In this article, we present two contemporary leadership theories with a common theme. They view leaders as individuals who inspire followers through their words, ideas, and behavior. These theories are charismatic leadership and transformational leadership.
John F Kennedy, Martin Luther Jr, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Mary Kay Ash (founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics), Steve Jobs (cofounder of Apple Computer), and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani are individuals frequently cited as being charismatic leaders. So, what do they have in common?
What is charismatic leadership? Max Weber, a sociologist, was the first scholar to discuss charismatic leadership. More than a century ago, he defined charisma (from the Greek for ‘gift’) as a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he or she is set apart from ordinary people and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader. Weber argued that charismatic leadership was one of several ideal types of authority.
The first researcher to consider charismatic leadership terms of OB was Robert House. According to house’s charismatic leadership theory, followers make attributions of heroic or extraordinary leadership abilities when they observe certain behaviors. There have been a number of studies that have attempted to identify the characteristics of the charismatic leader. One of the best reviews of the literature has documented four – they have a vision, they are willing to take personal risks to achieve that vision, they are sensitive to followers needs, and they exhibit behaviors that are out of the ordinary. These characteristics are described.
Are Charismatic Leaders born or made? Are charismatic leaders born with their qualities? Or can people actually learn how to become charismatic leaders? The answer to both questions is yes.
It is true that individuals are born with traits make them charismatic. In fact, studies of identical twins have found that they score similarly on charismatic leadership measures, even if they were raised in different households and had never met. Research suggests that personality is also related to charismatic leadership. Charismatic leaders are likely to be extraverted, self confident, and achievement oriented. Consider CNN cofounder Ted Turner. When referring to himself, he has said, ‘A full moon blanks out all the stars around it and If I only had humility, I’d be perfect’. Although not all charismatic leaders are as bold or colorful as Turner, most of them do have alluring interesting and dynamic nature.
Although a small minority thinks that charisma is inherited and therefore to exhibit charismatic behaviors and thus enjoy the benefits that accrue to being labeled a charismatic leader. After all, just because we inherit certain tendencies doesn’t mean that we can’t learn to change. Think about weight it’s true some people are born with predispositions to be overweight, but it would be unreasonable to think that our weight is unaffected by the food we eat. Predispositions exist, and can be powerful but that doesn’t mean people can’t change. One set of authors proposes that a person can learn to become charismatic by following a three step process.
First, an individual needs to develop the aura of charisma by maintaining an optimistic view; using passion as a catalysts for generating enthusiasm; and communicating with the whole body, not just with words. Second, an individual draws others in by creating a bond in followers by tapping into their emotions. This approach seems to work, as evidenced by researchers who’ve succeeded in actually scripting undergraduate business students to play charismatic. The students were taught to articulate an overarching goal, communicate high performance expectations, exhibit with the needs of their followers; they learned to project a powerful, confident, and dynamic presence; and they practiced using a captivating and engaging voice tone.