Charismatic Leadership Style: 11 Traits & Famous Charismatic Leaders

The charismatic leadership style is influencing and encouraging people to perform through communication skills, persuasiveness, empathy, negotiation, and other team leadership skills. It is not a surprise that “Charisma” has been picked as the 4th most important leadership skill among the 21 leadership skills professionals would like to see in their workplace (*). Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, and Winston Churchill are referred to as charismatic leaders. We will define the charismatic leadership style, 11 characteristics of the charismatic leadership, benefits, and flaws in this article.

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* We’ve surveyed 6,992 professionals and asked them a single question: “What are the top three important leadership skills you would like to see in your leadership at your workplace?”. The results are inspiring. You can read more in the 21 Leadership Skills Professionals Expect to See at the Workplace article.

Watch 1-Minute Video – Charismatic Leadership vs Conversational Example

This video was presented in Jimmy Kimmel’s show. You will see the different speeches of two presidents for a similar case. It is not a comparison of good and bad leadership, just two different approaches.

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The Inception of the Charismatic Leadership Style

First, Max Wever, a German sociologist, coined the “charisma” in his book in 1947. Weber defined charisma as a “gift” that leads a person to be “treated as a leader” based on their perceived “supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities” that are “not accessible to the ordinary person.” Weber’s view of “gift” may be considered as a trait that is godgifted. However, charismatic leadership skills can be earned in several ways.

Later, management expert Robert House evolved the “charismatic leadership theory” in the 1970s, and described the charismatic leaders as “by force of their personal abilities are capable of having profound and extraordinary effects on followers.” House elaborates further: “Charismatic leadership is commanding loyalty and devotion and inspiring followers to accept and execute the will of the leader without hesitation or question or regard to one’s self-interest. Charismatic leaders break with the established order and major social change.”

Charismatic leadership is similar to transformational leadership. Both types of leadership style inspires and motivates team members to reach goals and objectives. The main difference is, that transformational leaders favor the overall group interest, and try to achieve the maximum benefit for the group, while charismatic leaders focus on their self-interests, goals, and ambitions.

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11 Traits of Charismatic Leadership

While there are several traits of charismatic leadership, we will focus on the top 11 traits.

1- Charismatic Leaders are Excellent Convincers and Influencers

Charisma is described as a personal quality of presence or charm that others find compelling. Scholars in sociology, political science, psychology, and management reserve the term for a type of leadership seen as extraordinary. In these fields, the term “charisma” is used to describe a particular type of leader who uses “values-based, symbolic, and emotion-laden leader signaling”.

Charismatic leaders combine charm, interpersonal connection, and persuasiveness to motivate others. Professionals seek persuasion and influence leadership skills in their executives. These skills will help their business unit to overcome obstacles, communicate with other departments in the organization easily, and have a better performance in the end. That is why persuasion and influence are at the top of the list.

2- Charismatic leadership requires clear communication and relationship

Communication, relationship, and interpersonal skills are crucial for leaders. Based on research, executives and managers spend 90% of their time on communication. Professionals seek for confident and easy communication with their leaders. They expect to see emotional intelligence and leaders who can see the issues from different perspectives. Therefore, communication and relationship building are crucial skills for a charismatic leadership style.

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3- Charismatic Leaders are Visionary

Charismatic leaders can see the big picture, and they are forward-thinkers and this is how they set the goals for their teams. Leaders ensure that organizations meet their visions and missions. To do this, business unit targets are set and then individual goals are set.

Professionals expect their leaders to set goals for everyone. This does not mean that everyone has similar goals. Depending on the experience, level, and skills of each individual, leaders must seek a fair goal distribution for everyone. Therefore, being visionary and setting goals respectively is one of the traits of charismatic leadership.

4- Charismatic Leadership requires the ability to tap into people’s emotions

Emotional effects are unavoidable when there is a human factor. Leaders inspire people, motivate their team, and encourage them to produce the best results. Professionals seek encouragement as a leadership skill in their leadership team. There are several ways to encourage people. The most common ways are setting clear goals, giving incentives, appreciation verbally, and celebrating success.

