Charisma – or just a Comb-over?

Donald Trump really should take our charisma test.

The results will tell the US presidential contender what his real chances are of streaking past the gridlock of mainstream politics to make it all the way to the White House.

To succeed, he’ll need to harness his extraordinary personal power to influence and transform mass opinion with communication skills. It’s a power that’s been honed over many decades of pitching and presenting countless property deals, sales presentations, how-to books and series after ratings-topping series of The Apprentice – but is as yet unproven in the political arena.

Trump’s performance during the debate between ten Republican contenders screened from Cleveland, Ohio by Fox News August 6th, ensured him centre-stage in the American leadership debate. His abrasive, iconoclastic style is beloved of tens of millions of blue collar voters and middle America’s Main Street. But the billionaire’s opportunist avowal that he might split the right wing vote by running as an independent candidate if Republicans don’t select him, betrays an arrogance has made him feared and hated by the establishment.

Creative disruption for Donald Trump, not party politics. Photo by NY Post.

Creative disruption for Donald Trump, not party politics. Photo by NY Post.

Yes, Trump is a huge disruptive force. But just how far will the power of communication take him? Until now, no political pundit had the forensic tools to map or measure Donald Trump’s charisma, and compare it with that of other leaders who’ve won the US presidency.

But we do – and one year and four months before an election that could be decided not by Democrat or Republican party machines but through raw individual magnetism – we’re offering “The Donald” his chance to show whether he has what it takes in terms of leadership charisma.

Communicate Charisma’s methodology is completely unique, and we’re using it to generate  empirical research into the way leaders of every kind influence those around them.Of course we want to apply our methodology to the greatest test of all: the upcoming US presidential elections.

And we’re working with tools to reveal and utilize personal charisma that go beyond entertainment industry notions of  razzmataz, star quality, chutzpah, or just plain arrogance.

It's not about Trump's  comb-over; it's all about charisma

It’s not about Trump’s comb-over; it’s all about charisma

Forget the cackling about his comb-over, or how much money he in fact has; charisma mapping is the way to show what Trump’s chances really are.

And, if he takes our test, Trump will be in good company. We have already used “wisdom of crowds” techniques to successfully map and measure how online respondents view the charisma attributes of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton (though as yet neither have actually taken the online test themselves).

What does charisma consist of and what are the seven dimensions are we measuring?

Leaders of all kinds need additional reserves of Self-Assurance (A) and Drive (D) to press forward against opposition and uncertainty. To win trust, they need extra energy to articulate their strongly-held Beliefs (B)  and to infect others with an over-the-horizon Vision (V2) of a different future. In varying degrees, leaders tend to mitigate this drive or positive aggression with softer qualities of Empathy (E) and Collaboration (C). These hidden attributes of everyone’s personal communication style help to build instant rapport with audiences, influencing listeners to “go with their gut” or give the benefit of the doubt to propositions being advanced, even if the “reasons to believe” aren’t fully convincing.

Lastly we consider Values (V1)  to be the most  vital element of true charismatic leadership. This is the key principle for winning public trust by projecting an authentic commitment to stewardship and service, that in turn engenders a sense of security and rightness. History teaches us that charisma without values – not only in world politics, but in business too – is a dangerous combination.

Here you can see the seven dimension Charisma Essence Profile prepared for President Obama, based on the views of  visitors to our website

President Barack Obama's Charisma Essence plot

President Barack Obama’s Charisma Essence plot. All charts by

And here is the map of his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton:

Forme prresident Bill Clinton's  Charisma Essence plot

Former president Bill Clinton’s Charisma Essence plot

In charisma terms, both Clinton and Obama appear as  full-spectrum leaders. On the upper right are the “positive aggression” attributes: of Self-Assurance (A), Drive (D) and Vision (V2). To the lower left are the “soft skills” attributes of Empathy (E), Collaboration (C) and Beliefs (B).

We hope Donald Trump will contact us to complete a Charisma Essence Profile. But while we’re waiting for him to get in touch, here’s a likely picture of what the result could look like – based on the way he’s handling his race for the White House. The campaign has already turned arrogance in public life into a global talking-point.

Might Donald Trump's  Charisma Essence  plot look something like this?

Might Donald Trump’s Charisma Essence plot look something like this?

You can see there are significant differences to the Clinton/Obama duo in the way the seven coloured wedges radiate from the centre of this map plot. While there’s highly-developed Self-Assurance (A) and Drive (D) and Vision (V2),  it’s clear the Empathy (E) and Collaboration (C)  zones are much less developed. This is characteristic of a more independent,  populist figure who relies less on emotional intelligence factors.

