What Is Charismatic Leadership? (Plus 10 Traits of Charismatic Leaders)

According to conventional wisdom, the most charismatic leaders are also the most effective leaders. For instance, charismatic leaders can compel others to perform at higher levels and foster a culture of deep commitment, trust, and satisfaction. They are therefore typically viewed by their subordinates as being more effective than less charismatic leaders.

But as evidenced by our research, while having some charisma is beneficial, having too much can actually make a leader less effective. 800 business leaders from around the world and about 7,500 of their superiors, peers, and subordinates participated in three studies that we conducted. Leaders worked at various managerial levels, from general managers to supervisors. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology will publish our article soon.

The fact that people tend to agree in their assessments of the charisma levels of others, however, suggests that it is not just a matter of attribution and that this agreement may be the result of a personality-based foundation underlying these perceptions. Therefore, the primary objective of our research was to develop a scale for charismatic personality.

We administered the Hogan Development Survey (HDS), a personality test created especially for job applications, to leaders and evaluated their results on four personality traits: outgoing, colorful, mischievous, and imaginative. These characteristics are highly rated in charismatic leaders, which is evident in their high levels of self-assurance, dramatic flair, willingness to push boundaries, and expansive visionary thinking.

Then, we carried out a study to validate this group of characteristics as a reliable indicator of charismatic personality. We demonstrated that charismatic personality was associated with how subordinates perceived charismatic leadership using a sample of 204 business leaders. Therefore, followers believed that leaders with highly charismatic personalities, as determined by the HDS charisma scale, had highly charismatic personalities. We further demonstrated that the HDS charisma levels could be predicted by people’s charismatic behaviors (such as being energizing, assertive, and generating enthusiasm) using an archived data set from 1998 on a sample of 156 people.

Our second objective was to look into the connection between charismatic personality and effective leadership. In a second study, 306 leaders (65% of whom were men) self-rated their charismatic personality using the HDS, and their coworkers rated their overall effectiveness on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is excellent and 5 is adequate. Together, 4,345 of their coworkers—666 superiors, 1,659 peers, and 2,020 subordinates—participated in the study. Each leader received an average of 14 ratings for overall effectiveness.

In line with our predictions, we discovered that perceived effectiveness increased as charisma did, but only to a certain point. Perceived effectiveness began to decrease as charisma scores rose above the 60th percentile, which is just above the average score in comparison to the general population of working adults. The three observer groups (peers, supervisors, and subordinates) all observed the same pattern.

We also asked the leaders to evaluate their own effectiveness. As evidenced by the graph below, leaders who were more charismatic rated themselves as being more effective. This difference between self-perceptions and observer evaluations is consistent with other studies showing that leaders with high self-esteem typically overrate their performance on a variety of criteria.

In a third study, we looked at specific leader behaviors to see if they could help to explain the effects of charismatic personality on effectiveness. We tested this by asking 287 business leaders (81% of whom were men) to rate their charismatic personality and an average of 11 coworkers to rate each leader’s overall effectiveness. The extent to which leaders were forceful and enabling (drawing on the interpersonal behavior dimensions, or how they led), as well as the extent to which they were strategic and operational (representing the organizational dimensions, or what they led), were now also rated by subordinates.

One explanation is that having the desired trait (charisma) has costs that eventually outweigh its advantages. When a certain level of charisma is exceeded, we anticipated that the costs of a lack of operational behavior would start to outweigh the benefits provided by strategic behavior for highly charismatic leaders. And that’s exactly what we discovered: Highly charismatic leaders may be strategically ambitious, but doing so compromises their ability to carry out daily tasks effectively, which can lower their perceived effectiveness. For instance, they were unsuccessful at managing the daily operations required to carry out their grand strategic vision and adopting a methodical approach to accomplishing their short-term goals. Further investigation revealed that the opposite was true for leaders with lower levels of charisma: They were discovered to be less effective because they lacked strategic behavior. For instance, they failed to invest enough time in long-term planning, adopt a big-picture viewpoint, challenge the status quo, and promote innovation.

Our findings suggest that leaders should be aware of the potential drawbacks of being overly charismatic in terms of practical implications. These are a few characteristics to watch out for that can affect one’s effectiveness, even though it can be challenging to distinguish between “just enough” and “too much” charisma. For example, in highly charismatic leaders, self-confidence may develop into narcissism and overconfidence, while risk-taking and persuasiveness may begin to manifest as manipulative behavior. Additionally, the exuberant and entertaining qualities of charisma may translate into attention-seeking behaviors that divert the organization from its mission, and highly charismatic leaders may think and act in fantastical, eccentric ways due to their extreme creativity.

Coaching and development programs that manage potential operational weaknesses, improve self-awareness, and enhance self-regulation can be helpful for people whose charisma may be above average. Highly charismatic leaders would also benefit from hearing from their team members about how well they are doing. In this manner, any discrepancy between their perception and others’ perceptions will be exposed. Coaching programs for leaders who lack charisma, however, might put more of an emphasis on improving their strategic behavior.

We do want to emphasize that because situational factors could affect the strength and nature of the relationship between leader charisma and effectiveness, they were not considered in our study. This relationship may be strictly linear in some circumstances, such as low-stress ones (“the more charisma the better”). However, we think that high-stress and high-pressure circumstances are more typical for a “normal” leadership context, increasing the chance of discovering a too much of a good thing effect. Further research is needed to determine the precise circumstances under which charisma is desirable or not.

