Charismatic leadership is a leadership style characterised by a leader’s charm, confidence, and vision.
It is often associated with a strong emotional connection between the leader and their followers who are drawn to the leader’s magnetic personality and compelling vision! While charismatic leadership can be a highly effective approach for inspiring and motivating a team, it also has its downsides…
In our management training we often focus on different types of leadership styles, but in this blog we’ll be exploring the advantages and disadvantages of charismatic leadership in particular.
We’ll look at the benefits of having a dynamic and visionary leader, but also the potential drawbacks of relying too heavily on a single individual.
Let’s start with a basic charismatic leadership definition. To understand charismatic leaders, you first need to know the answer to another question: “What is charisma?”
Cambridge University defines charisma as a “special power” that allows some people to influence others and “attract their attention and admiration.”
Charismatic leadership involves a leader using their natural charisma to inspire others.
Charismatic leaders are highly motivational and inspirational. They create unity among team members and help everyone stay engaged.
This leadership style places a greater emphasis on the leader’s personality. The leader’s personality endears them to their followers, who are motivated by the leader’s passion and want to follow in their footsteps.
Several traits separate charismatic people in leadership positions from other types of leaders. The following are some of the most important concepts associated with charismatic leadership:
One of the most frequently cited tenets of charismatic leadership is the ability to make meaningful connections.
Charismatic leaders are often emotionally sensitive and empathetic. This sensitivity helps them to build strong bonds with others, including their team members.
A charismatic leader doesn’t stop at goal-setting or identifying performance issues among employees. They strive to make a personal connection with each person.
These connections, in turn, can motivate employees to overcome potential performance issues and do what they can to move the team closer to its goals.
In addition to emotional sensitivity, charismatic leaders are also known for their emotional control and emotional intelligence. In other words, they know how to keep their own emotions in check. They rarely give in to their emotional impulses or react without thinking.
Because they have such control over their emotions, charismatic leaders are able to adjust their feelings and message delivery to match different scenarios. For example, they know when to be more logical and straightforward and when to make a more emotional, heartfelt appeal.
How Emotionally Intelligent Are You? To find out, take our FREE EQ test.
Charismatic leaders are comfortable in a variety of social situations. They know how to help others feel comfortable as well.
These leaders are great at “reading the room” and can adapt their message and method of communication to match a particular vibe. Whether they’re presenting to a large group or working one-on-one with an employee, they are at ease (and put others at ease) in any situation.
Many charismatic leaders are highly generous. They’re willing to give their time and resources (such as contacts, training materials, etc.) to others to help them accomplish their goals and help the team progress.
Charismatic leaders often subscribe to other leadership styles like servant leadership and transformational leadership. These leadership styles also emphasise the importance of putting oneself in others’ shoes and adapting one’s message to fit different situations.
Charismatic leaders are, understandably, excellent communicators.
These leaders’ abilities extend beyond just being able to speak or write in a convincing way. They also know how to adjust their message to suit various audiences.
A charismatic leader understands that by changing their delivery, they can win more people over and get closer to their long-term goals.
Those who practise charismatic leadership do an excellent job of monitoring themselves – their thoughts, words, and actions. They’re dedicated to self-improvement and strive to present themselves in a positive way.
Charismatic leaders are also aware of how they differ from others, and they aren’t afraid of their uniqueness. Instead, they embrace their differences and use them to their advantage.
Ideally, charismatic leaders will be willing and able to look at themselves from someone else’s perspective. They can critique their own behaviours and adjust their message or demeanour to have more of an impact on their team members.
Charismatic leadership involves viewing challenges as opportunities.
Those who practise this type of leadership are creative, and they aren’t afraid of obstacles. They’re eager to think outside the box and come up with new and innovative solutions.
Looking for inspiration to embrace creativity at work? Check out these 4 Tips On How To Promote Creativity In The Workplace.
A charismatic leader is tenacious and determined. They view challenges as opportunities for growth, and they don’t see giving up as an option.
