Charismatic Leadership Theory Explained


If you are attempting to lead others through the use of the charismatic leadership theory, then you are trying to create a personality that is magnetic and attractive enough that people will want to follow. Charismatic leaders rely on charm and their personality in order to exert authority. Although external power, authority, or policies and procedures are important to the charismatic leader, they do not provide the foundation of personal leadership.

Charismatic leaders work to make sure each person feels like they have been recognized and appreciated. These leaders move from person to person, reading the environment to pick up on concerns and moods that may need to be addressed. Then the person utilizing the charismatic leadership theory will adjust their actions, words, and non-verbal language so that they are as effective as possible within that environment.

The 3 Assumptions of the Charismatic Leadership Theory

All charismatic leaders operate through the use of 3 basic assumptions.

  1. In order to inspire others to follow them, charm and grace are all that is needed in any situation.
  2. In order for a person to become a leader, there must be a certain amount of self-belief present in the first place.
  3. People will tend to follow those that they personally admire on some level.

This is why charismatic leaders work hard to make sure every person feels like they are incredibly important. These leaders want to inspire a level of self-belief in each person just like they have a belief in themselves already. By inspiring the person to trust themselves, they are also inspiring that person to trust in their leadership skills as well. This creates the admiration that is needed for followers to come along and stay.

How People Are Managed Using the Charismatic Leadership Theory

Charismatic leaders recognize that they must do more than just attract followers to them. Leadership is also about maintaining and growing followers. In order to do this, the charismatic leader will utilize many methods so that their image can be appropriately managed. It all begins with their own self-image, practicing their charisma, so they can be as effective as possible.

Once the charismatic leader is confident in their own abilities, you’ll find them using these management methods to continually build trust with their followers.

  • They will create circumstances where their followers can see self-sacrifice, with the leader rolling up their sleeves and working directly with their team.
  • They will take personal risks for the sake of their beliefs, proving that there are rewards available to every follower who is willing to take a similar risk.
  • They will use persuasive language, using their body language to emphasize key points, to inspire people to feel better about themselves.

The charismatic leader will also attach themselves quite firmly to the identity of the group. If you want to follow along, then you’re essentially becoming one with the leader. This allows the charismatic leader to create a position for themselves that is difficult to challenge. If you challenge the leader, you challenge the group, and that causes the followers to rise up against the challenge.

You’ll find the charismatic leadership theory often employed in politics and religion. These leaders seek to get people to pursue certain ideological goals, but there is also a root need to have a certain amount of devotion to the leader as well. The extent to which each must be in place depends on the morality of the leader, what the leader’s needs happen to be, and why underlying motivations may exist.

Can the Charismatic Leadership Theory Be Used in a Positive Way?

Although charismatic leaders are charming and sensitive, they are also usually more concerned with themselves than anyone else. This means the values of the leader are going to dictate whether an outcome is going to be positive or negative.

If a charismatic leader has good intentions and seeks to genuinely lift others up, then their leadership efforts can elevate any team or transform any company. On the other hand, if a charismatic leader is selfish or desires high levels of personal power, then they will destroy people with the attention given so that they can elevate themselves instead.

Believing in oneself is an important component of self-esteem and success. It can also be used to enhance any leadership style. In the charismatic leadership theory, this self-belief will also be transferred to other people. By determining the motivations of that belief, it becomes possible to predict outcomes so that charm can be turned into success.