Charismatic leadership theories

Written by roslyn frenz
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Charismatic leadership theories
Gandhi used charismatic leadership to convince his followers to protest nonviolently. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

There are many different ways to be a leader, but charismatic leaders guide by using charm and self-confidence. Their personality attracts attention and gains admirers. Charismatic leaders use others people's admiration to influence them to follow. Charismatic leaders with good ethics and intentions have the power to inspire and transform the people they lead. Immoral charismatic leaders can be forces of devastation and destruction.


Charismatic leaders have a clear vision of where they want to go and how to get there -- and they are fantastic at articulating that vision to others. They are sensitive to their surroundings and to the needs of their followers and potential followers. Charismatic leaders are often risk-takers who do things that others are afraid to do, which engenders admiration. Their unconventional behaviour often attracts others to them.


Charismatic leaders are great at observing others and discerning their emotional needs. You can identify a charismatic leader by how he interacts with other people. He pays great attention to people during on-on-one conversation, for example. Charismatic leaders may change their attitude and presentation to suit the needs of whomever they interact with. They will use both subtle (such as body language) and overt (such as speeches) tactics to convert others to their point of view.


The charismatic leader's social skills and personal appeal gains the followers. Once the leader has followers, she will take pains to make her group distinct from other groups. The leader may instil confidence in her group and challenge group members to meet her expectations. The leader may also raise her group above the status of other groups, if only in the mind of the leader and her followers. This makes the leader's group a strong and unified force.


Leaders who are not naturally charismatic my spend a lot of time perfecting their strength of character. People tend to trust charismatic leaders because they visibly take risks and sacrifice in the name of their beliefs. Charismatic leaders may be theatrical, telling stories and using metaphors to get their point across to potential followers.


History has numerous examples of charismatic leaders who produce both negative and positive results. Adolph Hitler is an example of the destructive power of charismatic leadership. He was able to use speeches to connect to followers and persuade them to commit genocide. On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi used his charisma to inspire his people to protest nonviolently. Gandhi fasted to show self-sacrifice and commitment to his beliefs. His charismatic leadership helped him gain followers and enough attention to aid in peacefully ending British rule of India.

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