Charismatic Leadership | Style & Skill | Leadership Principles

Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership is all about a superhero act. In an article titled “What exactly is charisma?” published in Fortune on January 15, 1996, Patricia Sellers says, “Charisma is a tricky thing. Jack Kennedy oozed it – but so did Hitler and Charles Manson. Con artists, charlatans, and megalomaniacs can make it their instrument as effectively as the best CEO’s, entertainers, and Presidents. Used wisely, it’s a blessing; indulged, it can be a curse. Charismatic visionaries lead people ahead, and sometimes astray.”

Practitioners of charismatic leadership have a firm belief that they can lead followers by unleashing their personal charm and grace. You can recognize one by the way he or she interacts with others – making each person feel like the most special on the planet!

While charismatic leadership is most often employed in the political arena where a large number of people have to be influenced within a short time, using little or no personal contact, it can be applied equally in a business situation. The leader seeks a “fan following”, and a devotion among followers which is usually absent from other forms of leadership. You can think of at least a couple of U.S. Presidents who had an almost hypnotic effect.

Charismatic leadership involves a great deal of theatrical behavior. A charismatic leader is a persuasive speaker, and a master of body language. Charismatic leaders are great at reading the occasion, and will tailor their behavior to suit the mood. At the same time, they are willing to take personal risk and make sacrifices in order to build their own credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of their followers. Once their leadership is established, they will try to carve a distinct identity for their group of followers, and build an image of superiority for it. At the same time, these leaders identify themselves so strongly with the group that the group and the leader become nearly synonymous.

Academics have identified the following four stages of charismatic leadership:

Creating a new vision: Charismatic leaders are able to assess unfulfilled needs and opportunities in their environment and project their vision for a future without any shortcomings.

Articulating the vision: The leader will be able to communicate his belief in the vision to his followers and convince them of its viability.

Building trust: The next phase of charismatic leadership involves engendering trust among group members and securing their commitment.

Achieving the vision: The leader will set a personal example and empower others in order to sustain motivation so that the vision can be realized.

It may sound strange, but charismatic leadership is not necessarily an inborn trait. It can be learned and perfected, usually by watching the actions of other charismatic leader role models and modifying behavior in certain ways.

It is important to note that charismatic leadership can be a double edged sword. It all boils down to the motives of the leader. Charismatic leaders can be a bit insincere, more concerned about themselves than their followers. Such a tendency towards narcissism can do a great deal of damage to organizations. On the other hand, if their heart is in the right place, charismatic leaders can work magic like no other.

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10 Responses to “Charismatic Leadership”
  1. Adi @ The Management Blog says:

    Is charisma required for a leader to be successful though?

  2. Natalie Carneiro says:

    Hi, my name is Natalie Carneiro and I am researching articles about Generation Y and How to lead this specific generation… Do you have any suggestion?

    Thank you.

  3. Charm says:

    Charismatic leaders tend to do more damage than good in my opinion, they end up believing their own hype. Take the charm offensive that Tony Blair played on the great British public and where has that left UK plc? The number of business people who build up their own profiles and then destroy themselves is as long as your arm and they would all be described as charismatic. There are very few large egos that end up being successful, I wouldn’t say that being charismatic is a primary characterstic in being successful!

  4. Motivation and Self Improvement says:

    kharismatic leaders are leaders who have the vision to build, authoritative, and full of honesty. He has foresight and able to take decisions wisely. He always took the decision and are ready to accept any concencuency of his decision.

  5. Rhea says:

    Hi I ma Rhea.
    I have to write an essay : Is charisma a quality needed for a leader to succeed? The posiitve and negative side of charismatric leadership and the challenges a leader encounter.
    Does anybody have a suggestion?

    • Simon Oates (Admin) says:

      Sounds like an interesting essay Rhea, here are some of my thoughts:

      Positive sides of charismatic leadership:

      -High morale for what is effectively a ‘free’ resouce (charisma). Which is therefore a cheaper motivator than salary increases.
      -Good public relations. A charismatic leader is also likely to capture the charms of the consumer or client, as well as their employees.

      Negative Sides

      -Difficult to assess any candidate with excellent charisma. Good speaking skills may mask other poor traits or inexperience.
      -A leadership structure orientated around a charismatic individual is more vulnerable to collapse in the leaders absense to one that is built around values and an entire management team.

      I hope these pointers get you started!

      • Rhea says:

        Simon really thnx for the suggestion, i read it but as you know the professors need references for the research you make. :) These points really helped me to make an idea but can you show me any article on the net…thnx a lot

        Rhea from Albania

        • Simon Oates (Admin) says:

          Hi Rhea,

          Unfortunately I don’t know of any articles that give those points. If you simply wanted to reference those points to say that I believe them, then you could reference the comments above, as you would someone whom you’ve interviewed. However, I haven’t fully developed my arguements, so all you could really say is ‘Simon Oates thinks X’. If that’s any help, let me know, but I can’t point you to a solid essay that contains these points.

  6. apppromotion says:

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