This article is part of The Ascender, the Highrise platform for articles and resources.

What is Charismatic Leadership?

Andrew Langat
August 8, 2021
A charismatic leader having a meeting with employees.
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Leadership styles come in different shades and are applied to suit specific circumstances or to elicit desired objectives. A leader may opt for a leadership management style such as Charismatic, Bureaucratic, Authoritarian, or Democratic leadership, etc.

For example, the Democratic leadership style works best when leading a skilled team requiring minimal supervision. In situations where an organization's employee's skill sets are varied, or there is a need to realize high performance, leadership and management must comprehend which leadership style to apply.

In this article, we shall detail, Charismatic leadership, a leadership style whose success largely relies on the leader.

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Defining Charismatic Leadership?

Charismatic leadership is the ability to influence others through charm, presence, and magnetism. Charismatic leaders inspire devotion, boosting performance within an organization and delivering positive change.

Charismatic leaders are often compared with transformational leaders as they share similar attributes. The point of divergence between the two leadership styles is the means to an end.

A quote by Seth Godin

Charismatic leaders are centered on the leader, whilst transformational leaders rely on a shared vision to realize a goal.

The history of the world has been shaped by charismatic leadership and the devotion they inspire in politics, religion, and business.

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Origins of Charismatic Leadership

The influential German Sociologist Max Weber in his essay "Three types of legitimate Rule," classified the source of authority into three categories: rational-legal authority, traditional authority, and charismatic authority. Leaders can deliver charismatic authority/leadership when they have extraordinary characteristics and visions that followers find inspirational.

Followers see charismatic leaders as having exceptional powers and incredible insights.

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Examples of Charismatic leadership styles

Steve Jobs was not skilled in science or engineering; however, his charismatic leadership allowed him to bring together the best minds from various fields, leading them to create game-changing technology to make Apple the behemoth it is today.

Jack Welch, the transformative former CEO of General Electric, applied this leadership style effectively. Whereas many saw his approach as almost Darwinian, he rose from the lowly position of a junior chemical engineer at General Electric plastics division to become the company's CEO through confidence and charisma. During his two decades as the CEO of GE, he oversaw a remarkable transformation of the company, which increased its market value from $14 billion to $410 billion. 

Martin Luther king Jr, a verbally eloquent leader, used a charismatic leadership style to challenge the status quo and inspire people to understand the sense of equality and justice in a way that many civil right movement leaders or politicians couldn't.

John F. Kennedy, arguably one of the most famous American leaders, deployed a remarkable charismatic leadership style to capture the nation's imagination. As a strong communicator, he invoked strong emotions and inspired people to do hitherto unimaginable things, such as landing on the moon.

Charismatic leadership is precious at all levels of the organization. Charisma lets leaders connect with others on a deeper level. This is especially useful in times of crisis or significant change

A charismatic leader sitting and discussing a project with employees

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What is Charismatic Authority?

Charismatic Authority is derived from a leader's unique and attractive qualities admirable to the followers. This form of authority is unstable and temporary. It fades when the leader does not deliver to expectations, resigns, retires, or dies. 

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What are the Five Types of Charismatic Leaders?

Charismatic leaders are categorized as socialized, personalized, officeholder, personal and divine.

  • Socialized charismatic leaders use power for the benefit of others.
  • The personalized charismatic leader uses power for personal benefit.
  • Officeholder charismatic leader exercises power by virtue of their office. Once they leave office, charisma ends.
  • Personal charismatic leader: Due to unique attributes, they exercise power even after they have left office.
  • Divine charismatic leader: such leaders are treated like messiahs by followers.

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Qualities of a Charismatic Leader

Charismatic leaders share the following traits:

1. Strong Communication Skills

Charismatic leaders are essentially very skilled communicators. They speak confidently, respectfully, and clearly, and have great listening skills. This way, they can sell their vision and inspire the team toward delivery.

2. An Abundance of Empathy and Relatability

Charismatic leaders genuinely care and are relatable. This is vital in building confidence. When employees know their leader understands their point of view, they can freely express themselves knowing they have a listening ear. 

3. Confidence

Charismatic leaders carry themselves with self-confidence, almost naturally.  This is vital as it makes it easy for the rest of the team to accept and trust your leadership. 

4. Ability to Motivate

A critical element of great leadership is motivation. Leading a team means that you will be required to inspire others to reach set objectives. 

5. Optimistic

Charismatic leaders are optimistic and solutions-oriented in the face of adversity. This mindset is vital as it kills despair and helps foster a feeling of a better tomorrow. 

