Charismatic leadership is one of three leadership styles described by well-known sociologist Max Weber in 1948. Unlike other types of leaders, charismatic ones possess high emotional intelligence, allowing them to gain insight into organizational structures and needs by reading the emotional reactions of the people involved with the organization.
Qualities of a Charismatic LeaderCharismatic leadership results from the perception that the leader possesses extraordinary talent, personal qualities or insight worthy of loyalty or imitation. For this reason is seen as one of the most powerful, and most desired, of all the leadership styles.
Charismatic leadership generally values ideas, personality and skill over rules, titles and procedures, making charismatic leaders appear revolutionary. They posses a sort of natural magnetism that draws others to them. They are extremely effective communicators, describing problems and articulating goals in ways that others readily understand. Leaders with charisma often employ storytelling or interesting examples to illustrate their points. Their emotional intelligence also makes them empathetic or caring of others, inspiring deep trust among followers.
Charismatic leaders care about how others perceive them, so they will often take time to interact on a personal level with everyone under their influence to solidify loyalty and encourage teamwork.
Charismatic leadership approaches both people and problems in a positive manner, inspiring high levels of motivation among subordinates. The words “visionary,” “idealistic,” “charming,” “unconventional” and “role model” are often used to describe this type of leaders.
Charismatic Leadership Drawbacks
Of course, charismatic leadership has its drawbacks, too. Because charismatic leaders care about how others perceive them, they sometimes have difficulty brushing aside criticism and gossip and can get caught up in playing politics. Their idealistic goals and unique methods often meet with resistance in organizations that value tradition, hierarchy and due process.
Being natural risk-takers, charismatic leaders may over-invest themselves to see goals accomplished, resulting in great personal cost. In organizations that employ several charismatic personalities, competition and rivalry can come to dominate the workplace as leaders contend for the loyalty of subordinates. There’s also the danger of becoming self-absorbed, focusing more on their reputations and importance to the organization than on reaching goals or valuing the contributions of others.