Unlocking the Neuroscience Behind Charisma in Leadership

Charismatic Leadership Visual Representation in Neuroscience.

When we observe top coaches, such as Ronald Koeman, a certain aura surrounds them. This aura, often termed as charisma, radiates calmness and assurance. However, Diego Simeone might be a delightful exception! But how does our brain perceive this charisma?

Read more: Unlocking the Neuroscience Behind Charisma in Leadership

Delving into the Definition of Charisma:

Interestingly, the term “charisma,” as defined by Van Dale, is synonymous with “personality.” John Antonakis, a renowned researcher, has deeply explored the nuances of charisma. According to him, charisma is a symbolic influence rooted in values and emotions. By symbolic, he signifies that it represents a tangible goal. For a comprehensive understanding, his enlightening TED Talk elaborates on charisma techniques. Watch it here.

Antonakis’ Blueprint to Amplify Charisma:

  1. Articulate a Clear Vision: Use metaphors or analogous stories to frame your vision effectively.
  2. Convey with Authenticity and Emotion: Knowledge is vital, but so is expressing feelings and showcasing confidence in your objectives.
  3. Passionate Delivery: Employ voice modulation and gestures to share your ideas with fervor.

Many iconic figures exhibit these attributes. But how does this aura of charisma register in our brain?

Neuroscience Perspective on Charisma:

A 2010 scientific publication by Uffe Schjoedt and his team titled “The power of charisma—perceived charisma inhibits the frontal executive network of believers in intercessory prayer” delves into this aspect. Through functional MRI (fMRI) scans on 37 individuals, the study investigated brain activity as participants viewed various speakers. Results indicated that a speaker’s charismatic abilities had profound effects on the listener’s brain. Most notably, participants displayed decreased activity in the frontal network, including the prefrontal cortex. This deactivation correlated with a questionnaire filled post-study, suggesting that charismatic figures dampen our cognitive processing system. Essentially, an individual’s communication style, achievements, and personality can boost trust, leading to reduced executive functions. This makes us more receptive to charismatic visions and presentations.

The Power of Charismatic Influence:

Initially, I was skeptical. However, my perspective shifted after watching this captivating TED presentation by Jon Ensor. Through his charismatic presentation style, he significantly influenced my perception. Watch Jon Ensor’s presentation here.

Ensor isn’t alone. Many magicians master the art of subtly influencing their audience. Similarly, trainers and coaches leverage unconscious persuasion daily. While imparting skills is essential, charismatic communication can enhance the message delivery to players. Being charismatic might be inherent for some, but with dedication, it can be cultivated.

For further charisma-enhancing tips, check out this video.


Schjoedt, U., Stødkilde-Jørgensen, H., Geertz, A. W., Lund, T. E., & Roepstorff, A. (2011). The power of charisma–perceived charisma inhibits the frontal executive network of believers in intercessory prayer. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience6(1), 119–127. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsq023 

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