A Test of Charisma

October 4, 2017 Richard Justenhoven
image charisma leader

What is charismatic leadership?

Often leaders are talked about having – or not having – charismatic leadership. But does this mean in practice and can it be measured?

The authors of a new paper report that “the empirical study of charisma is relatively young and sparse, and no unifying conceptualization of charisma currently exists” – and that what we see as ‘charisma’ (i.e. persuasiveness and likability) is overlooked and neglected as a part of research.

As such, they set about developing a new six-item measure: The General Charisma Inventory (GCI). , and they show how scores on the GCI are associated with people’s persuasiveness and likability.

From an initial list of characteristics of charismatic individuals, the researchers whittled them down to a six-item self-report, agreement-rating measure of charisma, loading onto two main factors concerned with:

  1. having influence over others (including being able to guide them) and
  2. coming across as affable (being able to make others feel comfortable and at ease).

The six items are:

  1. Has a presence in a room
  2. Has the ability to influence people
  3. Knows how to lead a group
  4. Makes people feel comfortable
  5. Smiles at people often
  6. Can get along with anyone

From using this inventory alongside other established measures, the researchers suggest that the scores on the new test are related to but distinct from the Big Five personality traits, emotional intelligence and political skill. And they have also shown that the charisma test scores correlate with charisma ratings received from friends and family.

So, where does this take us?

Certainly charisma it seems is important for helping to oil the workings of the getting things done and for leadership in general.  We think it’s an interesting study and development which is a good starting point for further research.


Tskhay, K. O., Zhu, R., Zou, C., & Rule, N. O. (2017). Charisma in Everyday Life: Conceptualization and Validation of the General Charisma Inventory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

About the Author

Richard Justenhoven

Richard Justenhoven is the product development director within Aon's Assessment Solutions. A leading organizational psychologist, Richard is an acknowledged expert in the design, implementation and evaluation of online assessments and a sought after speaker about such topics.

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