Charismatic Leadership

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Charismatic Leadership - ToolsHero

This article describes the concept of Charismatic Leadership in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful leadership tool.

What is Charismatic Leadership?

Charismatic Leadership is about personal persuasion and relies on the charm and conviction of the leader.

German sociologist and founder of Bureaucratic Theory, Max Weber introduced the term in his essay The Three Types of Legitimate Rule in 1958.

Charismatic Leadership is based on the personal qualities of the leader and its recognition by its followers, which involves an affective bond between both.

Max Weber saw charisma as a characteristic of the individual, which seems to be possessed by supernatural and exceptional forces.

Persuasiveness

Charismatic leaders are driven by their beliefs and demonstrate exceptional dedication and expertise in their field of study.

They have a clear vision and are able to inspire a large audience.

Charismatic Leadership is, or depends on, the personality of the leader.

These individuals are also influential speakers and have a committed personality.

They can lift their employees to a higher level and encourage them to make positive changes.

Furthermore, they are able to communicate with their fellow colleagues on an emotional and empathetic level.

In organisations where hierarchy plays a major role, employees will follow the rules and procedures determined by senior management.

This can be achieved in a bureaucratic organisation with the help of a charismatic leader who motives and encourages them.

In organisations where the mission and vision are central, a charismatic leader will focus more on building a strong, emotional bond with the employees by inspiring and encouraging them.

Followers

Charismatic leaders do not necessarily have to be the best leaders.

People tend to follow others who they personally admire. A charismatic leader will summon followers through his personality and charm, rather than any form of power or authority.

It comes across naturally and without force.

With Charismatic Leadership, a leader’s personal vision has plenty of influence on his audience and appeals to their emotions.

Charismatic leaders are authoritarian by origin, but today’s charismatic leader has more in store:

  1. a clear vision, which is comprehensibly conveyed
  2. interpersonal behaviour; always communicating with others, empathetic and emotionally focussed
  3. creates a feeling of togetherness
  4. confident appearance

Attention and trust

A charismatic leader is able to give each individual an equal amount of attention.

He examines his environment and absorbs everything well.

He is sensitive to the mood and atmosphere at that moment, refining his words and actions and adapting to the situation.

Charismatic leaders also show much respect and confidence towards their followers.

They are very convincing and make effective use of both non-verbal communication (body language) and verbal communication (word choice and language).

They use storytelling techniques for this with metaphors and symbolism.

On an emotional level, they can focus on an a group, provide them with confidence and raise the bar.

A charismatic leader focuses on the identification of the group.

Charismatic Leadership is often thought to be in line with transformational leadership.

Charismatic Leadership, however, does not aim to bring about a change, but focuses on the enthusiasm and motivation of employees.

Can Charismatic Leadership be learned?

Charismatic Leadership is not a substitute for a true leadership style.

It’s a good way of personal development, which can help a leader to stand stronger.

On the one hand, Charismatic Leadership is innate.

But with the help of, for example, a personal coach, basic skills can actually be learned.

The steps below outline the path to Charismatic Leadership:

1. Security

You must be sure that you want to become a charismatic leader.

Not for the purpose of dealing with insecurity, but to be able to properly convey your organisational plans and focus to employees.

Practice with ‘management by speech’ and regularly set up the workflow to address employees, inspire them and inform them of important topics.

2. Personal values

Think about what your personal values are and what factors motivate you.

As a result, it becomes easier to motivate and stimulate others. Stand behind your own viewpoints and that of the organisation so that these can be communicated properly to others.

3. Appearance

Effective charismatic leaders are aware of their appearance and feel at ease.

Charisma is something that is physically expressed. Be aware of your appearance and its impact on the surroundings.

4. Preparation

Good preparation is half the battle.

This certainly applies to giving presentations.

A charismatic leader may seem to speak to an audience with great confidence and minimum effort.

In most cases however, there was ample preparation in advance.

It comes down to the right choice of words, timing, when to pause, observing the crowd, intonation and use of voice.

5. Practice

Charismatic qualities contain both tangible (e.g. public speaking) and non-tangible elements (e.g. appearance).

By practising with a coach you can work on the right intonation, word choice and how to transfer a powerful message.

Pitfalls

Charismatic Leadership however does not come without risk.

These types of leaders are often so very convinced of themselves and their ability, they end up believing they are infallible.

This way they could even potentially lead their followers into the abyss.

Their self-esteem can also lead to narcissistic and intolerable behaviour towards their surroundings.

Below are three additional pitfalls of Charismatic Leadership:

  1. Leaders can develop tunnel vision or arrogance, thereby undoing any good deed they had done before.
  2. Organisations can become too dependent on their leaders that they no longer maintain and develop their own vision. As a result, if any leaders leave, the company is left without a sense of direction.
  3. Charismatic leaders tend to believe they are entitled to behave in a certain way, in a manner that is often on the border of being unlawful and unethical.

Charismatic Leadership examples

Charismatic leaders can be found in all levels of society throughout history including religion, politics and business.

Take for example Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs.

All have the following in common: they are phenomenal public speakers, firmly stand behind their message and have a clear understanding of what their followers desire.

Furthermore, they radiate inner peace, patience, empathy, compassion and are able to motivate others.

The world needs charismatic leaders, they fight for the quality of life and a better world.

Charismatic leaders portray courage and conviction towards others and are prepared to stand up against groups of people, organisations, society and established order.

This enables them in contributing towards a common goal.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is Charismatic Leadership applicable in today’s modern management world? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more additions? What are your success factors for good persuasive leadership?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Conger, J. A. (1989). The charismatic leader: Behind the mystique of exceptional leadership. Jossey-Bass.
  2. House, R. J. (1976). A 1976 theory of charismatic leadership. University of Toronto, Faculty of Management Studies.
  3. Weber, M. (1958). The three types of legitimate rule. Berkeley Publications in Society and Institutions, 4(1), 1-11.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for insightful writing with rich content. I follow your contents as they inspire me! One small comment: Indeed Richard Branson is not a phenomenal public speaker in my opinion. He says he is dyslexic and from his speaks you can observe it. But what makes him carismatic is his persuassive and passionate personality apart from his elegant looking. Thanks again!

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