Charisma, one of the most elusive yet remarkable qualitative traits, may be quantifiable after all.

Kenneth Levine, a University of Tennessee professor, argues that textbook concepts of charisma are limited only to self-help guides. No scientific approach has ever been launched to measure such human trait, until recently.

Levine, who co-authored the newly published study, asserts that the true meaning of charisma and how it is actually applied in communication and leadership has been vague.

So he and his co-authors, Abby Brooks of Georgia Southern University and Robert Muenchen of the UT Statistical Consulting Center, led a survey among students, asking key questions aimed to define charisma and to specify the behaviors that are closely associated with charismatic individuals.

Qualities That Exude Charisma

Although everyone has the ability to portray leadership traits, Levine suggests that for a person to be charismatic, he or she must have the following qualities: enthusiasm, self-confidence, and empathy. Also, he or she must maintain eye contact, listen attentively, and have a dose of skillful speaking.

What was surprising, according to Levine, was that charisma was seen by students as something one can acquire through learning. When the students were asked to define charisma, most of their answers revolved around the word “ability,” which, according to Levine, pertains to learned attributes, and not something already intertwined in the genes.

Levine sees the research as a helpful tool in gathering concepts to quantify charisma among aspiring and notable leaders.


University of Tennessee at Knoxville (2011, February 8). Charismatic leadership can be measured, learned, study finds. ScienceDaily.