Change-Oriented Leadership: Transformational and Charismatic Leaders

Marissa Mayer’s Approach to the Leadership

By the definition of Luthans et al., (2015), “A leadership approach that is consistent with follower development, open communications, trust building, creating more meaning and identification in one’s work, and effective mentoring toward increased proactivity and independence is in tune with the recently emerging recognition of the importance of authenticity, integrity, and transparency”. Marissa Mayer took over the reins of Yahoo in the year 2012 and started to turn the struggling company around. Her first year has brought an end to the lethargy inside the company. Mayer has replaced it with a sense of thrill and energy. She started with the shopping marathon, including buying the blogging platform Tumblr for a total value of $1.1 billion. She continued to raise the team spirit by providing the free food at the office and by giving out iPhones to the employees. Mayer’s first steps were successful. As a result, Yahoo began to attract more Web traffic (Quinn, 2014). McLean (2014) says that “…Mayer has made believers of some skeptics” (para.59).

Marissa Mayer as a Charismatic Leader

According to Avery (2004), charismatic leadership, unlike the general definition of charisma, is a model of a leader’s behavior that is aimed to transfer his vision to the employees. To achieve this, the leader has to create the in-company model of culture which defines the objectives and the ways to reach them, with the help of charm and strong personality rather than the authority. Marissa Mayer has built her behavior in a way that shows the employees her vision, and thus motivates them. Such relationships grant a two-sided trust between the leader and the staff. For example, to motivate the employees and to show her vision of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer had made a book for about $1 billion cost.

One more thing that characterizes Marissa Mayer as a charismatic leader is the way she communicates with mass media. Regardless of the topic of conversation, Marissa always tries to focus attention on the recent achievements of the company. After Mayer’s arrival to Yahoo, there have been an enormous number of success-celebrating press publications in which Marissa continues to motivate her employees by saying “at Yahoo people are working on important things”. Mayer understands the emphasis on the weight of the press and does her best to become outstanding in it. Actually, she was so charismatic and great at media that by the end of the 2000s there were not so much information about Google as about Marissa. Once Mayer said “I refuse to be stereotyped” to The New York Times (McLean, 2014).

Marissa Mayer as a Transformational and a Transactional Leader

According to Luthans et al. (2015), transformational leadership is an eventuality of such leader’s qualities as charisma, perfect influence, intellectual stimulation and individualized attention to the employees. Luthans et al. (2015), state that “…the most powerful leadership approach may involve the authentic, transformational leader”. Although, the charismatic leadership, and the transformational leadership have a lot of similarities, the key difference is lying in their basic approach. Unlikely the charismatic leader, the transformational leader focuses on remodeling the company and its’ followers. Transformational leadership includes open communication, motivating the staff by saluting every individual employees’ work, and effective mentoring. Being an active supporter of the non-financial approach, Marissa Mayer inspires her employees to work not only for the salary but for being appreciated and realizing the value of their labor as well. When Marissa came to Yahoo, she has made a number of changes to benefit the employees. They are:

  • Longer new child leave: The new parents are allowed to take up to eight weeks of paid leave, and the new mothers can take eight more paid weeks after the pregnancy. This applies not only to the birth of a child but surrogacy, adoption and foster child placement as well.
  • Daily habits payment: Yahoo pays the bill for a total value up to $500 for daily habits.
  • Yahoo gifts: Yahoo gives the employees’ new babies the gifts.
  • Yahoo gifts for pets
  • Leave for 5-year workers: Every five years, a Yahoo employee gets up to eight weeks of unpaid leave.

The changes were appreciated by the staff, and so, this has worked exactly as Marissa had expected (San Jose Mercury News, 2013).

Luthans et al., (2015) say that transactional leadership is based on rewards and punishments and absolute authority of the leader. In transactional leadership, the principal purpose of the staff is to do what they are told without any questions. There are some cases which characterize Marissa Mayer as a transactional leader. The re-commitment of the staff, for example. When she Marissa first came to Yahoo, she was surprised with the fact that a lot of employees has worked from home and the company meetings have happened very seldom. Marissa has implemented the new culture, with every-week meetings, into the company and those who did not support her ideas were free to leave (Cook, 2013).

