Chris Kowal, Director of the Center of Professional Selling at Purdue

At the Monday noon luncheon meeting, Rotarian Brandt Stum, left, hosted guest speaker Chris Kowal, Director of the Center of Professional Selling at Purdue University in West Lafayette. Doctor Kowal introduced himself stating that after finishing high school he felt that he wasn't smart enough for college. So he went to work in real estate sales after being advised by a relative not to and was surprisingly very successful. Then he met a young women who convinced him that he was smarter than he thought and he should give college a try. He did, and a few years later he had earned a PH. D. from the University of Connecticut, had married the young woman who had advised him to try college, had three children, and was an assistant professor at Purdue University. The young woman was right.

Dr. Kowal's topic for the day was "Understanding Charisma". Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines charisma as --- a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure. A couple of individuals that most would agree exhibit charisma are former President Bill Clinton and talk show hostess, Oprah Winfrey. Clinton said that he remembers his stepfather as a gambler and alcoholic who regularly abused his mother and half-brother to the point where he had to intervene multiple times with the threat of violence to protect them. Oprah stated she was raped at age nine and became pregnant at 14; had a son that died in infancy. Both Clinton and Winfrey had the ability to read and understand emotions and connect with others. They had acquired the the ability to assess a difficult situation and deal with it effectively.

Kowal suggests that we are not born with charisma. I'm inclined to believe, however, that some individuals just have innate gifts that most of us do not have. There are behavioral habits one could develop that would help one connect more effectively with others. Active listening for example --- hearing the needs of others would help. Also the ability to read non - verbal clues. When shaking hands, a firm grip and also touching a shoulder and pulling an individual closer is a warmer approach. The waitress who taps you on your shoulder and calls you "Hon" is perhaps more likely to receive a larger tip. There are, obviously, many things that one could learn and practice to be a more effective communicator and more successful on the job and off of the job. Dr. Kowal had an attentive audience and he did give us tips that could make us more effective in our daily endeavors.

Brandt Stum