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The Charismatic Leader

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  • 0:10 What is Charisma?
  • 1:30 The Charismatic Leader
  • 3:02 The Ugly Side of Charisma
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to excel at being liked? Those people have what we call charisma. In this lesson, you'll explore how that charisma can be applied in a business management setting

What is Charisma?

Imagine back to when you were in high school for a second. It's gym class, and your PE instructor has told you that you'll be playing dodge ball. Team captains have been selected by the instructor and were told to take turns picking teammates. You remember what that was likeā€¦ sitting there just waiting to be picked, hoping that you had done enough to prove that you were one of the best picks. Whether for skill or popularity, the reason didn't matter; you just hoped that you were one of the first to be selected by either team captain.

A simple fact of life is that we all want to be liked enough to be picked quickly, and we cringe at the possibility of being the last one chosen. This really applies to many facets of our lives; as humans we naturally desire to be liked, admired, and appreciated by others. Some people are better at attracting others, and no, I'm not talking sexually. Rather, some have what can be considered a magnetic persona about them that really draws people to them out of pure admiration.

Perhaps you know someone like that. In your personal life it might be the person you always want to invite out with you or who you trust with your deepest secrets; in business, it's the person who's able to solicit favors, motivate others, and close even the most challenging of deals.

There is something special about these people, and it's called charisma.

The Charismatic Leader

Barack Obama is an example of a charismatic leader
Barack Obama Photo

One area where people with charisma are especially effective is leadership. Charismatic leaders use their magnetic personalities and charm to gather followers. They are dominant, self-confident individuals who hold strong conviction for their beliefs. The charismatic leader's influence is the result of his or her referent power.

Essentially, followers admire the charismatic leader because he or she demands respect, approval, and recognition from subordinates, who in turn want to emulate the leader, more so because the charismatic leader is an idealized hero.

Think about some of your heroes and why you admire them and want to be just like them. Subordinates are willing to follow the charismatic leader because of the way that they are treated by the leader, not because of their formal title or position in the organization. The charismatic leader will spend time getting to know each of his or her subordinates, making them feel valued and, at times, one of the most important employees they have.

Charismatic leaders are able to create a vision of the desired future and convince followers that they are the ones who will be able to take them to that future state. The charismatic leader shows each of the followers their optimistic role in this desired future, making them more than willing to support the leader's efforts. Followers trust the charismatic leader and quickly succumb to his or her wishes.

Some famous examples of charismatic leaders in their respective industries include Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Thomas Watson, Alfred Sloan, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson.

The Ugly Side of Charisma

While charisma can be highly desirable leadership attribute, it is also one of the most dangerous. Charisma is a powerful thing. It can break down barriers and make even the most impossible circumstances suddenly seem possible. The charismatic leader is aware of his or her influence on others and, if not properly motivated, can be a serious problem.

Adolph Hitler used his charisma for evil motives
Adolph Hitler Photo

Think Adolf Hitler: he was an extremely charismatic leader but had very bad motives. Nevertheless, he was able to create a massive army who carried out his evil plan.

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