Leaders emerge in any business setting, and leadership is a vital ingredient in shaping and motivating employees within an organization. The type of leadership trait he or she imposes will reflect on how employees respond. The concept of leadership is a process by which one person influences the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors of others. Sounds like a hefty task doesn’t it? Well, let’s start by further examining the characteristics of a leader. In an organization, leaders define the direction and vision of the firm. They lead by example, and encourage others to follow their vision. They bring out the best in every individual, and also have the ability to bring everyone together when needed. “The success of any organization relies heavily on rather it is piloted by a skillful and influential leader.”
There are several types of leaders as classified by two well-known business theorists. Max Weber (1948) classifies leaders as Bureaucratic, Traditional, and Charismatic, whereas Sir MacGregor Burns (1978) classifies leaders as Transformation and Transactional. In this blog, I will focus on charismatic and transformational leaders because these types of leaders share similar traits and characteristics. They are also emerging in business and politics, and are most prevalent in our generation (cue President Obama speech and Steve Jobs Keynote).
Charismatic leadership can yield desirable results. They’re able to motivate employees to give extra output than what is expected from them otherwise. They heighten morale and ensure employees are socially responsible. “These individuals are courageous, value driven, lifelong learners, believe in people, and have the ability to deal with complexity, ambiguity, and uncertainty.” In a way, these individuals sound unreal, but realistically the transformation process requires a lifelong commitment to learning about yourself and others. The ability to possess and exhibit all of these qualities is rare, but in most cases an individual can evolve and progress into a charismatic leader. They are susceptible to imperfections but what makes them exceptional is how they remedy their mistakes. Their charismatic personality is what attracts people to follow them. In addition, “their attraction is based on personality, warmth, caring, energy, commitment, or common values.” Reputation will also continue to play a vital role for these leaders. Their power source and recognition is based on how they are perceived in their business community. Lastly, a leader’s ability to communicate in a commanding and compelling way will dictate his/her influence over others. Many charismatic leaders have the power of eloquence and the gift of speech, i.e. Martin Luther King. With the gift of speech, a charismatic leader can inspire and convince employees. Their general optimistic and positive nature will draw employees to them.
Although having a charismatic leader can be a powerful resource for an organization, there are some evident pitfalls. In a recent blog I have discovered, the author identifies the potential for such leaders to engage in self-aggrandizing behavior. Employees will develop over-dependence and rely on the decisions of the leader. The author states, “ This misperception of the boss’s role results in fiduciary distortions that negatively influence everything from corporate governance and the relationship between the board and management to employee self-perception and declining productivity resulting from a passive over-dependence on the singular figure of the charismatic boss.” The author’s take seems to be a bit extreme, but there is some level of truth. Employees may develop a halo effect towards the leader to which people will begin to blindly follow. This will also likely diminish the identity of the employees and inflate the ego of the leader.
The biggest challenge for anyone in a leadership role will be to find the perfect balance between having a charismatic personality and the ability to focus on the main objectives of the firm. Charisma will be able to help you gain influence, but it’s the result which will matter most.
Check out the Tedtalk video below on how great leaders inspire and feel free leave me any comments.
 Babcock-Roberson, M. & Strickland, O. The Relationshp Between Charismatic Leadership, Work Engagement, and Organization Citizenship Behavior.
 Bacon, R.T, “The Elements of Power- Lessons on Leadership and Influence” (2011)