Charismatic Theory – Leadership Theories Series

Use charismatic theory to remind you that you should constantly act as a role model for your followers, even if you aren’t particularly charismatic.

Charismatic theory has been around for a long time but it was Robert House who established it in the popular imagination during the 1970s. He sees charisma as a particularly powerful personality trait that only a few people have and which marks them out as leaders in the minds of many.

Typically charismatic leaders and their followers demonstrate the following characteristics:

Charismatic leaders as as a role model for their followers:

  1. Promote an ideology based upon their moral beliefs.
  2. Display beliefs and values that followers are attracted to and wish to adopt as their own.
  3. Demonstrate integrity and competence to their followers.
  4. Exhibit confidence in their followers to overcome obstacles and achieve ‘great things’.
  5. Consciously build up the self-belief and competence of followers.

Followers of charismatic leaders demonstrate trust and belief in their leader’s ideology:

  1. Show loyalty and obedience to the leader.
  2. Identify with the leader and his/her goals.
  3. See the leader as a person who deserves their love, gratitude and respect.

The result of this close relationship between leader and followers is that people become part of a collective identity with a common aim and purpose. Followers express themselves and find fulfillment by working towards their leader’s objectives and trying to please him/her.

How to use charismatic theory

Remember charisma is in the eye of the beholder, you don’t have to possess it for others to think you have it.

Be honest and assess how much charisma you think you have. This is tough. It’s like finally realizing that you’ll never play for West Bromwich Albion. But the truth is you probably don’t have a lot of charisma in the terms that House or Weber use. But that doesn’t mean you can’t apply aspects of charismatic theory.

Identify your principles. This is difficult. The easiest way to start is to ask the question: What issue/s would I be willing to resign over? Any other ‘so-called principles’ are just positions you take until they become inconvenient and you change them.

Act as a role model for your staff. Display your beliefs, principles and values through your actions. Don’t preach; instead demonstrate good humor, honesty, fairness, punctuality, a willingness to listen, hard work and loyalty to your staff and they will respect you.

Follow the Golden Rule and ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’. Do this and you will win hearts and minds and be trusted by staff, colleagues and senior managers. Acting with integrity doesn’t mean you’re a soft touch. It’s always easier to go with the flow than to stand up for your principles.

Most people lack self-confidence (see Theory 11). Staff need someone to believe in them. Provide that belief and staff will both admire and surprise you.

Questions to ask

  1. Who do I think is a charismatic leader? What characteristics do they have that I admire?
  2. Do I have those same characteristics or could I develop them?


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