Let’s emphasize again that this is a model, not Trump’s actual  profile. Question is, if  Trump’s Charisma Profile looks like the model above,  rather than the Obama/Clinton image, then what does it mean for his electoral chances?

Trump’s refusal in the debate to toe the Republican party line and rule out standing as an independent, suggests low energy in the collaboration field:

Low energy in the collaboration field encourages highly individualist postures.

Low energy in the collaboration field encourages highly individualist postures.

By contrast, his resolute insistence that part of America’s problems are attributable to illegal immigrants from Mexico, and on the need to build a hugely costly southern border wall to keep them out, betokens a man of unyielding Drive.

Strong  Drive is need to  maintain dogmatic or controversial positions

Strong Drive is need to maintain dogmatic or controversial positions

Many political observers have questioned what Trump really stands for – apart from promoting his own personal brand.  In terms of values,  Trump’s  more opportunistic world-view remains surpisingly opaque. So Communicate Charisma’s assessment of this dimension might show him as neutral. This last charisma attribute – values – could be the Trump’s Achilles heel in the race for the White House.

nasty valuesCommunicate Charisma also presents a two dimensional plot showing how individuals choose project their power through empathy or persuasion.  In Trump’s case, his highly-developed public speaking skills and persuasive style would make him an evangelist or campaigner as depicted in this  sample plot.

Trump's two dimensional Charisma Projection plot might look like this

Trump’s two dimensional Charisma Projection plot might look like this

By way of contrast, to show the importance of Values and Vision as components in the mix of trust and rapport we feel for our most admired leaders,  let’s take a look at the Charisma  Essence Profile of  Nelson Mandela that our online visitors have compiled for us. We also see highly developed levels of  Empathy (E) and Collaboration (C).

Extremely high levels of Value and Vision in  former South African leader Nelson Mandela

Extremely high levels of Value and Vision in former South African leader Nelson Mandela

No-one doubts the extraordinary competence of Trump as a real-estate titan, successful TV entertainer, popular writer and ambassador of his mighty personal brand – all fields in which his aggressive self-promotion and overweening chutzpah have paid him huge dividends and turned him into a popular embodiment of the American Dream.

But does his unashamed opportunism, mordant wit and his open contempt for whole swathes of the US population including the actress Rosie O’Donnell, women in general, immigrants, Mexicans, Democrats and indeed the entire political class, match the dignitas in which Americans like their leadership figures to be clothed ?

The Donald. Photo by Time Inc

The Donald. Photo by Time Inc

The progress of Trump’s campaign provides us with an astonishing public barometer with which to measure contemporary taste for leadership qualities – and by definition, the popular view of charisma. Will the American people want a trustworthy steward of the nation – or a quickfire show host?

If Trump is successful in getting his name put before the US electorate this November, then what will have happened to the classical leadership models originating with Teddy Roosevelt or John F Kennedy, and still emulated by many industry leaders? Roosevelt himself described US politics as the “bully pulpit” – referring to his right to speak out on any issue he chose. Trump’s own interpretation of “bully” sounds suspiciously like a usage of the word more familiar to British ears.

One immediate consequence was  Trump’s ‘disinvitation’ from speaking at events sponsored by conservative group RedState, thanks to his hostile comments about the Cleveland debate  moderator, Megyn Kelly of Fox News whose judgement he implied had been impaired by  hormones. This suggests opinion formers in the US establishment  don’t respond well to bullying, and there’s an implication that Trump has transgressed the laws of common decency, instead of boldly rebelling against political correctness.

It’s arguable that success for  the iconoclastic Trump would undermine the contemporary edifice of empathy-based leadership built upon soft skills and emotional intelligence. In leadership terms,  we might expect a reversal of American values which during the Cuban missile crisis JFK described as: “Not the victory of might, but the vindication of right.”

Let’s wait to see how US public opinion responds. And Donald, please call for your exclusive code to take the Communicate Charisma self-assessment test so we can share real data aboput you.

At Communicate Charisma we teach people how to become more engaging and effective communicators. In our Charisma Dimensions workshops, we use practical exercises coupled with our bespoke self-awareness tools to allow participants to understand and experience the impact of individual personality traits on how we are perceived by others. Together, we use these insights to develop a more effective and authentic personal style, and so raise our power of influence and communications mastery.

Find out more about our workshops.

** Cover photo from AFP

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