6. Charm 

Charismatic leaders rely on charm for a deeper connection with team members. Moreover, it brings more attraction to a leader as it makes them feel wanted. For some leaders, this comes naturally, while others learn the art.

7. Demonstrate competence

Charismatic leaders walk the talk. I.e., they demonstrate competence in what they do.

8. Risk Takers

Charismatic leaders are inclined to take risks because of their ability to communicate their clear vision.

A charismatic leader talking to employees

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Charismatic Leadership

Charisma, like every other human trait, has pros and cons. If used well, charismatic leadership can bring about more positivity within the organization and its people.

However, a poor application of the charismatic touch could lead to unintended consequences. Here’s an outline of some of the pros and cons of charismatic leadership:


  • Charismatic leaders can inspire and motivate and inspire their subordinates.
  • Charisma can boost camaraderie and teamwork within the workforce.
  • It can improve communication within the organization.
  • Create momentum towards positive change.


  • Charismatic leaders can sometimes become more focused on their personalities than the well-being of their people.
  • They can be viewed as shallow and untrustworthy.
  •  Charismatic leaders can be self-serving and aloof.
  • Charisma can mask poor leadership skills.
  • It can lead to a blind following, often with detrimental consequences
  • Association with the Dark Triad: Narcissism, Psychopathy, and Machiavellianism

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How to Become a Charismatic Leader?

Charismatic leadership relies on different strategies. Here's how you can become a charismatic leader:

Be Vulnerable

Practicing vulnerability lets, you overcome the main negative trait associated with charismatic leadership - inauthenticity.

Authenticity is crucial if you are to inspire and influence effectively. This may not always come naturally, but by enrolling in executive coaching and leadership coaching, you can learn how to show vulnerability and enhance authenticity.

Accepting coaching is a demonstration of strength rather than weakness. Demonstrating weakness will humanize your leadership and help you build better relationships with team members.

Your organization will inevitably face turbulence and challenges. When this happens, encourage employees to share their concerns and doubts and exercise complete transparency. Employees are, at most times, aware of the issues and could be thinking of solutions.

Sweeping problems under the rug will harm your credibility and likely lead to a breakdown in relationships within your team. 

Work on your Communication Skills

A charismatic leader engages in several conversations daily, but the trick to effective communication is ensuring everyone feels heard and taken seriously.

Tuning out the other communicating party will negatively affect future relationships.

Despite what most people think, communication and other interpersonal skills are not attained at birth; you can pick up new skills through executive coaching and leadership coaching.

Such training helps you improve your verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

Verbal communication skills include assertiveness, constructive feedback, respect, and recognizing valid objections from the other communication party.

Non-verbal communication is more nuanced but often conveys more meaning than verbal communication.

Executive coaching and leadership coaching will refine your non-verbal communication skills. Elements of non-verbal communication include facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, and posture. 

Always be Transparent

In pursuing charismatic leadership, a leader might fall into the trap of making empty promises or sugar-coating the truth.

However, transparency is the key to long-term relationships with subordinates and peers.

Transparency humanizes a leader and inspires and motivates others to do the same.

Knowing this, a good leader will cultivate a culture of transparency, sincerity, and straightforwardness at all levels. It might take a long time, but employees will learn to share helpful information and feedback.

Leadership and executive coaching can also let you learn how to thread the thin line between transparency and oversharing.

The latter helps develop charismatic relationships within an organization, while the former could make colleagues and subordinates uncomfortable.

Oversharing reverses any progress made when building relationships within an organization and often undermines the leader in question.

Charismatic leadership is all about selective vulnerability. Open up and be transparent but know where the boundaries lie.

Coaching will help you become more transparent and, thus, more charismatic through the following ways:

  • Figuring out where the boundaries of transparency lie
  • Emotional control
  • Techniques to address feelings without becoming emotionally leaky
  • Overcoming challenges on the path to transparency
  • How to read the emotional state of a room

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Why is Charismatic leadership Important?

The charismatic leadership style helps to bring out the best in team members as it stretches their conviction, belief, and confidence in a leader's ability. For leaders, this makes it easy to motivate toward realizing set objectives. 

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Highrise Can Help You Become a Charismatic Leader

Most Charismatic leaders are positioned to deliver transformational leadership and create a positive influence. Compared to other leadership styles, team members can relate with a leader on an emotional level and foster great loyalty.

If you want to improve or learn how to apply charismatic leadership traits, we have a solution to making this possible. Give us a call today, and we shall show you how to apply charismatic leadership in our Executive coaching for leadership development course.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.