Finding the elusive key to charisma

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The Independent Online
What makes an individual charismatic? Self-confidence, good humour, natty dressing, a dash of enigma and regular appearances on breakfast TV, according to a new book, Seven Keys to Charisma.

Edwina Currie, for example, reveals: "I do seem to be recognised by children. They want me to be their granny ... It may be because I agree to go on the breakfast programmes."

Sir John Harvey-Jones, another "charismatic" subject, is blunt: "I don't set out to be bloody rude to people, but I don't want to do things just to make people like me. We all of us know professional charmers. You can see the buggers at parties; they switch on for some people and they don't bother with others. I have nothing but contempt for that."

Attempting to teach yourself charisma may seem a doomed project, but the author insists there are ways to improve your own quotient. She identifies aspects common to charismatic people: confidence, vision, communication, style, moving and shaking, being visible, and being enigmatic and mysterious.

But despite some engaging cameo interviews, the book misses its mark, ending with five pages of questionnaire-gleaned definitions which attempt to define charisma but only highlight its elusiveness.

Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude also covers well-trodden ground. The authorspromise it's possible "to make all your dreams come true - just think positively and discover how to awaken hidden powers within you".

They advise: "When you read this book, read it as if the authors were your personal friends and were writing to you and you alone." If you repeat something enough, apparently, you'll eventually believe it. But despite 300-odd pages of gush and hyperbole, it's irritatingly inspiring. Did you realise, for example, that you have 1,440 minutes in each day in which to achieve your goals?

If you haven't a clue what to do with all that time, reach for the eighth edition of The A-Z of Careers and Jobs. Fancy being a farrier? It'll take you four years to train. Want to know what you'd earn as a conference organiser? Around pounds 14,000 for starters. Like to go into patent agency? This book shows how. But it falls down on its sheer comprehensiveness; a book which details 300 occupations can't go into any depth about, say, merchant banking.

'The Seven Keys of Charisma' by Joanna Kozubska, pounds 12.99; 'The A-Z of Careers and Jobs' by Diane Burston, pounds 14.99; both are published by Kogan Page. 'Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude' by Napoleon Hill and W Clement Stone is published by Thorsons at pounds 5.99.