If you’ve ever found yourself awake (or sleepless) in bed at 4:58 am, watching old Bob Dylan interviews – well then you’re familiar with what charisma is.
It’s a hard personality trait to define with words; I mean, it’s more of an aura, one that invites you to gravitate toward the most charismatic people in the room.
See, Bob Dylan was charismatic. He was good with words, too, but his charisma was always the driving force behind them.
Charisma is oftentimes just that -- a force. Whether used as a tool to sway the masses or just one chick at the bar, charisma has the ability to put things in motion, and because of that, it’s one of the most rewarding gifts one can be born with.
Which suddenly brings up the question: Is charisma something you’re born with? Or is it something you can learn and refine in the way we go about things like manners, for instance.
As it turns out, research reveals it might be a little bit of both.
According to Aston University, a public research campus set in the center of Birmingham, leaders are, in fact, naturally born. In line with the work of Dr. Carl Senior and his international research team, it appears there is a link between one of the most “powerful” styles of leadership and the specific genes behind it.
The one technique examined in their study, which is known as transformational leadership, “is a social-based style of leadership,” in which “leaders motivate their team members to reach their maximum potential through charisma, individual consideration and support and intellectual stimulation.”
Essentially, transformational leadership is the style of leadership that inspires people to act a certain way, typically using charisma.
“Transformational leaders are generally energetic, enthusiastic and passionate.”
As explained further by Kendra Cherry of About.com, “not only are these leaders concerned and involved in the process, they are also focused on helping every member of the group succeed as well.”
This is the type of leadership you’ll see on stage in the midst of a pep rally. You know, that type of “rah rah” charisma that can’t help but get people out of their chairs, seemingly regardless of the cause, itself.
After all, any type of movement is usually only as strong as its leader. We’ve seen this throughout history.
Anyways, Dr. Senior and his team set out to further explore the specific genes responsible for synthesizing dopamine (the chemical behind our feelings of empathy) and serotonin (the chemical behind our emotions, in general).
As reported on Aston University’s website, Dr. Senior and his team “looked at two genes - catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR).”
It’s important to note that both of these genes can occur naturally in three distinct forms.
After the student test subjects had completed a “leadership questionnaire,” their cheeks were swabbed for genetic testing.
What the researchers found was “those with the dopamine-based gene in its most common form had higher scores on scales measuring key transformational leadership characteristics -- the social-based style of leadership.”
In the same fashion, those who did not have this gene did not tend to relate to the same qualities of leadership.
A follow-up experiment concluded that a specific version of the dopamine-based gene was linked to “low scores on two core leadership behaviours: intellectual stimulation and charisma.”
These findings are particularly exciting, especially considering how critical these genes are when it comes to leading others. What I found interesting is the hereditary nature of confidence, as explained on Business Insider.
According to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors and co-contributors for Business Insider, some people are “genetically wired” to be confident.
I found this important, considering I like to think a lot of what goes into being “charismatic” results from confidence. I feel the two are, in many ways, intertwined.
Well, with regard to confidence, whether or not this trait originates from nature or nurture -- the answer seems to be a little bit of both.
As told by Dr. Jay Lombard, a founder of the genetic testing company Genomind, “a lot of personality is biologically driven.”
Lombard continues to explain that both nature and nurture play factors in the manifestation of character traits, but genetics do provide one with a propensity to act a certain way.
“Researchers have pinpointed genes that influence everything from shyness to motivation to criminal behavior to a proclivity to be a professional dancer,” Kay and Shipman claim.
In line with research conducted on the confidence levels of individual twins, Robert Plomin, a geneticist at King's College in London, believes confidence may be as high as “50 percent” linked to specific genes.
This means certain people are more inclined to be confident, albeit – depending on certain environmental factors during their upbringing – it is not guaranteed this confidence will ever come into fruition.
By surrounding yourself by the right people, however, you can help ensure you’re not mired in a toxic situation that may, ultimately, be holding you back – whether it's your confidence or charisma.