Can We Be Taught to Trade

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Can you be taught to be more charismatic?

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Whether or not I am charismatic was not a question I had ever asked myself until very recently.

“I want you to go on a charisma master class,” said my editor one morning, out of the blue.

Immediately sensing my awkward bewilderment, he quickly explained that he didn’t think I needed help.

Instead he had a job for me – he wanted me to explore whether it is possible to be taught to become more charismatic.

That’s how I found myself trotting down to Mayfair in central London to see a psychologist called Richard Reid.

Nicknamed “Mr Charisma”, he runs regular sessions teaching people how to be more charismatic.

Increasingly in demand, his clients range from businessmen and women who want to be better leaders, to grooms preparing for their wedding speeches, and people who simply want to be more successful with the opposite sex.

While I’m naturally chatty, enjoy public speaking and smile quite a bit, I wouldn’t describe myself as charismatic. But as I walked into his office, what would Mr Reid think of me? And what exactly is charisma?

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“First impressions are that you have lots of positive attributes,” he says. “You have a likeable energy, and I feel energetic being around you.”

Better than I was expecting, but then came the inevitable “but”.

“That energy needs to be tempered slightly, slowing down and pausing. “

Sensing that I was about to interrupt, Mr Reid adds: “And allow the other person to engage in the conversation.

“When people express themselves they feel good about themselves, and they’re more likely to feel well disposed towards you.”

Mr Reid goes on to talk about the importance of making eye contact, and asking people questions.

“By using open-ended questions you’re showing far more interest in that person and you’ll engender trust and enthusiasm.”

He adds: “Charisma is about the [positive] feeling you engender in other people. A true sign of charisma is being able to connect with someone on a deeper level.”

After spending an hour with Mr Reid I’m interested to hear what successful business leaders think about charisma, and whether they believe it can be taught.

So back at the office I start by calling Lord Digby Jones, a former UK minister for trade and investment.

“I’d say charisma is the confidence to constantly communicate and articulate a positive message,” he says.

“People are kind enough to say I’m a good communicator, that I speak in a language they understand.

“And I have a reputation for always answering a question, not ducking it. If you do that and articulate with consistency and fluidity, people listen.”

But does Lord Jones think you can learn to be more charismatic?

“You can become better [at it],” he says. “People who make things look easy work harder, prepare more, and take nothing for granted.

“I can make a speech and people think I just stood up and did it, because I never use notes. They don’t know that for an hour sometime that day I’ve quietly sat on my own thinking, ‘How am I going to structure this, what does my audience look like?'”

Across town I meet Lady Barbara Judge, chairman of the Institute of Directors business organisation. A formidable woman, her unique style seems to be an amalgam of Tudor monarch and steely grande dame of commerce.

I’m rather taken aback when she says: “For me, charisma is about smiling, you need to smile a lot.”

“Charisma is about body language, making people feel included. It’s not about you, it’s about the people you’re talking to and leading.

“If you can make people feel important, you can carry them with you.”

More stories from the BBC’s Business Brain series looking at quirky or unusual business topics from around the world:

Lady Judge adds that you have to believe in what you are saying. “If you want people to think you’re strong, you have to look strong.

“I’m very thin-skinned, my feelings get hurt easily, and I’m kind of a marshmallow,” she says. “You have to get over that: look strong, sound strong, act strong.”

So does she believe you can teach charisma?

“I would like to think you can,” she says, adding that as a younger women she received training in public speaking.

“If I can go from being terrible to reasonable by being taught, I’d like to think you can teach charisma.”

However, not everyone agrees. One such naysayer is psychologist Prof Richard Wiseman, who like Mr Reid is an expert on charisma.

“I have never tried to train it [charisma], but my guess is that it would be very tricky,” says Prof Wiseman.

“Charisma depends on a unique mix of passion, an ability to transmit that passion to others, the ability to convey a message in a simple way that people get, etc.

“My guess is that it is very tricky to teach charisma without it sounding terrible.”

While there are other such sceptics, Mr Reid continues to run charisma classes for a host of businesses including accountancy group Ernst & Young, and IT firms Sophos and Cap Gemini. He has also worked with the City of London Police and the UK Ministry of Defence.

“Generally it’s people who are looking for a promotion, or looking to get to grips having stepped up in role. Or people who are running businesses and organisations, who are looking to influence and steer the people who work under them,” he says.

When it comes to who Mr Reid thinks are some of the world’s most charismatic people, he is quick to cite Oprah Winfrey and the Dalai Lama.

He says that Oprah has “the whole package”, while the Dalai Lama is “humble, approachable and warm”.

Can leadership be taught?

Can leadership be taught? Do you need formal training to be an effective leader?

Or is leadership an Attitude, personality trait, a talent? One that you are born with perhaps.

The jury is out on this! Let’s take a look at what academics and business people say about the issue.

Peter Drucker, a respected business thinker, believes leaders may be born, and also that leadership can be learnt.

Harold S. Geneen an American businessman who was President of the ITT Corporation., says that Leadership cannot be taught, it can only be learned.

Mark Saner, President of Canada’s most prominent social-marketing agency, believes that leadership can be taught, as it is a skill, but is not sure that leadership can be learned.

It would appear that leadership, a rare and highly prized skill amongst employers, is not learned easily or well.

Many people develop the beginnings of leadership skills as they grow up. Maybe through their community taking the lead at social events. Or taking part in sport as team captains, at school or college, or running drama and debating societies.

Historically, Management and Executive education has focused on business skills, and not on Leadership. Executives are shown tools to enable them to Manage, but how can they be offered the chance to learn how to Lead in a classroom situation?

So most executive’s leadership development is on the job, and this can mean that their Leadership skills are honed almost by chance.

Leadership is a combination of talent, ability and character. Leaders must have the courage to create the vision, challenge the establishment, take risks, make and admit mistakes.

Professor Riggio, Ph.D. points out that if you accept that leadership can be learnt, and the most powerful lessons come from experience, then it boils down to how we learn from experience

The ability to learn from experience is in itself a skill. But gaining an understanding of the complex factors that affect leadership give an executive a chance to analyse, understand and deal with their own leadership challenges

So a classroom based course in Leadership probably won’t make you a better leader right away, but understanding the concepts covered in the course can potentially increase the rate you learn from the “on the job” experiences you have during and after the course.

In the next few modules we will look at some leadership theories to help us understand what leadership is. And we will consider what skills a leader has or needs. We will also look at how you can hone and develop those skills. In turn this will help you to improve your leadership skills.

If some traders are really that successful, why do they bother publishing courses which obviously don’t earn them more than their trading? Should I trust these “teachers” with experienced backgrounds? Why waste time on less profitable things?

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This is a good question.

It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is different, and people often have very different motivating factors. For some, money is the end-all be-all. . for others, it might be ego, for others the endorphin rush of a sense of accomplishment or obstacles surmounted, etc. Most of us are fueled by a mixture of these motivations in varying degrees, of course, but we each have our own ‘hierarchy’ of motive forces.

Few things are more important when it comes to an efficient sorting and sifting of whom to place your trust in than an attempted analysis of the motives behi.

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