by: Anwesha Mukherjee
In a world at a riveting exploration of art and stories, the nuances of charismatic storytelling in leadership have come to the forefront. In the realm of communication, there exists a captivating force that transcends mere words – a force that enchants, inspires, and impacts. According to Soban, an Honours Bachelor’s of Arts candidate at UofT, this force is charisma, and when woven into the stories we tell, it draws listeners into a narrative embrace.
A recent interview with Soban Atique has unveiled valuable insights into the delicate interplay between authenticity and manipulation in charismatic storytelling. As the interview unfolded, he discussed how leaders can balance authenticity with the perceived expectations of charismatic storytelling. He also addressed the challenges of resonating with diverse audiences. Accentuating the importance of the four core values of charisma – comfortability, competence, authenticity, and security – the interview shed light on the intricacies of charisma, offering a more comprehensive view of its role in leadership, especially in the ever-evolving landscape of the digital age.
During the interview, charismatic storytelling tactics employed by leaders took center stage. When asked about how we might caution ourselves against someone who may fake their charisma for personal gain, he replied that “Charismatic people are very open. You know what they’re trying to get you to do. You embody it. You value it.” This highlights the importance of transparency in charismatic storytelling. Charismatic leaders are open about their goals, embodying a vision that followers can relate to and value. The merit behind their actions is visible, setting them apart from manipulative counterparts whose motives remain unclear. If the goal resonates and aligns with personal values, it’s probably authentic charisma. Atique emphasizes that charisma is not about being liked but about connecting with others genuinely.
The discussion delved into the ways charismatic leaders use storytelling to inspire action, the cultural nuances influencing the effectiveness of such strategies, and the challenges in engaging diverse audiences. According to Atique, the main elements of storytelling exist across diverse cultures. Whether through Indigenous tales passed down through generations or immigrant stories shaping a part of identity, charismatic leaders draw parallels between themselves and their listeners, creating a personal touch that draws people in universally. They often use highly personal anecdotes in their stories, often making listeners feel an inseparable character of the story.
However, despite the charisma factor, it became apparent that not every story resonates with every audience. Demographics and ethnicities set listeners apart in terms of the kind of stories they relate to. Atique stressed the importance of self-awareness and the ability to recognize when a story isn’t connecting. “How do you navigate around this? When it’s not going to sell, stop and go,” he says. Just because a story might not appeal to everyone, it doesn’t necessarily diminish its quality. On the other hand, continuing with a story that isn’t connecting with the audience might completely ruin the overall experience for them.
We all have certain expectations of what someone “charismatic” would, or rather, “should” be like, right? Atique says the truth could not be farther. He indicates, “The first step to being charismatic is being yourself.” There is no set framework for charisma; no template one could mould oneself into to become charismatic. Certain groups of individuals resonate with certain things. True leadership lies in knowing and being able to discern when to tell what stories.
Contrary to common misconception, charisma is not exclusive to extroverts. Atique highlighted examples of introverted individuals who successfully embraced charisma during the interview. The key lies in leveraging internal traits that introverts oftentimes also display with their closest friends, such as security, authenticity, and a genuine want to connect with the listener. In talking about the often misunderstood need to fit in and be popular amongst the crowd, he says “Titles don’t mean anything if people don’t connect with you. Most of the traits of charismatic people are internal, and if you have those traits, they bleed outwards.” He emphasizes that charismatic individuals exude their qualities naturally, without constant effort. “You’re not worried about people liking you.” Thus, inherently, there is no difference between introverted and extroverted individuals when it comes to potential at exuding charisma.
When discussing the impact of the digital age on charismatic storytelling, the interview revealed a nuanced perspective. While digital platforms offer new avenues for storytelling, Atique expressed concern that the focus on online personas might hinder, rather than supplement, the true spirit of charisma. The essence of charismatic leaders often lies in in-person interactions, which is not well-encapsulated or preserved online.
However, Atique argues that the online realm should not redefine charisma entirely. While digital storytelling has its place, he feels that charismatic leaders should not lose the in-person charm that distinguishes them from the rest. With increasing digitisation, it’s often the trending videos or cinematic edits that makes a video viral—something very different to the true essence of a charismatic person.
“Everything starts inside,” says Soban.
Soban Atique will deliver an in-person talk at TedxUofT’s annual conference on Jan. 28, 2024, discussing how charismatic leaders can use storytelling as a tool to mobilize people.