Some people can walk into any room and command the attention of all with their confidence, charm, and electric energy. These people are often personable and strong communicators who make a lasting impression on anyone they interact with. Naturally, these people often rise into leadership roles as born leaders. They rely on their charisma to persuade others to follow their plans and believe in their vision. History has seen such leaders emerge as forces to be reckoned with— in both positive and negative contexts.
What is charismatic leadership? Our definition
Charismatic leadership theory suggests that these great leaders go against traditional leadership by taking a more open-ended and minded approach; they always consider the big picture and are willing to try new things, go against the status quo, and explore new opportunities. Our charismatic leadership definition also includes visionary leaders with big ideas and enthusiastic, charming personalities that motivate their followers and persuade them towards action.
So what is a charismatic management style?
What is charismatic management? People operating under charismatic management do so under a clear vision and inspirational motivation from their leader. When management utilizes a charismatic approach as opposed to other leadership styles, they often rely on effective and influential leaders with a high level of persuasiveness, self-confidence, and sociability to connect with team members on an emotional level to inspire positive change and motivate employees in the organization to take action. Innovation is highly valued under this management style, and more traditional structures are replaced with a more exploratory and flexible approach.
What are the advantages & disadvantages of charismatic leadership?
As with any leadership style, there are charismatic advantages and disadvantages to consider. It is also important to note that the benefits of charismatic leadership will only emerge if the leader is genuine and honest with their intentions.
Charismatic leadership advantages
Decreased employee turnover
Charismatic leaders excel at connecting with their employees and cultivating an engaged and committed workforce. Because team members feel valued and supported, this type of leadership can result in higher retention rates.
Good leaders should always strive towards positive outcomes as they guide their team, and charismatic ones are no exception. People in these leadership roles influence others towards positive change, inspiring growth and learning in the process.
As with any type, being a strong communicator is a leadership skill that is instrumental to a team's success. Charismatic leaders lead by example, prioritizing meaningful connections, eye contact, and active listening when interacting with others. This has a trickle-down effect on the team, resulting in a connected and communicative workplace.
Disadvantages of charismatic leadership styles
Entirely dependent on the emotional state of the leader
With some leadership styles, a team can operate independently of the emotional state of their leader. That is not the case with charismatic leadership— their teams are highly motivated and influenced by them and often even correlate them with overall success. This reliance on the leader can end up with the leader put on a pedestal and often burdened heavily with responsibility.
Can lead to a defiance of organizational rules/structure
Charismatic leaders can become so enthusiastic and confident in their ideas that they overestimate themselves and may even display narcissism. In these cases, they believe that their way is the best way, and may ignore set rules or processes that may result in a negative impact on the business.
Can be used with selfish motives
To become an effective leader, one cannot rely on charisma alone. Without other leadership skills and the best interest of the company and team, these leaders may find it challenging to persuade and motivate their teams. They risk becoming disillusioned, thinking they are irreplaceable. If a charismatic leader is leading with self-serving motivations, it opens the door to multiple problems for the organization.
When is a charismatic style of leadership likely to be effective?
Charismatic leadership is likely to be effective when the leader has the best intentions, acts without self-serving motivations, and prioritizes positive change and growth. Success is only possible with a charismatic approach when leaders are genuine and don’t lack other essential leadership skills such as communication, transparency, and persuasiveness. Charismatic leadership is effective in situations such as when employed during crises or uncertainty, as they connect with employees on an emotional level, instill confidence and trust from others, and serve as a stable role model when navigating difficult times.
What are the characteristics of charismatic leadership?
Similar to other forms of leadership, the characteristics of a charismatic leaders enable them to drive results and motivate employees to be more productive and high-performing. Charismatic leaders, however, take these obligations even further with their persuasive and charming personalities that influence others on an emotional level that inspires commitment and excitement towards their ideas. Charismatic leadership traits also include the innate ability to connect with others which encourages an inspirational motivation that engages and excites employees. Other essential attributes include confidence, vision, creativity, and transparency.
Charismatic leadership examples
Throughout history, many charismatic leaders have emerged, utilizing their outgoing, charming, and confident personalities to inspire admiration and commitment amongst their people. They are predominately seen in political, religious, and military contexts where the line between democratic leadership and dictator is blurred. These leaders can potentially enact positive change or lead people down a dark path of destruction— charismatic leader examples on both sides of the spectrum have been observed countless times throughout history.
Famous charismatic leaders from history
The history of charismatic leadership fluctuates between transformational and detrimental. While there are many charismatic leadership style examples, many often employ other methods to make themselves even more effective leaders. Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, utilized transformational leadership in his quest for equality and civil rights while simultaneously inspiring followers with a charismatic approach.
Perhaps one of the most notorious charismatic leaders in history is Adolf Hitler, who used his charm, confidence, and oratory skills to inspire millions behind his outrageous, inhumane, and genocidal vision. Al Gore is a positive and modern-day example who relies on his excellent verbal communication skills and outgoing personality to resonate with followers.
Examples of charismatic management styles in business
Charismatic leaders in business can drive results and organizational goals while cultivating a highly motivated and productive workforce. One of the most recognizable charismatic business leaders is Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple. His natural ability to captivate a crowd allowed him to inspire the entertainment and technology industries behind his huge, innovative vision.
Our key takeaways on the charismatic leadership style
A charismatic leader utilizes their social skills, charm, and vibrant personality to inspire and lead their followers. Enthusiastic about their mission, they can excite others to follow suit and be motivated to reach their goals. Although an effective style to pursue big ideas and improve team morale, this type of leadership can disregard structure, rules, and routines. These leaders also must be careful not to use this leadership with selfish intentions. When charismatic leaders act with self-serving purposes or underlying narcissism, they risk being ineffective leaders or, worse, catalysts for destruction. This leadership style has the potential to be transformative in the proper scenarios but must be used with caution, sincerity, and transparency.
Charismatic leaders are most effective when they can connect with their team members on an emotional level. By understanding the unique individuals on their team, they can communicate, collaborate, and motivate more efficiently.
Check out Crystal’s Teams Product for personalized playbooks to guide you through different workplace scenarios with your employees for a more connected, communicative, and engaged workplace.
Want to understand your leadership style better? Take our free personality assessment to learn more about your working and communication styles, motivations, strengths, and blind spots.
Other leadership styles that may interest you