However, if you can create emotional bonds with the goals, that is where you boost the performance. Charismatic leadership connects followers to a cause emotionally and creates emotional links between the people and the targets.

5- Charismatic Leaders are open to taking risks and responsibility

Leaders or managers are responsible for their teams. So, when there is a success, it accounts for the entire team. However, if there is a failure, people may start to look for a scapegoat. Leaders play a vital role here. They should prevent their team, and absorb the pressure coming from higher management. Leaders should take responsibility for their team.

Risks are commonly referred to as “potential threats”. However, in the book, risks can be opportunities or threats. Charismatic leaders do not refrain from evaluating arising opportunities and taking reasonable risks and responsibility.

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6- Charismatic leadership requires conflict management and negotiation

Conflicts are unavoidable wherever there is a human interaction. You should not be afraid of the conflicts. However, charismatic leaders must have conflict management and negotiation leadership skills.

There are five types of conflict management techniques:

  1. Avoiding: This is simply delaying to make a decision about the issue.
  2. Competing: Addressing the conflict directly and trying to solve the conflict as quickly as possible.
  3. Accommodating: This is resolving the issue by giving in to the opposing party.
  4. Compromising: This is referred to as “lose-lose” as well. Each side is pushed to make some sacrifices to reach a resolution.
  5. Collaborating: This method looks for “win-win” resolution. Parties look for a solution that will make everyone happy.

Charismatic leaders use their leadership skills to overcome conflicts in the best way and in their favor. Win-win may not be the ultimate outcome in some circumstances. In this case, charismatic leaders look for the minimum sacrifice for their interests.

7- Charismatic leaders are agile and adaptive

Leaders with charisma aren’t afraid to try everything to get results. We are living in a fast-paced environment. Business conditions may change rapidly. So, leaders must be agile, and flexible and be able to adapt to changing conditions.

Charismatic leadership requires agility, adaptability, and flexibility. Agility refers to the ability to think and understand quickly. Adaptability refers to the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions and flexibility refers to adapting to changing circumstances and expectations of the workplace.

8- Charismatic leadership requires perseverance and commitment

Perseverance and commitment is another important charismatic leadership trait. Once the goals are set, leaders should be perseverant throughout the journey to reach the goals.

It can be a long journey, and there can be disasters, roadblocks, impediments, and issues affecting the team to reach its goals. Perseverant and committed charismatic leaders approach the rationale of the issue, assess the situation, and go over the issues over and over again until they reach the goals.

9- Charismatic leaders are resistant to stress and pressure

Leaders are often challenged by high-pressure situations. This is the nature of doing business. Charismatic leadership requires managing stress and pressure. In the case of an emergency, it is hard to manage your emotions, make rational decisions, and manage the situation.

Charismatic leaders hinder their emotions to affect their decision-making in high-pressure situations. Empathy is key in these situations. Charismatic leadership ensures that team members suffer minimum from stress and pressure.

10- Problem-solving

There is a misconception between problem-solving and conflict management. Typically, conflicts arise between people. However, problems can be related to anything including people. Charismatic leaders are excellent problem-solvers. When they face a problem, they are capable of thinking from different perspectives, analyzing the impacts of alternative solutions, and finding the optimum solution for the problem.

11- Optimism in Charismatic Leadership

Leaders should be realistic and optimistic. Sometimes, there is a misconception between optimism and seeing things through rose spectacles. Charismatic leaders are calm, positive, and optimistic. Otherwise, the negative energy can affect their team and it can hamper the business productivity in the organization.

đź’ˇ Read 15 Types of Leadership article to learn about other leadership styles.

Famous Charismatic Leaders

When we searched the “famous charismatic leaders” on Google, the results were as follows.

Famous Charismatic Leaders

We will go through three famous charismatic leaders in this article, Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk.

Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 during the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955.

