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Charismatic Leadership ... Is it A Blessing Or A Curse?

A charismatic leader is a leader whose followers are attracted to his or her personality and charm. People using this leadership style excel at working a room and making others feel that they are truly important and needed for the leader (and the 'cause') to be successful. These magnetic leaders do this through actions such as:

  • Direct eye contact

  • Remembering personal details about the person they are speaking with e.g. use of name or enquiry after family/social matters

  • Giving their complete focus to the other person for the time they are with them

  • Reading their surroundings and being skilled at detecting the moods of the audience and

  • Adjusting his or her behaviors and speech to suit the situation at hand.

Their approach when leading teams is to have their enthusiasm rub off on their team members by being extremely positive and energetic. Teams do, however, need more than just a charming leader to keep them sustainable over the long term.

charismatic leadership - obama clinton

Advantages Of Charismatic Leadership

  1. Selling The Vision.These leaders are often exceptional at selling the vision and getting people to come along for the ride. They are geniuses at helping people to see possibilities and potentials ... to buy into something bigger than themselves. They are generally masters at weaving stories and anecdotes that enable people to buy into a big dream - e.g. JFK leading a nation to put the first man on the moon

  2. Inspiring. Their generally optimistic and positive nature draws people to them like a moth to a flame. Often these leaders do inspire people to be at their best and the work environments they create can be very motivating to employees and colleagues alike.

  3. Drive Results. A highly charismatic leader can have people willing to walk over hot coals for him or her. Because of this they can achieve results and often get things done that other leadership styles may not. Think Hitler, Lee Iacocca

Charismatic Leadership Pitfalls

  1. Group Think. Because these leaders are so popular it can cause Team Members to stifle their own beliefs and values which may be in conflict with those of the leader. The danger in this is that you get 'group think' and/or people going along with the ride even when they sense that maybe the direction they are heading in is shaky.

  2. Lack of Independence. Teams being lead by a charismatic leader can struggle to become more self-managing because the group's identity can become caught up in that of the leader and his or her ego. The team can often focus on the leader to help them succeed rather than building the systems and self-fortitude to think and act independently.

  3. The leaders ego overtakes. These Leaders can sometimes get too caught up in their own ego and needs and this can have a devastating impact on the team. Think Donald Trump!

  4. Company strength is under-acknowledged. The worst case scenario with having a charismatic leader in charge of an organization is when people start to believe the leader, somehow 'is' the company and that the company's success is tied to this person being at the helm.

    Richard Branson of Virgin and Southwest's Herb Kelleher, are both examples of leaders who are 'hero' worshiped by their team members. The potential downside for these leaders is that people have put such faith in their leadership (and not the company as a whole) that they begin to believe that without him or her the company's infrastructure might break down.

    As we have seen with Steve Job's passing in 2011 (and his firing from Apple in the mid 80s), organization's can survive the departure of even the most charismatic of leaders. Let's just hope, that Steve's legacy, (this time), is he has left behind an organization that can thrive, not just survive after he's gone.

Richard Branson having fun

Final Thoughts

Charismatic leadership is certainly a dynamic and empowering form of leadership, and combined with other styles of leadership, it creates a powerful force that gives people the enthusiasm and self-management to achieve great results.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you work with a charismatic leader? Or maybe have watched with fascination the antics of a high profile leader. Use the comments box below, and let me know what you have found to be the best or worst of being caught up in the world of these types of men and women.



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