Are You Attempting to Influence “Charismatics”? What You Need to Know

By Justin Grensing, Esq., MBA

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at an article in Harvard Business Review written by Gary A. Williams and Robert B. Miller titled “Change the Way You Persuade.” In this article, Williams and Miller discussed five personality types observed among the nation’s executives. Their purpose in writing this article was to give some advice on how to approach pitching ideas to each type of executive, because each has a unique way of analyzing business choices and making decisions. Last week we discussed thinkers. This week, we’ll take a look at the other end of the spectrum – charismatics.


According to Williams and Miller, 25 percent of the executives they spoke to for their article fit the charismatic mold. “Charismatics are easily enthralled by new ideas,” they say. “They can absorb large amounts of information rapidly, and they tend to process the world visually. They want to move from the big idea to the specifics–especially those details regarding implementation.”

Charismatics tend to be risk-seeking, but they are also responsible. They are executives, after all, and they have to make rational decisions. Charismatics, the authors say, “seek out facts to support their emotions, and if such data can’t be found, they will quickly lose their enthusiasm for an idea.”

Williams and Miller give examples of well-known charismatics, including Richard Branson, Lee Iacocca, Herb Kelleher, and Oprah Winfrey.


According to Williams and Miller, “Charismatics prefer arguments that are tied directly to bottom-line results and are particularly keen on proposals that will make their company more competitive. They are rarely convinced by one-sided arguments that lack strong orientation toward results.”

While charismatics are easily excitable, it’s important to avoid stoking that excitement too much. Williams and Miller suggest somewhat underselling the most exciting points and being up-front with the risks of your proposal.


Charismatics often exhibit a lot of excitement when they are presented with a new idea, which can sometimes lead to false expectations of success, and they may ultimately be difficult to persuade when it comes time to make a firm commitment. As noted above, charismatics are professionals and know that they have a responsibility to make the right decisions. Despite their excitement, they can be cautious about jumping to decisions, as they may have some firsthand experience with moving too quickly in the past.

Final Thoughts

Williams and Miller offer some advice to those who work with charismatics: “All executives are busy people, but the attention span of a charismatic can be particularly short. In a meeting, you need to start with the most critical information. Otherwise, you risk losing his attention if you take your time leading up to a crucial point.”

The authors also suggest a few buzzwords you might want to plant in their minds: proven, actions, show, watch, look, bright, easy, clear, and focus.

Do you deal with charismatics in your work? Or, perhaps you’re one yourself. Whether you’re trying to sell an idea, or pitch your products and services, it pays to know about each of these personality types to boost the odds of your success.

(This contributed post is the first in a series from our colleague, Justin Grensing. Over the next several weeks we’ll be publishing his posts on each of these decision-making types and how you can most effectively influence them. If you are interested in contributing a post to our blog, please let us know.)

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