Term Paper: Strong Leaders

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[. . .] Without these individuals at the helm of such large organizations, it would be extremely difficult to capture the attention of thousands of employees. In organizations of this magnitude, the ability of charismatic leaders to instill motivation and idea stimulation is extremely significant and has resulted in tremendous financial success.

How is charisma perceived?

A number of theories have been proposed regarding the theory of charisma and its properties. Beyer (313-314) characterizes Max Weber's sociological theory of charisma into the following distinct elements:

1) Extraordinarily gifted person

2) Social crisis of desperation

3) A set of ideas that provide a radical solution to the crisis

4) A set of followers attracted to the exceptional person who believe that the leader has transcendent powers

5) The validation of gifts and transcendence by repeated successes

Beyer (314) also states the following: "Clearly, according to Weber's conception, charisma was a rare phenomenon, and a leader must have truly exceptional personal qualities to engender charisma."

These components of Weber's theory of charisma consider the trait as designed for truly extraordinary leaders with exceptional skills. Therefore, it is only natural that leaders of this caliber easily gain followers through their actions.

Political leaders are often the benchmark for charismatic leadership, particularly American presidents. However, it should be noted that in the twentieth, presidential charismatic leadership was in relatively short supply. A strong case study to evaluate presidential charisma is that of John F. Kennedy. Although Kennedy achieved consistently high approval ratings while in office, it cannot be attributed to a special bond or charismatic charm that he held with the American public. Rather, it is evident that Kennedy's popularity rode the wave of controversies that enveloped the 1960s. For Ronald Reagan, "Although the public relations skills of Reagan's administration were impressive, they could not by themselves create or sustain goodwill. Despite his staff's efforts at promoting a favorable image, he fell below 50% approval in the polls after only 10 months in office" (Edwards 41). For many presidents, charisma can be a purely situational phenomenon: "Tucker argues for a 'situational charisma,' where a leader of 'non-messianic tendency' evokes a charismatic response simply because of being in a position in a time of acute distress" (Edwards 28). This explanation provides an answer for the issues surrounding Reagan's presidency. In times of distress, he was perceived as a charismatic leader, but in times of complacency, approval ratings and charismatic perceptions declined. Presidential leadership is often evaluated in terms of the ability to develop an engaging presence with the general public and a sense of security in regards to national issues. Therefore, it is only natural that in circumstances of distress or tension, Americans look up to the president for his engaging personality to make the appropriate decisions on behalf of the American people.

The Importance of Charisma in Leadership Transformations

In today's society, many organizations experience a shift in leadership in frequent numbers. In these situations, it is often very difficult to enthusiastically transition from one leader to the next. Therefore, the importance of charisma will unquestionably impact the leadership transition process. According to Hinkin and Tracey (106, 116-117), "Transformational leadership is the process of influencing major changes in the attitudes and assumptions of organization members and building commitment for the organization's mission or objectives...managers should communicate a sense of where the organization is going, develop the skills and abilities of subordinates, and encourage innovative problem solving. It is these leadership behaviors that can truly transform organizations. In contrast, crisis may be a necessary precondition for a truly charismatic leader to emerge, when dissatisfaction is high and value congruence and unquestioned obedience are needed to ensure organizational survival." These statements confirm the theory that charisma is perhaps most critical in times of crisis, when followers are uncertain of their future directives and goals. At this time, it is the responsibility of the charismatic leader to take charge and lead by example as well as with sheer enthusiasm.

Other Qualities of Charismatic Leaders

Generally speaking, leaders who possess charisma must also develop and exhibit a number of other important qualities in order to engage and sustain followers. John Kline (23) states that "Many highly effective leaders have not been great visionaries or long-range thinkers. But without exception, these leaders identified one or more people who were able to think strategically and envision a future. In other words, while these leaders were not gifted in seeing the future by themselves, they were able to recognize this ability in others and then were able to adopt the vision as their own and adapt it to fit the organization. Effective leaders know where they want to go." Furthermore, the following six tactics are essential to effective leadership (Kline 24-26):

Listen carefully: Studies have demonstrated that half of a leader's time is spent in some form of communication, including reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Understanding what others are saying means considering what their words, gestures, and ideas mean to that person, not to the leader

Energize constantly: Effective leaders energize those around them and motivate others to perform to the best of their ability. Leaders must be personally motivated in order to motivate others.

Act appropriately: Leaders set the standards for excellence in the organizations that they lead, and this will be conveyed by employees, resulting in a constant strive for excellence in all work practices.

Direct effectively: Leaders must be open and effective communicators in order to direct others effectively

Encourage openly and often: Leaders must encourage their employees by expressing confidence in their abilities, praising them, or thanking them for a job well done. In addition, constructive criticism, if given appropriately, is often encouraging and may promote excellence.

In addition, Jennifer LeClaire has discovered that "Charismatic managers elicit strong emotional responses from their subordinates, prompting them to put forth extra effort to ensure the success of their supervisor and their organization...other characteristics charismatic leaders often share include self-confidence, determination, self-control, self-awareness and a need for power. They are often perceived as trustworthy, as well as being strong role models who are admired and respected." These attributes reiterate the idea that charismatic leaders are often regarded as Godlike and possess a quality that is often magnetic and attracts numerous followers.


Charismatic leadership is often characterized by a number of factors, including a strong vision, respect by subordinates, and a true commitment towards the overall well being of an organization and its employees. Charisma allows a leader to convey his or her thoughts so that others will truly listen and act accordingly. Charismatic leadership is often considered to be magnetic and almost Godlike in nature in some organizations, and can even be considered a dangerous attribute if the leader does not possess good intentions. However, the presence of charisma in many organizations often leads to positive results: "If the values that your charismatic leader expounds are worthy, if they are the values you want the organization to embrace, then the real job is to invest the organization, from board members to security guards, with those values. The work is to weave those values so deeply into the organization that every employee, old and new, understands that these are the values of the entire operation, not just the current chief executive - and that those values will survive this CEO and board and a dozen others after them" (Friedman 7). Charismatic leadership entails a total commitment from the leader in charge down to his or her followers in order to ensure organizational success. Not only must this commitment involve a clear vision, but it must also engage employees as well as leaders to strive for excellence and to behave in the best interests of the organization at all times.


Awamleh, R., & Gardner, W. (1999). Perceptions of leader charisma and effectiveness:

the effects of vision content, delivery, and organizational performance. Leadership Quarterly 10(3), 345-373.

Bast, M. The ethics of charismatic leadership. Out of the Box Coaching and Working With the Enneagram, 1-3.

Beyer, J.M. (1999). Taming and promoting charisma to change organizations. Leadership Quarterly 10(2), 307-330.

Charismatic organizations. http://www.u.arizona.edu/~rnp/Weber.pdf,1-3.

Edwards, G. (2002). Does the messenger matter? The role of charisma in public leadership.

Congress & The Presidency 29(1), 25-46.

Friedman, E. (2001). Personality. Health Forum Journal 6-7, 46.

The good and bad points of one-man-show leadership. Jakarta Post, 7 October 2001, 1-2.

Hinkin, T., & Tracey, J.B. (1999). The relevance of charisma for Transformational leadership in stable organizations. Journal of Organizational Change 12(2), 106-

Jacobsen, C., & House, R. (1999). The rise and decline of charismatic leadership.

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology… [END OF PREVIEW]

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