Alexandra Pearce, a jet-setting corporate executive from London, has the ability to effortlessly command anyone’s attention. She’s known to leave people in awe as she holds discussions with élan and gives impressive candid presentations. And yet, a few years back, when work required Pearce — senior global vice-president of Glenmark Pharma — to shuffle between the company’s London and Mumbai offices every fifteen days, she failed to hit it off with her Indian subordinates. “She needed to tone down,” Danish Sheikh, her newly hired Mumbai-based charisma coach informed. After a few sessions with him, Pearce’s relationship with her co-workers improved remarkably.
“I did not give her any magic potion. She just needed to be in sync with the energy of her colleagues. I helped her recognise the side of her that could gel with them,” says the 31-year-old, a charisma coach for the who’s who of India ranging from Bollywood stars to high-flying lawyers, corporate executives and politicians.
Corporate giants across the world are gung-ho about charisma coaches. While Google is looking to hire executive charisma coach, Olivia Fox Cabane, Apple, too, is on the lookout for such a trainer.
Charisma is perhaps as old as the world itself. It is a subtle art that can make a messiah out of a propagandist or a celebrated artist out of a tweaker. But you don’t have to be born with it. As Cabane mentions in her book The Charisma Myth, “presence is a learnable skill.”
So how does a charisma coach help people ooze out that desired charm? While personality development and grooming is a popular concept, charisma coaching goes one step further. Apart from focusing on behavioural traits, it adds what is often called the X-factor. Building charisma has a lot to do with the right body language, communication, a sense of dressing and glorifying your positive traits. “Typically, I spend an entire day with a client, observe all his/her traits and then let out my secret formulae to transform them. Sometimes, speaking with your chin up, having a straight posture with intense eyes can make all the difference. Observe how Barack Obama speaks,” says Sheikh.
Globally, top charisma coaches charge as much as $200-300 an hour for one-on-one coaching. However, since the fad of a charisma trainer is yet to catch up in India, Sheikh — also an associate director of Nielsen India — touts himself to be the first charisma coach in the country.
A side business at the moment, Sheikh intends to work at charisma coaching full throttle in future. He currently has 30-40 clients and works with one or two clients on a weekly basis, for a minimum duration of 10 hours per course. He charges ₹6,000 per hour for a customised programme. A few clients, Sheikh says, make him sign a confidentiality clause to avoid any ridicule they might face for undergoing this training.
So is this fancy learning for the chosen ones only? “Not at all. It is for ordinary people like me too. Thanks to the training, I have been able to accept myself completely, recognise my inner strengths and leverage them to achieve my goals,” says Hariom Seth, founder and CEO, Tagglabs.