Charismatic Leadership: The Good, Bad, and Best Practices

Charismatic leaders are individuals who use their personality and communication style to gain the admiration of followers. Typically, they can communicate effectively, possess emotional sensitivity, put a considerable emphasis on social ties, and can maintain emotional control in numerous situations that may cause stress or troubling emotions.

It is not surprising that many political leaders and activist have been characterized as charismatic. More so than any other leadership style, charismatic leadership depends on the personality of the person who is fulfilling the leadership role.

Charismatic leadership theory is similar to transformational leadership in that it addresses the qualities of inspiring followers to take action and an enjoyment in shaking up the status quo. It also borrows two principles from transformational leadership: idealized influence and inspirational motivation.

Part 1

Concepts of Charismatic Leadership Theory

Charismatic leaders have a unique talent for being “others-centered,” and paying attention to the emotional needs of those around them. Many of them know how to use body language and social cues to make others feel comfortable.

Here is a list of qualities that charismatic leaders employ to persuade people to see and support their vision:

  1. Presence

    Charismatic leaders exhibit a confidence and healthy self-esteem. Many times, they maintain eye contact with whom they are speaking to and make others feel that their opinions and beliefs matter as they talk to them. This presence also helps charismatic leaders hone their listening skills. Instead of thinking about their next statement, they are zeroed in on what the person in front of them is saying, using active listening method.

  2. Creating Meaningful Connections

    This entry ties directly to presence. Charismatic leaders often possess emotional sensitivity that strengthens their bonds with people. They go beyond goal setting, performance issues, and objectives, and get to the heart of the person.

  3. Emotional Control

    While charismatic leaders can clue into other’s emotions and even exhibit their own, they are generally able to control their feelings.

  4. Managing Social Situations

    These leaders are adaptable and have the ability to make others feel comfortable regardless of the social situation.

  5. Generosity

    While all charismatic leaders may not subscribe to this principle, many may employ it depending on the circumstance. Leaders who are charismatic that also believe in the principles of servant leadership or transformational leadership feel it is important to put themselves in the shoes of others and figure out what they need. This could be time, contacts, attention, useful information, or respect. In these situations, charismatic leaders believe there is a value associated with giving or receiving.

  6. Master Communicators

    While not always, but often these individuals are talented conversationalist. Many are effective public speakers, and they are adept at putting the right words together to get a message across whether they are talking to one or thousands of people.

  7. Self-Awareness

    Charismatic leaders are adept at monitoring themselves. They are focused on self-improvement, portraying an image that presents them in a good light, and they notice how they are different from others. These leaders have the ability to step outside of themselves and critique how they behave and interact to have a more significant impact.

  8. Creativity and Innovation

    Much like transformational leaders, those who specialize in charisma also see a need to treat every challenge as an opportunity to make things better. They focus on solutions instead of problems, and consistent improvement. It is about seeing what could be and then working to create a solution or future that aligns with that vision.

  9. Tenacity and Determination

    Struggles and trials will come, but charismatic leaders do not consider the possibility of giving up. They believe in pushing forward and meeting the challenge head-on. Not only do they believe in doing this, but they also inspire those they manage to do the same.

  10. Humility

    Effective charismatic leaders realize the importance of the talents and skills people have. They genuinely listen to the concerns and ideas of those they manage, understand, and can convey the value of each employee. These individuals can make employees feel like they are a part of a unified team who are striving for the same purpose.

Part 2

Advantages of Charismatic Leadership

  • Increased Employee LoyaltyBecause charismatic leaders are adept at motivating and inspiring employees, it is likely that leaders can encourage an increase employee loyalty and commitment. Their goal is to make employees feel that their work and talents matter. Therefore, it is likely that employee engagement will increase and turnover could decrease.
  • Leader CreationCharismatic leaders and managers have an infectious personality that can spur up-and-coming employees to become leaders eventually. The qualities of these leaders can take on a trickle-down effect and become a part of an employee’s eventual management style.
  • Higher ProductivityThese leaders are exceptionally skilled at gaining the trust and respect of those who they manage. As a result, employees are more likely to adhere to the high expectations of charismatic leaders. The effects of this have a high probability of spurring increased productivity and better-quality work.
  • A Move Toward InnovationCharismatic leaders are driven toward change and innovation that makes sense. Therefore, these individuals will always look for opportunities to better the organization and improve processes. This means the company can always stay up-to-date on the latest trends and organizational practices.
  • Establish a Learning CultureMajor qualities of charismatic leadership are humility, effective communication, and improvement. Because these leaders have focused more on growth then punishment, mistakes are treated as learning opportunities. Employees are encouraged to find another solution to problems when the original plan did not work. This could create a setting where employees feel more comfortable taking a risk and finding better solutions.

Part 3

Disadvantages of Charismatic Leadership (Mistakes to Avoid)

  • Wrong FocusThe main difference between charismatic and transformational leadership is the focus on ethics. Charismatic leadership can become more so about the personality and belief system of the individual. Their power to influence others could drive them to become arrogant and shun humility or compassion.
  • The Creation of “yes-men”Because the personality of these leaders can turn admirers into followers, it is easy for their big personalities to create “yes-men.” As a result, the ideas of a charismatic leader could go unchallenged leading to the implementation of plans that are less than favorable.
  • The Company Suffers if They LeaveTo no fault of their own, a good and effective charismatic leader may have been the backbone of the business. Their tenacity, drive, and leadership could have caused many to depend on their ability without developing their own. As a result, their departure could leave a hole that no one has been trained to fill.
  • A Lack of Clarity If a leader has delivered more successes than failures then they can start to rest on their charismatic abilities and forget to employ tactics that are also responsible for success: consulting the team, looking at previous performance data, and remembering the mission and vision of the company.

While there are some cons attached to charismatic leadership, many of the qualities are useful to leaders who want to become influencers and motivate employees to be their best selves.

Part 4

Charismatic Leadership: Best Practices

  1. Become an Active Listener

    Charismatic leaders are skilled in making others feel their words matter, and they employ a lot of dynamic listening techniques: asking questions, pausing before making statements after their response, and focusing on what they are saying without forming a response.

  2. Combine Power with Warmth

    Anyone can be powerful, but it takes a unique type of leader to combine the ability to influence others with compassion and consideration. Those who want to become charismatic leaders should show they care about the needs of those they manage and strive to do what they can to encourage them to become their best selves.

  3. Work to Enhance Communication

    Leaders who would like to employ a more charismatic style should work on their public speaking skills, and take notice of nonverbal cues like body language.

  4. Don’t Let Personality Overshadow Sound Practice

    As stated in the disadvantages, it is possible for leaders who are charismatic to rely too heavily on their nature. It is crucial for managers not to let arrogance take root and always remember the value of criticism and sound business analysis practices.

  5. Create Opportunities for Honest Feedback

    It is easy for allies to become “yes-men” when dealing with an influential, charismatic leader. Leaders should realize this and make sure they make a conscious effort to encourage people around be honest and truthful with them about their ideas and proposals.

Every leadership style has its benefits and drawbacks, but a valuable takeaway from charismatic leadership is presence, influence, and consideration. Leaders who understand the importance of these three qualities can become efficient and compassionate charismatic leaders.

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