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Charismatic Leadership – Meaning, Characteristics, History, Benefits, Disadvantages and Examples | Leadership Styles

Charismatic Leadership

Leadership that combines charm, interpersonal connection, and persuasiveness is charismatic leadership. Leaders who are charismatic are capable of motivating and inspiring their teams. To accomplish this, they tap into the emotions of their team members, creating a sense of trust, passion, and purpose greater than themselves. The charismatic leader differs from other leadership styles, such as laissez-faire or autocratic, by focusing on the interpersonal relationship and how they interact with the people they lead.

Many leaders are charismatic in some way. One way or another, people want to follow the leader as a person, not just for the goals they represent. As a result, charismatic leadership relies on a variety of characteristics of charisma to elicit desired behavior. It produces specific outcomes through influencing employee growth and company performance.

In business or politics, charismatic leaders usually have a clear vision and are able to speak convincingly in front of a large audience to influence them. However, it is incomplete without focusing on the leader as an individual. The focus of this leadership style is on the leader’s personality and actions, not on the process or structure. There are many leadership practices similar to charismatic leadership.

Leadership in these contexts relies on a leader’s ability to influence the people they lead and provide support to their employees during a crisis by reducing attrition and burnout. The difference between charismatic leaders and transformational leaders lies in the way they engage their employees through their skill set.

Characteristics of Charismatic Leadership

There are a variety of characteristics that make up charismatic leadership. Most of them work together and can be implemented at different times to maximize their effectiveness. Some of the characteristics of charismatic leadership are as follows:

  • Communication

A charismatic leader has the ability to communicate job responsibilities and goals clearly. They are open, professional, and convey their exact thoughts without speaking too much or too little. Additionally, they allow open communication between all parties. Their employees are free to voice their opinions without fear of repercussions. Their employees also feel heard because they have good listening skills.

  • Humility

Humility is another characteristic of charismatic leaders. Each employee is very important to them, and their concerns are truly listened to. A charismatic leader is able to show the employee the value they bring to their organization, and how their contributions impact the organization’s strategic objectives. As a result, they inspire great loyalty from their employees.

  • Maturity

A charismatic leader has both a powerful personality as well as maturity and character. These individuals don’t believe in empty showmanship, but instead use the wisdom and knowledge that they have acquired through their years of life and business experiences. On all occasions they behave maturely and responsibly.

  • Substance

It is possible to have charisma without substance, but only for a short period of time. It may be tempting to attract attention with flashy and glitzy behavior, but eventually people want something more substantive. It is not enough for a charismatic leader to talk the talk, they must also walk the walk. A charismatic leader wins faces and closes sales through substance.

  • Compassion

Leaders who are charismatic and compassionate are successful. A mere charismatic presence may not be enough since it can easily degenerate into mere hero worship. The qualities of compassion, integrity, honesty, and fortitude are also traits of charismatic leaders.

  • Positive body language

When you encounter a charismatic leader, you’d first notice how open, friendly, and positive their body language is. In addition to making eye contact, they smile and introduce themselves to strangers with genuine joy of meeting a new person. An endearing swagger characterizes them, as well as an authentic swagger.

  • Confidence

Charismatic leaders are inherently confident. People who are comfortable with who they are are the ones who see the glass as half full. They understand who they are and do not try to be anyone else. A charismatic leader is confident and secure enough to be comfortable in their own skin.

  • Self-improvement

Leaders who are charismatic understand that they possess certain qualities that set them apart from others and that these are the qualities that make them memorable. A charismatic leader is aware of how vital it is to continuously improve himself.

  • Listening Skills

A charismatic leader is an excellent listener. If they are listening to you, they don’t fidget or look distracted. Charisma comes from paying attention to what others are saying and listening with interest. A charismatic leader engages the conversation and shows empathy.

  • Self-monitoring

Characteristics of charismatic leaders include their tendency to watch themselves closely. Their followers are constantly watching them because of their powerful personalities. Therefore, they consider it important to project a positive image of themselves to their followers. Monitoring is the only way to accomplish this.

History of Charismatic Leadership

An early study conducted by German sociologist Max Weber in 1922 laid the groundwork for the theory of charismatic leadership. Weber studied the reasons why people follow authority in conjunction with political obligations, concluding that people follow a leader when they perceive their leadership to be good and just, allowing the perception that they are doing the right thing.

According to Weber, charisma is more about appearances than action, and is driven more by sociology or politics. Three key components make up a charismatic leader: the psychological aspect, which involves their inner qualities; the social dimension, which relates to the external influences that shape the leader; and the relational aspect, which relates to their relationship with their subordinates. As Weber describes in The Three Types of Legitimate Rule, published in 1958, charismatic leaders are able to build strong emotional bonds with employees and are therefore able to lose legitimacy when their ties are severed.

