The Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership is the capacity to influence group members to contribute to group goals that is seen to derive from the distinctive charismatic qualities of a leader (Haslam, Reicher, & Platow, 2010).  In charismatic leadership, a leader uses charisma or charismatic power rather than position power to attract and influence followers.  Leader charisma has been defined as “the ability of a leader to exercise diffuse and intense influence over the beliefs, values, behavior, and performance of others through their own behavior, beliefs, and personal example” (House, Spangler, & Woycke as cited in Kwak, 2012, p. 56).  The key to charismatic leadership success is to attract and maintain loyal followers because “charismatic leaders need followers that believe and trust in them and their mission” (Sandberg & Moreman, 2011, p. 240).  As noted in Hayibor, Agle, Sears, Sonnenfeld, and Ward (2011), a charismatic leader must be capable to recognize subordinates’ values and to appeal to these values in communications with followers in order to develop a perception of trust.

According to Babcock-Roberson and Strickland (2010), similarities between transformational leadership and charismatic leadership exist on theoretical and empirical basis such as transformational leadership is composed of charisma and charismatic leaders are transformational.  However, there are differences in leadership behaviors between transformational leaders and charismatic leaders.  While transformational leaders empower followers through motivation and shared vision, charismatic leaders usually target to influence followers’ beliefs and use charisma to build loyalty on the leadership among followers.  Thus charismatic leadership does not necessarily empower followers; followers actually are weakened when they are encouraged to blindly follow a charismatic leader.  Unlike transformational leadership, charismatic leadership does not rely on the moral foundations because “charisma cannot be defined as a virtuous trait, but rather a morally neutral trait” (Sandberg & Moreman, C. M. (2011, p. 238).  Therefore there is a risk that a charismatic leader may lead followers to conduct unethical deeds, or the leader may sacrifice followers’ interests in order to achieve the leadership goal.

In summary, the charismatic leadership theory emphasizes on one’s charismatic influence in the leadership role.  A charismatic leader may use very little position power but rely on personal charisma to attract and maintain loyal followers.  The charismatic leadership aims to build a base of followers’ beliefs on the leader instead of empowering the followers, which is different from the transformational leadership.


Babcock-Roberson, M., & Strickland, O. J. (2010). The relationship between charismatic leadership, work engagement, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Journal of Psychology, 144(3), 313-326.

Haslam, S. A, Reicher, S. D., & Platow, M. J. (2010). The new psychology of leadership: Identity, influence, and power. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Hayibor, S., Agle, B., Sears, G., Sonnenfeld, J., & Ward, A. (2011). Value congruence and charismatic leadership in CEO-Top Manager relationships: An empirical Investigation. Journal of Business Ethics, 102(2), 237-254.

Kwak, W. (2012). Charismatic leadership influence on empowered and less empowered followers’ voice: A mediated moderation model. Journal of Leadership, Accountability & Ethics, 9(1), 56-70.

Sandberg, Y., & Moreman, C. M. (2011). Common threads among different forms of charismatic leadership. International Journal of Business & Social Science, 2(9), 235-240.

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