Charismatic and Effective Leadership Characteristics

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Dysfunctional Aspects of Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership is built on followers’ belief in the extraordinary qualities of the leader. This effect is achieved by the presence of “an attribute that distinguishes one individual from the rest” (Ekmekcioglu, Aydintan & Celebi, 2018, p. 1052). Within the framework of this theory, subordinates are motivated due to their enthusiasm in relation to setting goals and improving performance. Thus, charismatic leadership is based not on the content of the message but on its presentation (Sacavém et al., 2017). A charismatic leader enthralls followers by influencing them with his or her personality and skill of delivering a shared vision. While charisma is an important component of effective leadership, it also has a number of dysfunctional aspects.

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Charismatic leaders have a number of characteristics that set them apart from other managers. Primarily, charisma is associated with narcissistic traits, which gives a person self-confidence and elevates in the eyes of followers (Ekmekcioglu et al., 2018). However, this aspect can be dysfunctional, as many leaders with high levels of self-esteem tend to overrate the results of their activities (Vergauwe et al., 2017). Moreover, the increased level of charisma is associated with strategic planning and long-term prospects, which prevents such managers from paying enough attention to the smaller daily tasks (Vergauwe et al., 2017). Charismatic leaders can also pursue unrealistic eccentric goals and focus on themselves rather than the organization. Thus, the narcissism and self-confidence of such managers can adversely affect perceived performance, leading to the overestimation of results and opportunities.

Charismatic leadership can become overly ambitious and self-centered, which also leads to unrealistic goals and incorrect analysis of the environment. For example, the leader can increase the psychological safety of followers and encourage them to take risky actions (Zhang et al., 2020). When combined with performance pressure, charismatic leadership can result in unethical pro-organizational behavior in which subordinates act for the good of the company under the influence of the leader. Thus, a charismatic leader can use influence for selfish purposes or transmit his or her own delusions to followers, which leads to wrong managerial decisions.

Characteristics of Charismatic Leader

Charismatic leadership is based not on the managerial qualities of the leader but on his ability to influence subordinates. First of all, such managers have a strategic vision and can inspire all followers to share it (Ekmekcioglu et al., 2018). In the process of influence, they can also perform unconventional and extraordinary actions, which distinguishes them from other people in the eyes of their subordinates. The main characteristic of these leaders is their special ability to present and articulate the vision. Charismatic leaders can develop relationships with followers in a variety of ways. Most important, however, is that they are capable of transforming the “needs, values, preferences and aspirations of followers from self-interest to collective interests” (as cited in Parry et al., 2019, p. 401). Charismatic leaders can also be socially or personally oriented, ranging their traits from nonegalitarian, selfish, and exploitative to empowering, selfless, and nonexploitative (Parry et al., 2019). The pursuit of collective and organizational goals is associated with a medium level of charisma and its effective use for management, whereas a more personalized form can lead to dysfunctional activities.

Different Leadership Theories

Modern leadership theories focus more on individual styles, which describe the skills and traits of the leader in a team. Earlier frameworks, including trait, path-goal, or behavioral theories, explained leadership within a single component, whereas a combination of them is now considered. Authentic leadership combines “characteristics of transformational, charismatic and servant leadership theories” (as cited in Turner & Baker, 2018, p. 482). Some researchers distinguish this style as a separate one, built on trust between leaders and followers (Kovach, 2018). However, transformational, charismatic, and servant are the most common leadership theories.

All three leadership styles are based on motivating subordinates to improve performance. The main task of any leader within the framework of these theories is to establish a common goal for followers and articulate a mission. However, they lead the team to achieve success through different methods. Transformational leaders prioritize “the supervising, organizing, assigning, controlling and monitoring of each individual performance” (Eliyana, Ma’arif & Muzakki, 2019, p. 145). They also mentor and guide team members, developing their personal and professional qualities. Thus, this style is based on the general transformation of the environment and team members to achieve results.

Charismatic leaders place emphasis on personal influence to shape the overall vision, which makes this style the most ambitious. Within the framework of this theory, the leader is a role model for followers, and his or her behavior differs from the leader from subordinates, in contrast to the transformational style. Servant leaders, as well as transformational ones, contribute to the development of subordinates to achieve the goal but put their own needs below followers’ (Gandolfi & Stone, 2018). Thus, transformational leadership makes the manager part of a team that focuses primarily not on the mission but on the people.

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Effective Leadership

Effective leadership can be explained through a combination of characteristics inherent in different leadership styles. In particular, an effective leader needs to act not only as an inspiration but also as a guide who can support employees by accurately determining their needs in various situations. However, the leader must also have sufficient charisma to become a role model for the followers. It is necessary both to form a common vision and to participate in the process of achieving the set goals. An effective leader must have such traits as independence, adequate self-confidence, communication, and empathy.


Ekmekcioglu, E. B., Aydintan, B., & Celebi, M. (2018). The effect of charismatic leadership on coordinated teamwork: A study in Turkey. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 39(8), 1051-1070. Web.

Eliyana, A., Ma’arif, S., & Muzakki. (2019). Job satisfaction and organizational commitment effect in the transformational leadership towards employee performance. European Research on Management and Business Economics, 25(3), 144-150. Web.

Gandolfi, F., & Stone, S. (2018). Leadership, leadership styles, and servant leadership. Journal of Management Research, 18(4), 261-269.

Kovach, M. (2018). An examination of leadership theories in business and sport achievement contexts. The Journal of Values-Based Leadership, 11(2), 1-16. Web.

Parry, K., Cohen, M., Bhattacharya, S., North-Samardzic, A., & Edwards, G. (2019). Charismatic leadership: Beyond love and hate and toward a sense of belonging? Journal of Management & Organization, 25(3), 298-413. Web.

Sacavém, A., Martinez, L. F., Cunha, J. V., Abreu, A. M., & Johnson, S. K. (2017). Charismatic leadership: A study on delivery styles, mood, and performance. Journal of Leadership Studies, 11(3), 21-38. Web.

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Turner, J. R., & Baker, R. (2018). A review of leadership theories: identifying a lack of growth in the HRD leadership domain. European Journal of Training and Development, 42(7/8), 470-498. Web.

Vergauwe, J., Wille, B., Hofmans, J., Kaiser, R. B., & Fruyt, F. D. (2017). Too much charisma can make leaders look less effective. Harvard Business Review. Web.

Zhang, X., Liang, L., Tian, G., & Tian, Y. (2020). Heroes or villains? The dark side of charismatic leadership and unethical pro-organizational behavior. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(15), 1-16. Web.

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