to social skills.

On another occasion, just 2 years ago, I had the fortune of having dinner with a Corpus Christi Councilman and his wife. This was another situation where the Leadership Aura was in full force; again, not because of his status, but because of his confidence and charisma. Similarly, he discussed his college antics and praised his wife on her superior social skills. Perhaps what was even more impressive was the fact that he was interested in my stories, and the stories of others who sat at the table.

Have you ever wondered how effective leaders do it? Have you ever wished you could do it?

Well, it is possible. Anyone can develop this aura of leadership. Even if you are not a leader, having a commanding presence can benefit you in many ways. In personal life, this aura can help introverts come out of their shell and be taken seriously in any endeavor. Perhaps you would like to be the “life of the party”, or just simply respected among your friends. Perhaps you would like to be treated with respect by your family members. Perhaps you just feel like it would help your self-esteem. All of this is possible when you learn to project the leadership aura.

Below are steps that will help you to show confidence, project authority, and command respect.

1. Show confidence – In many cases, your body language and appearance can say more than words ever will. If you walk with purpose, show good posture, and dress well, you can instantly and authentically increase your confidence. Smiling is another great way to show confidence. There is a very real link between our physiology and our psychology. If you are an introvert, or otherwise not particularly confident, you can use your physical body and improve your mental state. 

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School who is known for her research on nonverbal behavior, has done extensive research on the subject of body language and social interactions. Her recent work focuses on how we embody and express competence and confidence. By linking our body language to our feelings, physiology, and behavior, we can effectively “fake” body postures that convey confidence, competence and power. Posing in powerful postures – even for as little as two minutes -- changes our testosterone and cortisol levels, increases our appetite for risk, causes us to perform better in job interviews, and can hardwire our brains to cope well in stressful situations. Ultimately, Cuddy's research suggests that when we feel personally powerful, we become more present and better connected with our own thoughts and feelings; which helps us to better connect with the thoughts and feelings of others. Our body language – one aspect of our Leadership Aura – is characterized by enthusiasm, confidence, engagement, and the ability to connect with and even captivate an audience. In turn, our aura can help to boost others performance in a wide range of domains.

Professor Cuddy did an excellent TED Talk on this subject. (see video below) 

2. Prepare great stories to share – Tell stories that inform and inspire other people. In a business setting, this means talking about the small successes that everyone wants. Create value for other people and act with an “Attitude of Servitude” and you will project the Leadership aura and command the room. Putting the needs of others first, allows you to be seen as a knowledgeable influencer.

In social situations, ask good questions. If you show interest in others by asking more about what they do and who they are, people will feel more at ease around you. Seek out personal stories first; let people know you are curious about them, not just their business.

Don’t become long winded with your stories. This can sometimes project an aura of arrogance, or even worse, attract boredom. Stories have beginnings, middles, and ends; and in a crowded room, they should take less than a minute to tell.

3. Pay attention to details – Knowledge is in the details. In a business setting this means the ability to speak about the inner-workings of your particular business. If you are a leader, it only makes sense to know your business. This is not to say that you have to be well versed on the latest accounting software, or understand how the IT department wires their servers, it simply means having a good grasp on how your business works shows competence and commands respect.

In social situations, attention to detail can be something as simple as remembering a person’s name, or noticing the ring on their finger. This can help to spark conversations and foster feelings of warmth and friendliness. Everyone likes friendly people. Friendly people are the “life of the party” and just generally more pleasant to be around. Like attracts like and attention to the details of others, attracts people who notice and enjoy your attributes as well. 

We all have a basic need for connection… even introverts. People are attracted to people with strong personal connections. Preparing yourself ahead of time, both mentally and physically, by working on your appearance and body language so you look more confident, will breed confidence. You will soon project the Leadership Aura that will radiate the confidence and competence that attracts respect. As Professor Cuddy says, “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it”

Believe to Achieve!

Joe Vulgamore is a Life Coach and Leadership Development Specialist - as well as a Personal Development Author and Speaker. He works with people to develop life and leadership skills to sharpen their edge, perform at optimum levels, and achieve excellence. He has 30 years of leadership experience and a proven track record of helping thousands of people from over 14 countries, across 5 continents, to make life-transformations through one-to-one coaching and workshops.


  1. Joe,
    WOW!! What a fantastic article and what cool stories YOU have to share! Thank you!! Indeed - Confidence is key and probably fairly well 'known', however, I love your tip on Have stories to share! Being able to connect with people is where the charisma meets confidence & connection and that's when the magic happens! THANKS for sharing this great article.

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