The leader’s determination tends to rub off on their employees, too. It encourages everyone to work harder, develop new solutions, and continue pushing themselves to improve.
Although charismatic leaders have many strengths and abilities, they’re also humble (at least, the best ones are). Truly influential leaders know that they don’t know everything, and they strive for continuous improvement.
These leaders also aren’t afraid to learn from their team members. They want to hear others’ concerns and help them feel valued — and they work hard to ensure this happens.
Charismatic leaders don’t believe in a hands-off approach. They want to be involved in the day-to-day operations of their teams and have an in-depth understanding of how their employees are doing.
If someone practises charismatic leadership, they will be present consistently. Even those who work remotely will find creative ways to be present.
For example, remote leaders might rely on team communication software or project management solutions to keep employees in the loop, stay informed about everyone’s progress, and deliver messages.
A charismatic authority figure has many advantages that others do not. Here are some of the top benefits of this approach to leadership:
The charismatic approach to leadership often encourages loyalty among team members.
Because charismatic leaders know how to communicate in a way that motivates and inspires others, their employees are more likely to stand by them and stay loyal to their companies.
The best charismatic leaders make their employees feel seen and appreciated. These efforts, in turn, help to increase employee engagement and can reduce turnover rates.
In other words, those who work under charismatic leaders are less likely to jump ship and look for another job. They’ll want to stick around if they’re happy with their team leader.
In some cases, charismatic leaders can inspire others to try their hand at leadership positions. Their infectious personalities and adept communication skills give team members something to work toward.
Ideally, charismatic leaders (and all leaders, for that matter) won’t hoard their power. They’re committed to inspiring and motivating others — including those who hope to one day become leaders themselves.
When someone on their team rises through the ranks or expresses interest in a leadership role, the charismatic leader sees that as a win and a sign that their approach is working.
Because charismatic leaders encourage motivation and engagement among their employees, their teams often experience higher productivity rates. When employees believe in their leaders’ vision, they’re more inclined to put their best foot forward and strive to get as much done as possible (while still producing high-quality work, of course).
Increased employee productivity typically leads to better overall results for the team, their leader, and the company as a whole. By keeping everyone motivated and focused on a singular goal, charismatic leaders can contribute to significant growth and long-term success.
Charismatic leaders are creative and unafraid of coming up with new, never-thought-of solutions. They’re also willing to listen to innovative suggestions from team members.
Both of these tenets of charismatic leadership lead to increased innovation across the board. When employees feel safe to share new ideas and try new things, they can help the company grow in ways it wouldn’t have otherwise.
The best charismatic leaders are humble and understand that they don’t know everything about their employees or their field. That’s why they often prioritise additional training and learning opportunities – and motivate their team members to do the same.
Charismatic leadership can contribute to a learning-centred company culture. Employees feel motivated to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals, including completing management training courses, attending workshops, or using other modalities to expand their knowledge and develop new skills.
A charismatic leader understands the value of teamwork. They also know that to create a unified team, they must develop a shared identity among their employees.
When employees feel united by a specific goal or mission, it’s incredible what they can achieve (especially when they have a charismatic and skilled leader guiding and motivating them).
When employees share a sense of identity, they also tend to work together more effectively. Teamwork and collaboration improve and can lead to greater productivity and better results in a shorter period of time.
Employees led by charismatic leaders often experience less stress and burnout compared to those directed by some other types of leaders.
Since employees feel connected to their team and their leader — and are motivated to achieve a common goal — they’re less likely to feel overwhelmed by their workload. They want to work harder and meet their goals because they’re enthusiastic about their work. This enthusiasm can help to stave off burnout and keep employees engaged long-term.
All the advantages of charismatic leadership discussed in the previous section are examples of what can happen when a leader uses their charisma and magnetic personality for good.
At the same time, there is also the potential for charismatic leaders to abuse their powers. There are also situations in which charismatic leadership simply isn’t the best fit.
You’ll learn more about the potential disadvantages of the charismatic leadership style below:
Ideally, charismatic leaders will focus on influencing others for good, helping them become better at their jobs, and helping them take steps that increase the company’s performance and profitability.
