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Charismatic and Transformational Leaders

Charismatic and Transformational Leaders Free Essay

As the result of the significant geopolitical, social, and economic changes during the past decade, the scholarship focus has shifted towards the observation of charismatic and transformational leadership theories. Each of these leadership models concentrates on the outstanding leaders who have the potential to influence their followers and make them act in concert to achieve the common goals. These kinds of leaders are filled with energy, emotions, and excitement that encourage their followers to sacrifice their personal interests in favor of the organization. Charismatic and transformational leaders represent a new model of leadership that can steer organizations through the challenges of the 21st century. At the same time, the leader’s ability to guide people may be destructive for an organization if the leader’s actions are not aimed at the accomplishment of collective objectives. In general, charismatic and transformational leadership models have both similar and distinctive features that give the scholars an opportunity to differentiate between them. Therefore, it is significant to discuss the general principles of each of these models, the similarities and differences between them, the effects on the followers produced by both types of leaders, and the situations when the leader’s influence is destructive for an organization.

Charismatic Leaders and Their Effects on their Followers

The analysis of charismatic leadership is carried out from the perspective of the leader’s influence on the followers and the interconnection between the leaders and the people who follow them. The key concept in this leadership model is the notion of ‘charisma’, a term of Greek origin meaning “divinely inspired gift” (Lussier & Achua, 2013). An important contribution to the early theories of charisma was made by the sociologist Max Weber, who used this term to define a kind of influence based on the followers belief in the leader’s possession of supernatural qualities or divine inspiration (Lussier & Achua, 2013). In fact, a charismatic leader assumes his authority not from some particular divine intervention but from the followers that strongly believe in him. According to Lussier and Achua (2013), the concept of charisma involves a number of aspects, including vision, acts of heroism, an ability to inspire and raise confidence, exposure to revolutionary ideals, oratorical abilities, and a “powerful aura”. Therefore, charisma cannot be related exclusively to the leader’s personality or the accompanying circumstances. Rather, it is made up of the interaction between the leader’s traits and behaviors and the needs, perceptions, values, and beliefs of the followers. In addition, one of the theories states that a charismatic leader has no opportunity to display his leadership qualities until the emergence of a stressful social situation in the area of his performance (Lussier & Achua, 2013). According to this suggestion, the world would probably never have heard the names of Adolph Hitler, Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela without the political and socioeconomic crises faced by their corresponding countries (Lussier & Achua, 2013). As a result, the charismatic leadership model is based on the interplay between the personality of the leader, the perceptions of the followers, and the situation, in which they act.

The investigation of the concept of charisma is particularly focused on the effects that a charismatic leader has on the motivation, satisfaction, and job performance of the followers as well as on the overall performance of the organization. According to Shamir, House, and Arthur (1993), the followers motivation manifests itself through implicating the leader’s self-concepts in five processes. Firstly, the leader increases the genuine valence of effort by stressing its expressive and symbolic aspects and reinforcing the followers belief in the propriety and necessity of their participation (Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). Then, the leader enhances effort-accomplishment expectancies by raising the followers self-esteem and self-worth. What is more important, the leader promotes the intrinsic valence of goal accomplishment by increasing the meaningfulness of goals and related action (Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). In addition, the leader instills faith in a better future and creates the followers personal commitment. All these motivational processes are maintained by two specific types of leader behavior. They include role modeling, when the leader becomes a “representative character” of his social environment, and frame alignment that manifests itself in the coincidence and congruence of the followers beliefs, values, and interests with the leader’s ideology, activities, and goals (Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). All these motivational processes and behavioral strategies help the leader to influence his followers and to satisfy not only the collective interests but also their personal expectations.