The Main Benefits and Drawback of Marissa Mayer’s Approach to Leadership and Change

Marissa Mayer is undoubtedly an outstanding personality. There are two undeniable facts about her. First, is that Marissa, according to the colleagues and media, is one of the smartest people they have ever met. Second, she has a great capacity for work. Mayer needs only four hours to sleep and recover (McLean, 2014). There are a lot of opinions on Marissa Mayer’s performance as a Yahoo leader. Some of her steps that were criticized, later have become beneficial for the company. Marissa Mayer has never hesitated to do things which may seem risky. For example, one of Mayer’s first steps at Yahoo was forming a partnership with Microsoft. Despite the criticism and cynic expectations, the deal has improved Yahoo’s product quality. Another thing she did in search of success, was downsizing the company. Though it has aroused displeasure, the result has met its expectations. Marissa has also joined the staff and organized every-week meetings in order to keep the management consistent and clear. On these meetings, the employees are allowed to ask her any questions about the company. Most of the staff are happy with this innovation. Mayer did a great motivation job. She has monitored and encouraged the employees’ individual performance. Marissa asked her employees to do the extra job but instead of giving the orders, she shows how to perform by her own example.

The path of Marissa Mayer and Yahoo was not so smooth as it may seem. Though very often Marissa did well to motivate the staff, sometimes she could demoralize the employees as well. Mayer has a reputation of a leader which fires people easily. There was an accident when the employees had heard a false information about the “accidental firing” of the staff. The information has summoned the fear between the employees, and when Marissa told that there would be no terminations this week, the morale of the team had fallen even lower.

Some of Marissa Mayer’s brave steps did not pay off. One example is acquiring the social blogging platform Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Today, Yahoo keep struggling against the giants such as Google and Facebook.

How Marissa Mayer should Change Her Leadership Style

It is hard to say whether Marissa Mayer’s leadership style was right or wrong. On the one hand, she came to Yahoo with the aim to make it competitive again and failed. On the other hand, the fact that Yahoo was far behind its rivals is evident. Some of the experts are assured that no one could save Yahoo because it was impossible to implement it to the market, Yahoo was not created for. Others focus on Marissa’s mistakes, criticizing her steps and decisions. However, the point of view that bringing of Yahoo back was very ambitious and inaccessible seems more logical.

Supervisor as a Charismatic Leader

By the definition of Avery (2004), a charismatic leader is a person whose behavior is aimed to transfer the vision to the employees. Because there are a lot of similarities in the charismatic leadership and the transformational leadership, it sometimes may be hard to define the type. My supervisor has shown and used his natural charisma to rule the process. He had succeeded in transferring his vision with the help of charisma. He also provided a lot of motivational speeches, approached every individual employee and encouraged everyone. His self-confidence has inspired the group.

Supervisor as a Transformational Leader

Although there were a lot of charismatic leader’s behavior patterns in a way my supervisor ruled, the key aspects of his leadership were closer to the transformational ones. Ever since he has come to the group, he began to make changes. The first step he has made was the development of his own approach to the educational process. The main difference of his approach was the implementation of the specialized software that has accelerated the process. Though the training was mostly computerized, the supervisor has not stayed aside. The personal approach gives him the benefit—everyone admires him and wants to follow him. During the educational process, the supervisor was paying attention to every employee showing them they are important, which is, according to Luthans et al. (2015), a behavior of the transformational leader.

Supervisor as a Transactional Leader

With a clear mission to monitor and control the group, one has to have the transactional leadership behavior patterns. Instead of trying to motivate employees by the inspirational speeches and charisma, transactional leaders’ influence is based on the punishment and reward system (Luthans et al., 2015). My supervisor has a clear understanding of things that should be done to reach the results within the group. Thanks to his charisma, he had the control over the group without recourse to the punishment. Although the supervisor has not acted in typical “supervisor’s” way, somehow everyone has felt his authority and did what they were told to.


Avery, G. C. (2004). Understanding Leadership: Paradigms and cases. New York, NY: Sage.

Cook, J. (2013). Can a ‘hard reset’ give Yahoo a boost? The Globe and Mail

Luthans, F., Youssef-Morgan, C. M., & Avolio, B. J. (2015). Phycological capital and beyond. Oxford University Press.

McLean, B. (2014). Yahoo’s geek goddess. Vanity Fair.

Quinn, M. (2014). Poof. Marissa Mayer’s honeymoon period at Yahoo ends. Oakland Tribune.

San Jose Mercury News (2013). Yahoo’s five new and improved benefits for employees. San Jose Mercury News.

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