AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger

A charismatic leader is someone who motivates and instills confidence in their employees. Their charisma is contagious, and they spread good vibes around the workplace that cultivates a culture of positivity and fulfillment.

Here's what you need to know about charisma and charismatic leadership, as well as examples of charismatic leaders to help you understand what it looks like in practice.

What is charisma and charismatic leadership?

First things first, you need to understand what charisma is in order to understand what it means to be a charismatic leader.

Charisma is defined as "a special magnetic charm or appeal," according to Merriam Webster. It can inspire devotion in others, such as devotion to their companies in employees.

A charismatic leader, therefore, is a someone who has a special magnetic charm or appeal and can inspire their employees to perform their best. They have a contagious kind of zeal and their commitment to the company rubs off on the people that they lead.

What are the characteristics of a charismatic leader?

1. Motivational

A charismatic leader is someone who can easily motivate others. They find the strengths in their employees and they use positive affirmation to play on those strengths and keep employee morale high.

2. Inspirational

A charismatic leader is someone who also easily inspires others. They understand their employees' unique, individual weaknesses and, instead of making their employees feel incompetent for those weaknesses, they inspire them to improve. They do this by encouraging employees with constructive criticism and helpful feedback to help them become the best they can be. They also do this by showing an understanding for weaknesses, pushing the reality that we're all only human, and helping employees to see their weaknesses as learning lessons, positive challenges and opportunities for growth.

3. Committed

A charismatic leader is someone who is committed to their role as a leader and committed to the company for which they work. They express great interest in the company and share the same core values as the company. While they may have personal goals, their goals help move the company forward and achieve its goals, too.

4. Persuasive

A charismatic leader is persuasive in that they can talk their employees into doing great work. They're able to tap into people's strengths and weaknesses and persuade them into playing up their strengths or improving their weaknesses by connecting them with the right resources and pairing them with the right colleagues.

5. Positive

A charismatic leader is positive; they always look on the bright side. A leader with charisma is one who, despite all odds, can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Without vision and confidence in that vision, no company could go anywhere, after all.

Who is an example of a charismatic leader? 

There are tons of examples of charismatic leaders. Here are three examples of charismatic leaders to show you what a charismatic leader really looks like in practice.

1. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Martin Luther King is a prime example of a charismatic leader. He communicated his dream well with others and he roused those around him by inducing emotion in them. He garnered followers to fight racism alongside him because of his ability to articulate, empathize and mobilize.

He was famous for his inspirational speeches, which included the memorable "I Have a Dream" speech he gave during the March on Washington, D.C. in 1963. He brought people of all races together to push for federal civil rights legislation that, at the time, was the largest gathering of protesters ever in the U.S. capital. In 1964, Congress finally passed the Civil Rights Act that outlaws discrimination based on race, religion and gender — largely thanks to Martin Luther King's efforts.

2. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is another perfect example of a charismatic leader. She turned a tough career start into total fame. This is because she had a vision and a mission, she shared it with those around her and she was able to achieve it by putting what she wanted out there into the universe. Today, her vision remains the same — to see positive change in the world and help lift others up. She inspires others through her strong communication skills, her problem-solving abilities and her out-of-the-box ideas that stir change.

3. Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was known as an average student but someone who had a natural talent for inspiring people to follow his lead. He was famously persistent and never backed down when he truly felt that he was right.

Advantages and disadvantages of charismatic leadership.

Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages of charismatic leadership — no leadership style is perfect, after all. Here are some of the pros and cons of this leadership style.

Charismatic leaders have the ability to:

  1. Get others to commit
  2. Get others to share the same vision
  3. Help others achieve their goals
  4. Look on the bright side
  5. See the silver lining in every negative situation
  6. Communicate well with others
  7. Establish rapport with others
  8. Empathize with others

Some charismatic leaders have difficulty:

  1. Admitting to negative situations since they're always looking on the bright side.
  2. Changing gears when necessary, as they're so committed.
  3. Accepting their employees' various, unique, independent goals that don't necessarily align with those of the company.
  4. Getting so caught up in their role to motivate their employees that they may totally lose sight of the challenges that the company is facing.
  5. Delegating tasks and turning over control to others because they have too much faith in themselves.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.