Charismatic Leadership

Why is it important to be a charismatic leader?

Because charismatic leaders make success desirable to workers on a personal level, they are crucial. The goal of charismatic leaders is to rally their team around a compelling shared vision and their core values. A charismatic leader aims to connect the company’s objectives with the individuals’ personal objectives.

Most characteristics of charismatic leaders encourage hard work, boost workplace morale, and help their team members feel proud of their work. It is a style that is especially effective at overcoming obstacles and assembling a powerful team that is focused on the same goal.

10 traits of a charismatic leader

While each leader brings their own unique personality traits to the office, the following are the top ten characteristics of charismatic leaders:

1. Creating a compelling vision

Making a compelling vision for the organization’s goals is one of the main ways a charismatic leader invites employees to join them in achieving those goals. Leaders ensure that each employee is personally invested in the success of the company by connecting these visions to their interests and emotions in order to foster excitement about pursuing and achieving the company’s goals. When they achieve professional successes, your staff will feel more fulfilled if you can help them see the company’s goals as their own personal objectives.

2. Finding a convincing motivation

A charismatic leader must discover the right motivation for their team members in order to do their job successfully. A charismatic leader typically inspires their team members with one of three types of motivation: the need for power, the need for achievement, or the need for affiliation.

Your employees can develop some of this motivation by being exposed to a compelling vision. However, how your staff perceives the business can also serve as a strong motivator. For instance, staff members may take pride in their employer if it has charitable or community outreach initiatives. They can achieve success for their community and establish a connection with an organization that does good deeds by assisting the business to succeed.

3. Expressing personal values

Most characteristics of a charismatic leader encourage followers to put in extra effort and succeed for the company. Your employees will know that the company can achieve its goals while upholding integrity if business processes are based on a set of personal values. By encouraging them to take pride in how they carry out their work, you can raise workplace morale by cultivating values that all of your employees adhere to.

4. Being a role model

A charismatic leader is one who works openly to complete tasks for others. You can demonstrate to employees not only the type of employee you are but also the type of employee they should aspire to be by working hard where they can see you, helping them when you can, and spending time with others.

5. Establishing clear, desirable goals

It’s helpful to be specific about the objectives you hope to accomplish for the company as a charismatic leader. You can do this by being very clear about the objective and what it looks like when it is achieved.

Consider tying it to other work goals, like the capacity to add a new distribution line or expanding operations to add new jobs, to help employees see that reaching a goal can be more than just accomplishing a certain number or percentage of sales. Having clear objectives that go above and beyond the regular tasks your team performs can help them understand the reason behind their work and inspire them to do it well.

6. Showing empathy and compassion

Since they put in a lot of effort themselves, charismatic leaders typically understand that hard work comes with challenges. When team members face these difficulties, try to be understanding as it keeps the workplace atmosphere more upbeat. Some charismatic leaders use these and other strategies to demonstrate empathy for their teams and raise morale at work, such as soliciting feedback on procedures, hosting town hall meetings where problems can be discussed, and putting in place therapy programs.

7. Taking risks

Many charismatic leaders have the ability to recognize when to take a chance in order to achieve greater success. However, it’s crucial that you take responsibility for your actions if any of these choices don’t turn out as planned.

Understanding how a decision will benefit you is the key to risky choices. Consider choosing one or two areas where you are more willing to take a risk at the beginning of a project. You can still determine which risks have the best chance of succeeding. You can boost employee morale, gain their respect, and gain their continued business loyalty by letting them see you take these risks to assist them in achieving their goals.

8. Thinking creatively

A hallmark of charismatic leaders is their desire to approach situations in novel and engaging ways. You probably work with a group of people who you trust and whose opinions you respect. Using the team as a resource ensures that your decisions are based on thoughtful creative input, whether you ask them for their creative input or simply consider it when you offer your own.

It’s beneficial to use creativity when developing new procedures, branding strategies, or even workplace culture implementations because charismatic leaders are typically at ease with a certain amount of risk.

9. Exuding confidence

An influential personality trait in the workplace is confidence. Confident people are more likely to follow them, and charismatic leaders reassure their followers that they are making the right decisions. Even if you’re not entirely sure of a choice or goal, acting with confidence encourages others to do the same while working toward it. The chances of success can rise when more team members confidently complete their tasks.

10. Working with purpose

Clear objectives and an inspiring vision give the work being done a purpose. The objectives and vision of charismatic leaders are their primary focus, and they set an example of tenacity for those around them as well. Your employees will know that you think their work has meaning by seeing that you think the company’s goals are worth your own sacrifice.


Who is a charismatic leader example?

For instance, charismatic leaders can compel others to perform at higher levels and foster a culture of deep commitment, trust, and satisfaction. They are therefore typically viewed by their subordinates as being more effective than less charismatic leaders.

What does being a charismatic leader mean?

Jay Conger (1989) proposed the following four-stage model of charismatic leadership:
  • Continual assessment of the environment and formulating a vision.
  • Communication of vision, using motivational and persuasive arguments.
  • Building trust and commitment. …
  • Achieving the vision.

What is a characteristic of charismatic leaders?

Examples of charismatic leaders include Martin Luther King, Jr. , Barack Obama, and Adolf Hitler. Charismatic leadership presents both benefits and challenges to an organization. Having charismatic leaders is advantageous because they motivate staff to perform at their highest level.

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