This article forms part of my Leadership Styles Blog Series and focuses on Charismatic leadership. A charismatic leader gains followers predominantly through their engaging and charming personality as opposed to their level of power and authority. They will often be the centre of attention and will be remembered by everyone at any networking event or conference they attend.
When talking to people they will have the ability to make that person feel like the most important person in the world. Charismatic leaders have a great awareness of their surroundings as well as an empathy for the feelings and opinions of those they are interacting with. They are very people-focused and forge meaningful relationships with their staff.
Appearance is often everything and charismatic leaders will spend a lot of time perfecting how they come across to others. People want to be around them, work for them and follow them in their endeavours wherever it may take them. They are willing to put themselves out there and take personal risk in order to pursue their ideals. I view charismatic leadership as being closely aligned with the concept of personal branding in that individuals lead and promote their endeavours through their own personality.
This style of leadership is very common amongst politicians as they are aware that many voters opt for the person and not necessarily the content of their manifesto. In the UK, Boris Johnson is a classic example of this. His name is actually Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson but he chooses to use Boris as it is more quirky and memorable. His clown-like behaviour engages the public and for many he provides an alternative to the typical stiff-faced politicians that people are so very fed up with. But don’t be fooled, this is a very clever performance as Boris is extremely well educated and extremely astute. If I asked you who Boris Johnson was you could probably tell me – but if I asked you what he stands for I bet many people would find it rather difficult to provide a clear summary.
Charismatic leaders are fantastic at engaging, inspiring and enthusing their staff which in turn improves the productivity and efficiency of the team. They can hold a meeting or presentation with grandeur and easily get others to agree with their vision. There ability to hold a room and dominate situations in a non-imposing manner can result in improved negotiations and outcomes on their part.
If you adopt a charismatic leadership style you will have a highly motivated workforce who are behind you every step of the way. People will want to work with you, work for you, buy from you, invest in you and generally support you in anyway they can. What a fantastic position to be in.
Unfortunately the charismatic leader may be a little too concerned with themselves as opposed to anybody else. They are highly skilled at acting in a deliberate way when interacting with other people. This can sometimes be false and although people feel like they are of importance the charismatic leader may not actually value them at all.
It is quite typical to get carried away when talking to a charismatic leader but afterwards it can be vey difficult to recall anything that was actually said. It is the personality and style of the person that is engaging but unless the content is there to back it up it will only have a short-term impact.
True charismatic leaders have such immense self-belief that they can sometimes consider themselves to be untouchable and destine for success irrespective of the barriers they face. This blinkered vision can be their undoing and a little sprinkling of reality is regularly required.
My final criticism, and probably the most crucial, is that not everyone has natural charisma. This is obviously a major limitation for those wishing to adopt this style of leadership. You can develop and improve your charisma just as you can improve your confidence or assertiveness but to be a truly brilliant charismatic leader I believe it must also come naturally as well.
I have come across many charismatic leaders in my life however I would have to say that only a very small percentage of them have actually been effective. Many have tried to bamboozle me with enthusing patter and energetic conversation telling me how great I am and how much they need me. Sadly, the majority of these people had very little content and meaning to back it up. Many are nothing more than style over substance. Ineffective charismatic leaders often tell people what they want to hear without always meaning it.
But when I have had the pleasure of conversing with a real charismatic leader who has a clear vision and purpose and really believes in what they are trying to achieve it is a sight to behold. Unfortunately these leaders and few and far between and of all the leadership styles that will be outlined in this blog series I would argue that charismatic leadership is the hardest and most difficult to perfect.
Good charismatic leaders need the right balance of charisma and content in order to be successful. Content is the key to any leadership style and even if you are lacking in charisma you will have much greater long-term success if you have true vision and purpose as opposed to being highly charismatic with little content to back it up.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I hope you decide to continue reading the next article in this Leadership Styles Blog Series where we will be discussing the concept of Servant Leadership.