Charismatic Leadership

In my quest of different types of leadership I came across BusinessDictionary.com’s definition of ‘charismatic leader’:
“The guidance provided to an organization by one or more individuals seen as heroic or inspiring and who have therefore been granted the organizational power to make dramatic changes and extract extraordinary performance levels from its staff. For example, a business manager imbued with charismatic leadership could be enlisted to orchestrate a turnaround or launch a new product line.”

Well, my first dilemma within this definition is how one can mix up two different roles, namely business management and leadership (see: Leader vs. manager). Although both are needed in an organization they are not interchangeable. Next, in post “Leadership and Charisma” I wrote that  it is not about the definition of a bad/good leader, it is about how he or she should behave and what she or he should aim for to be the successful one. Therefore, the question is not about charisma but rather about what kind of personality has a good leader?

Throughout our history this was proven several times.  Most historical leaders were labeled charismatic: Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Charles Manson, Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Ghingis Kan, Napoleon Bonaparte. Therefore, searching for definition I came with a list of what behavioral attributes should a charismatic leader have:
  • Conger and Kanungo (1998) described them as: vision and articulation; sensitivity to the environment; sensitivity to member needs; personal risk taking; and performing unconventional behavior;
  • gathering followers through dint of personality and charm, rather than any form of external power or authority;
  • believing that they are infallible;
  • ability to sense the gap that exists between what an organization is delivering to its followers, and what the followers need from an organization;
  • ability of attention in scanning and reading their environment, and picking up the moods and concerns;
  • good in articulating vision by using metaphors and stories;
  • very skilled in communication.


Although a list is not complete it demonstrates some patterns that are easily recognized as attributes that are expected by any good leader. Here my dilemma begins anew. Charisma and what is my understanding of a good leadership are kind of apart. In the near future I promise to go through more leadership styles and then try to compare them. Let’s see what will come out.

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