Page last updated at 09:02 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 10:02 UK

Do you have a Freddie Flintoff in your office?

Teammates lay hands on Flintoff
Feel this way about any of your colleagues?

By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine

As England battle to win back the Ashes, the players and supporters will be looking to one man for inspiration in his last Test appearance. But can we all learn something from Andrew Flintoff?

Chest puffed out and arms outstretched in triumph, the sight of Flintoff taking the applause at Lord's is one of the sporting images of the year.

His pose radiates a level of confidence and resolve that infects his team-mates, lifts the crowd and enthrals the nation.

Whatever the outcome of the fifth Ashes test at The Oval, the drama that unfolds over the next few days is sure to be shaped in some way by English cricket's most popular character. In his final Test appearance, the stage is set for one last performance.

While his immense talent earns him many accolades, is there anything in Flintoff's personality that indicates why he generates such attention?

Alec Stewart
He celebrates as if he's won the Ashes or the World Cup, which shows how much he wants to win, and the crowd and the players respond to that
Alec Stewart
Former England captain

He embodies a lot of classic, sporting English qualities, says Paul Hayward, chief sports writer at the Observer.

"He's big, boisterous, down-to-earth and a working-class hero. He likes a drink, he's a carouser. He works hard, plays hard and brings that yeoman spirit on to the field of play, and that's what English supporters respond to."

His unique sporting charisma is rooted in his ability to change the course of a game with a moment of brilliance or through fierce endeavour.

"When a player has that quality, the other guys look to him for support, for rescue and salvation, because he's the one who will make something happen.

Born in Preston, where he has been awarded Freedom of the City
Played chess for Lancashire
Nicknamed 'Freddie' because of Fred Flintstone
BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2005, the first cricketer to win since Ian Botham

"That seeps into the psyche of other players and it's applicable to all sorts of areas of life. In factories and workplaces, there are people with inspirational qualities that others turn to, to take responsibility in a difficult position and to change the course of events."

Very few British sporting figures have had that quality, says Hayward, possibly only former England rugby captain Martin Johnson in the past 10 years.

'A good fella'

Alec Stewart was captain when Flintoff made his England debut against South Africa in 1998, and he says that decision was a "bit of a punt". Flintoff did not have a huge number of runs and wickets but he had the X Factor, a quality clearly in evidence now.

"It's how he plays. He does everything at 100%. He can bowl at 90 miles an hour and he can hit the ball out of the ground.

Brett Lee and Andrew Flintoff
Generous in victory, Flintoff commiserates Australia's Brett Lee

"And then he celebrates as if he's won the Ashes or the World Cup, which shows how much he wants to win, and the crowd and the players respond to that. And added to all that, he's a good fella and that's a big thing too."

Early in his career, Flintoff struggled to justify comparisons with the legendary all-rounder Ian Botham. He also faced jibes about his weight, famously accepting one man-of-the-match award with the words: "Not bad for a fat lad."

But his performance in the 2005 Ashes series cemented his place in sporting folklore. And now the way he has played through a painful knee injury in the latest contest with Australia has elevated him even further in the public's affection.

Charis means "grace" or "gift" in Greek
A gift or power of leadership or authority (OED)
A certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities (Sociologist Max Weber 1947)

We can all learn from Flintoff, says workplace psychologist Judi James, because in the current business climate, he's a good model.

"He's always out there revving people up. He's a good wartime charismatic leader, inspiring people with his energy. Going over the trenches, he would be first.

"He's also good at what he's asking others to do. He's got a lot of boyish enthusiasm and translates that into leadership."

But there are so few bosses that have that Freddie-level of charisma, she says. "They are so thin on the ground, like urban legends you hear there's one or there was one but you never see the whites of their eyes.

"I've been primed to meet one in a few weeks and I'm excited already but I know it will be a let-down."

Charismatic bosses have two qualities - high intelligence and the ability to communicate.

General: Open body posture, hands away from face when talking, stand up straight, relax, hands apart with palms forwards or upwards
To an individual: Let people know they matter and you enjoy being around them, develop a genuine smile, nod when they talk, briefly touch them on the upper arm, and maintain eye contact
To a group: Be comfortable as leader, move around to appear enthusiastic, lean slightly forward and look at all parts of the group
Message: Move beyond status quo and make a difference, be controversial, new, simple to understand, counter-intuitive
Speech: Be clear, fluent, forceful and articulate, evoke imagery, use an upbeat tempo, occasionally slow for tension or emphasis
SOURCE: Prof Richard Wiseman

"That sounds simple but it's rare to have the two. Either you get the boss who never comes out of his office and slinks around the corridors or the ones that communicate all the time but don't actually have a lot to say."

They manage to mask their negative or weaker emotions, because they're not people who share their own troubles with their team, coming in every day and saying how stressed they are.

"It's almost like they have superhero qualities. They will never get pulled down. They radiate positive qualities and make other people feel good.

If this all sounds like a rather overwhelming list of qualities, fear not.

We can all learn from charismatic stars in sport and showbusiness, says Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire.

And there are certain techniques that can help us appear charismatic, such as an open body posture and maintaining eye contact.

"Once you understand what's going on, then if you are the sort of person that can do that naturally, then you can learn.

"But there's nothing worse than trying to make an introvert into an extrovert."

Failing that, just watch Freddie.

Below is a selection of your comments.

I work for a large office where the ex-boss had many Tony Blair-like characteristics. Very charming, charismatic, down to earth, a good speaker and salesman. He introduced many initiatives that most of us disagreed with, but you just couldn't help liking him because he was so different from what we were used to in our senior managers. I'm sure that a lot of his people skills were techniques he'd refined over the years but it just goes to show that it works.
Jason the Fishman, London

I know a person who is totally charismatic and a joy to work with - she enabled me to see beyond my job and apply for something I never though I could achieve. A very rare light of sunshine in an otherwise grey civil service. These people do exist.
Rowena, Wiltshire

It's not just charisma. It's that the guy actually cares and isn't afraid to let it show. Many people care about their jobs, nowhere near as many of them feel they can show it. Those who can do it naturally are inspirational, it's not something that can really be trained and pulled off effectively.
Ieuan Johns, Port Talbot, UK

Not just Martin Johnson - I believe Dave Beckham showed exactly those qualities when he first took over as England captain. The problem is charisma will lift you through a couple of games, maybe even a season, but consistently high performance requires self and popular belief, training, support and tactics and a team structure that pulls together. Something normally lacking in British sports due (I believe) to the plethora of administrators that populate the sporting world.
Pete, London

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