Based on Weber’s theories, Robert J. House published a 1976 paper entitled “A 1976 Theory of Charismatic Leadership,” which explored the concept from a psychological point of view. People follow charismatic leaders because of their personal and behavioral characteristics. The charismatic leader possessed vision, determination, and the self-confidence to communicate both, and as a result, followers found themselves encouraged and inspired by him, instead of following him out of fear. Martin Luther King, Jr., Apple founder Steve Jobs, and President Barack Obama are notable charismatic leaders.

Benefits of Charismatic Leadership

Leaders who possess charismatic characteristics can be exceptionally effective at optimizing and motivating teams, as they often act on the courage of their convictions. Charismatic leadership has the following benefits:

  • The ability to connect with team members or employees.
  • It is a powerful motivation for achieving results.
  • Charismatic leaders build conviction by building courage.
  • Leaders defend the rights of people who hold different opinions about society and the organization.
  • Collaborative and team-building activities are facilitated by them.
  • A charismatic leader works to improve the quality of life.

Disadvantages of Charismatic Leadership

There is, however, a downside to charismatic leadership. Although it can provide many benefits, there can also be some drawbacks that can sabotage a company or project. Here are a few of the downsides of charismatic leadership:

  • The focus of charismatic leaders may be on themselves rather than on the company or organization.
  • These approaches can appear disingenuous to outsiders, who wonder about the intentions behind products or actions.
  • Leaders who are charismatic can create the illusion that no one can replace them, which can create problems for companies who may need to replace a leader for various reasons
  • Some charismatic leaders have been known to believe their own hype to the point that they believe they are invincible, committing violations or crimes as a result.
  • Leaders may also decide they don’t need to listen to others, including their followers.

Examples of Charismatic Leaders

Characteristic leaders tend to be especially effective when times of uncertainty and existential threat are present. Leadership under this style requires being sensitive to the emotions and needs of the people being led. People who lead through crises are more likely to be charismatic leaders as a consequence. Here are some examples:

  • Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. gave hope to his people. He achieved this by expressing his feelings clearly in a storytelling manner that resonated deeply in the hearts of millions during and after his lifetime. Instead of using force or violence, he acted with peace and prosperity in mind.

  • Mahatma Gandhi

Much like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi inspired others to do what is right. In the face of opposition, Gandhi emphasized truth and nonviolence. Furthermore, he did not command others to follow him, allowing only those who wanted to follow his actions to do so as he was so committed to his actions that he would have done them alone.

  • Winston Churchill

Prime Minister Churchill was very polarizing during World War II because he spoke openly, unlike most politicians at the time. Winston Churchill was greatly charismatic to a nation that was battered but not down in a time of strife and turmoil due to this act of confidence and personal touch.

  • Mother Teresa

When conflict came, Mother Teresa showed courage and generosity with her charity. The woman was completely selfless and gave everything she had to help people in need. Despite difficult conditions and daily devastation, she was followed by others in her work.

  • Margaret Thatcher

The first female Prime Minister of the UK enjoyed high popularity during and after her tenure. As a woman at the time, Margaret Thatcher was strong and confident. In addition to her open communication style, she was also willing to show humility when necessary.

Ways to apply Charismatic Leadership

Some of the ways to apply charismatic leadership are as follows:

  • Embrace vulnerability

Charismatic leaders are often viewed negatively due to their perceived lack of authenticity. Vulnerability is a way to counteract this. Being a leader doesn’t always require you to show strength or be perfect. However, the truth is that human connections are built on vulnerability. Employees will be more inclined to trust you when you show your true self since you are more relatable.

In other words, if your organization is facing challenges, don’t try to brush them under the rug and pretend everything is fine. Rather, share your fears, doubts, and insecurities with colleagues – who are likely already aware of these issues and may be experiencing anxiety themselves. Vulnerability in situations like this will make a company more likely to work together as a team.

  • Be Transparent

Do not make empty promises or praise an employee simply because it sounds nice. Since charismatic leaders are so focused on inspiring and motivating others, they can easily fall into this trap. As a result, it’s easy to say things that aren’t entirely true in an attempt to make someone feel better. In your communication, always prioritize honesty, sincerity, and straightforwardness.

With time, your employees will learn to trust you and increasingly look to you for information and feedback. An organization is likely to benefit from charismatic leadership if it is approached thoughtfully. When you are aware of the potential pitfalls of this leadership style, you can take the action needed to avoid them, and as a result you’ll find that this type of leadership is incredibly effective.

  • Develop your listening skills

Suppose you had an in depth conversation at work with a co-worker. This interaction gave you the opportunity to share personal details and made you feel more connected to the other person. However, the next time you run into them, they seem to forget what you talked about. This is a surefire way to make someone feel ignored and forgotten.

It may be tempting as a charismatic leader to tune out what the other person is saying or operate on autopilot on a daily basis. Develop and practice active listening. To develop this skill, seek out training opportunities or contact a coach.


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