Some charismatic leaders focus on the wrong things, though, especially if they lose their sense of humility. These leaders may become arrogant or begin using their influence in harmful ways.
Charismatic leaders are known for their infectious personalities. They naturally draw people to them and encourage others to follow in their footsteps.
Charisma isn’t inherently a bad thing. However, it can become problematic when a charismatic leader’s admirers turn into followers or “yes” men.
When employees stop thinking for themselves and start doing whatever the leader says without question, they may go along with plans that aren’t ideal for the company’s long-term vision and goals. If no one speaks up and questions the leader, the team’s productivity and performance could suffer.
Similarly, charismatic leadership can also contribute to changed value systems among team members and employees.
People might initially be drawn to a charismatic leader because they share the same goals. Over time, though, they may find their value systems and morals shifting to align with the leader’s (even if they wouldn’t have normally agreed with those views).
Employees led by a charismatic leader could end up agreeing to and doing things they wouldn’t normally do — including compromising their morals or the business’s values.
In extreme cases, a charismatic leader could convince employees or team members to engage in unethical behaviour. If the leader is too focused on success, they might start to take unethical actions to increase their chances of achieving a particular goal.
Ideally, a charismatic leader will inspire others to step up and take on additional responsibility or a leadership role. However, some charismatic leaders can create excessive dependency among their teams.
This dependency may mean that the company can’t function without a particular leader. If this person decides to step down, everyone will be left scrambling to pick up the pieces and maintain the same level of performance. Productivity will likely decrease as a result as well.
In some situations, charismatic leadership can contribute to a lack of clarity among team members.
A charismatic leader may become arrogant, especially if they’ve produced more successes than failures during their tenure. This arrogance may cause them to rest on their laurels and forget about the strategies that helped them produce positive results in the first place.
For example, they might stop consulting with their team members regularly or remembering the company’s mission and values. This is why humility is so essential in effective charismatic leadership.
In some workplaces, charismatic leadership is highly effective and motivating. It doesn’t work in every situation, though.
For example, in industries that require a rigid structure and set of rules (such as healthcare), a charismatic leader’s personality might not be the right fit.
These leaders might feel that their creativity is stifled or that they can’t communicate effectively without violating rules or norms. As a result, they may struggle to keep their team members motivated.
Are you curious about what charismatic leadership looks like in action? Here are a few charismatic leadership examples to provide more insight:
Sir Winston Churchill was the prime minister of the UK during World War II. He also honed his communication skills as a war correspondent during World War I.
Churchill is often described as a charismatic leader. He was a powerful orator who frequently inspired others with his speeches. He’s still quoted often today, particularly in leadership circles.
In his messages, Churchill often took an optimistic and enthusiastic approach. He spoke in a way that helped people develop trust in him and feel motivated to support him. This communication style was highly effective, especially during war times when unity was critical.
In 1997, Tony Blair took over as the UK’s prime minister. He understood and utilised the power of charismatic leadership to curry favour with the people and spread the message of his “Third Way” political philosophy.
Blair holds the record for being Labour Party’s longest-serving Prime Minister. He was the first person to win three consecutive general elections. Clearly, he did something right with his leadership and communication style.
Sir Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Group with a net worth of over £3 billion.
Branson is well-known for his charismatic personality and ability to motivate his employees. He continuously encourages others to push themselves and work toward new, lofty goals. He also communicates with team members to gain insights and new ideas.
In addition to being an effective business leader, Branson has also appeared on numerous television programs. He’s outgoing and isn’t afraid to put himself out there in new ways.
Do you embody the traits of a charismatic leader? Do you want to strive to develop them so you can motivate your team and help them get closer to their goals?
Remember the guidelines discussed above so you can start practicing charismatic leadership and experience its unique benefits.
If you want to learn more about other types of leadership, MTD has various management training courses that can help – like our Essential Management Skills Course. Ideal for anyone looking to become a more effective manager.
Updated on: 11 August, 2023
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