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You sort of know it when you see it. You feel it. You recognize and respect it in others, and want more of it for yourself. Charisma, according to Olivia Fox Cabane, is comprised of three components: Behaviors of Presence, Power and Warmth. What it adds up to is the ability to connect with another human being, and (most importantly) for the other person to feel it to.

Hmm.... what's charisma got to do with education? Everything.


Empathy is the single most critical quality a leader (and educator) can possess. Many empathize unconsciously. But even empathy falls short. Because people don't respond to what's going on in your head. They respond to what they can see. And what they see is your body language, your facial expressions, and your tone of voice. Any incongruence can be read in a matter of milliseconds, says Cabane. It is the qualities of charisma that allow others to believe you are a genuine person. And it can't be faked. But it can be taught.

Technology has the potential to improve the quality and pace of education worldwide, at all income levels. But it can't replace face to face human connection and real, genuine interaction. Not yet. Even if I can see your face on a screen from the other side of the planet, there's no replacement for the physical and chemical interplay that goes down when you're in the same room, making real eye contact, shaking my actual hand.

This has implications everywhere from geography class to local funding debates to Senate hearings. Not only with a teacher's ability to connect with a student, but for all of us to work together more effectively. And that requires taking the time to understand ourselves a little better. Olivia's talk is a great place to start.