Churchill was one of the key people in the world in the 1940s when the all world was at war. His charismatic leadership skills helped allies win in several diplomatic and high-pressure field cases.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is also known as a believer in laissez-faire leadership. He has many famous quotes, but let’s look at the following one:

“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Many would be demotivated and lose passion if they were in Steve’s shoes. However, his perseverance, commitment, visions, and optimism helped him in succeeding in his 2nd attempt, and turned Apple into the world’s most valuable company, at the time.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is also known as a believer in authoritative leadership. Let’s look at the following quote by Elon Musk:

“Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster. If something’s important enough, you should try it. Even if – the probable outcome is a failure.”

You can see the risk-taking, agility, and adaptability traits of charismatic leadership in this quote. Moreover, his SpaceX and Tesla ventures show his visionary skills regarding building a better future for humanity. You can read more about other traits of Elon Musk leadership style.

Top 3 Benefits of Charismatic Leadership Style

While there are several benefits of the charismatic leadership style, we will focus on the top three benefits.

1- Motivates people without material rewards

There are some leadership theories, such as transactional leadership, that believe people perform only in exchange for material rewards. However, charismatic leadership enables encouraging and motivating people through emotions, charisma, and persuasiveness.

Many motivation experts believe that material rewards motivate people to a certain degree. To ensure better motivation, people need emotional bonds with the targets. If charismatic leadership skills are applied correctly, individual’s targets can be linked with their self-interests, which will boost their performance.

2- Fosters teamwork

Charismatic leadership is about motivating and influencing people. Charismatic leaders encourage all team members to meet the common goals and objectives. This stimulates collaboration and participation in the team.

3- Can influence several people

While many other leadership styles can affect a limited of people, charismatic leadership can affect millions of people, even the ones not in their peripheral.

On 28th August 1963, Martin Luther King addressed a crowd of over 250,000. In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he calls for an end to racism and equality for all. In 1999, this speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century in a 1999 poll of scholars of public address. Martin Luther King is referred to as one of the famous charismatic leaders.

In 2005, Steve Jobs gave a Commencement Address to Stanford University that will leave you with goosebumps. Known as “How to Live Before You Die”, is a brilliant speech, and also a great lesson from one of the most influential presenters in history. Maybe you recall the famous farewell “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” from his phenomenal speech.

There are several other examples of excellent speeches by charismatic leaders, inspiring thousands if not millions of people.

Top 3 Flaws of Charismatic Leadership Style

Although charismatic leadership has benefits, there are some flaws in this leadership style as well. We’ve listed the top three flaws below:

1- Focuses on Self-Interests

Charismatic leaders have strong personal and leadership skills. They are ambitious and they can do everything to reach their goals. In some cases, their self-interests may not be in favor of other’s interests in the organization.

2- Beleviers in Their Own Ideas

Typically, charismatic leaders believe in their own ideas. Charismatic leaders might believe that they can do no wrong, even when others warn them about the path that they’re on. This feeling of invincibility can severely damage a team or an organization, as was shown in the 2008 financial crisis.

3- May suppress other leaders to grow

The strong personal aura, skills, and influence of charismatic leaders may suppress the opportunity for other leaders to grow. Because many people will be affected by charismatic leaders even if there are other leaders in the environment.


Charismatic leadership affects people by persuasiveness, emotions, or charm that others find compelling. Charismatic leaders affect people with their leadership skills and encourage and motivate them toward reaching a goal. There are several traits of charismatic leadership. We have listed the top 11 traits in this article.

Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Winston Churchill are just a few to name from famous charismatic leaders. Charismatic leadership motivates people without material rewards, fosters teamwork, and can influence several people. However, there are flaws in this leadership style as well. Charismatic leadership focuses on the self-interests and ambitions of the leader rather than individuals and charismatic leaders are believers in their own ideas rather than accepting different ideas. Another disadvantage is, that charismatic leaders have a very strong personality that may suppress other leaders to grow in their periphery.

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