Transformational Leaders and Their Impact on the Followers

The transformational leadership model is based primarily on the leader’s perception rather than the followers attributions. The transformational leader engenders the followers innovative behavior and tends to change the status quo by making the followers aware of the shortcomings of the current system and having an appealing vision of the new organizational structure (Lussier & Achua, 2013). Therefore, transformational leaders are usually vision-oriented, they are considered to value change and to put greater emphasis on the long-term future of the organization. As a result, transformational leadership leads to the enhancement of employee creativity and innovative behavior. The transformational leader can transform an organization that experiences a decline by making fundamental changes in its policies, strategies, vision, and mission (Lussier & Achua, 2013). In general, the process of transformation includes the leader’s ability to challenge the status quo, to present an inspiring future perspective, to act as an effective leader during the transformation, and to institutionalize the change (Lussier & Achua, 2013). The leader’s performance during each of these stages determines the successfulness of transformational process and the personal efficiency of the leader.

The implication of transformational leadership often displays positive influence on the performance of individuals, groups, and organizations. From the individual perspective, a transformational leader tends to replace the employee’s focus on personal interest by putting greater emphasis on the collective objectives (Lussier & Achua, 2013). According to Lussier and Achua (2013), a leader that guides a group of followers usually influences the team performance and team potency. At the organizational level, the transformational leadership model demonstrates a significant influence on organizational learning and it can change an organization’s climate and culture (Lussier & Achua, 2013). In addition, the analysis of the 205 leader-follower pairs has showed that a transformational leader can influence a follower’s moral motivation and moral sensitivity (Mulla & Krishnan, 2011). However, the leader’s impact is more substantial for high duration pairs, which means that the followers have to interact with the leader for a long time to observe the positive effects of this leadership model.

The Differentiation between Charismatic and Transformational Leadership

Very often, charismatic and transformational leaderships are presented as a single model for their similar features without taking into consideration the differences between them. Indeed, these leadership models have much in common since the concept of charisma is central in both of them. In addition to all behavioral strategies, a transformational leader usually employs his charisma and power to influence the followers behaviors and work ethic (Lussier & Achua, 2013). On the other hand, the scholars agree that charismatic leaders are transformational by nature, but not all of them can achieve transforming results through the charismatic features of their personalities (Lussier & Achua, 2013). Consequently, many famous leaders, such as Bill Gates and Nelson Mandela, are often referred to as both charismatic and transformational leaders. However, an important difference between these approaches lies in considering the needs of the followers. Thus, transformational leaders are more attentive to the empowerment of the followers, making them less dependent on the leader, while charismatic leaders are more concentrated on the activities that promote an image of extraordinary competence of the leader (Yukl, 2010). While transformational leaders can be found in any organization at any level, charismatic leaders are rare and they emerge mostly under favorable social or political conditions. Moreover, people react more extremely to charismatic leaders and often display an unquestioning loyalty and obedience to them (Yukl, 2010). These aspects allow the scholars to differentiate between these leadership models and refer a particular leader to one of these categories.

Improper Applications of the Leadership Models

Despite the positive influence given by both charismatic and transformational leadership models, sometimes, each of these leaders can act in a way that is devastating to his followers. First, the leader has to display a clear position concerning the aspects he regularly controls, pays attention to, and measures (Kelly & Earley, 2009). If the leader’s message or behavior is inconsistent, the members of an organization do not understand his real intentions and do not know how to act. Probably, every organization experiences the periods of crises and critical incidents. The leader’s behavior in such kind of situations can either encourage the employees or make them doubt in their team strength and the efficiency of their leader. What is more, the leader has to perform the functions of the role model, teacher, and coach, at the same time paying attention not only to what he says but also to what he does (Kelly & Earley, 2009). The leader may also discourage his followers by the improper and undeserved rewards and punishments. The culture of an organization may be affected by the inappropriate selection and implication of human resource policies and procedures (Kelly & Earley, 2009). Finally, the improper allocation of resources and budgeting failures reveal the leaders’ real priorities and values concerning the organization.


To conclude, charismatic and transformational leadership models have much in common since both are established around the personality of a strong and charismatic leader. However, a charismatic leader and a transformational leader usually focus on different aspects of the management process and use different mechanisms to achieve the desirable goals and to influence their followers. Although their influence is usually positive, in some cases, the leader’s lack of experience and competence as well as the inability to express his intentions and attitudes clearly may lead to the misunderstandings and disunity within an organization. Therefore, an effective leader has to pay attention to every detail of the transformational process to achieve the expected results.

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