Charismatic Leadership

Essay by mamusiaUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, June 2004

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Charisma is a strange, fascinating, and ultimately puzzling phenomenon.

It converted a German postcard painter into the architect of the greatest worldwide genocide

It turned a short Frenchman into a powerful emperor that dominated European political and military life for two decades.

It transformed a Harvard drop-out student into a shrewd businessman, whose Windows® operating system now runs the vast majority of personal computers throughout the world.

Charisma is something we all know but can hardly explain. Managers learn that they need charisma to become successful; politicians are taught that a charismatic leadership is the pathway to success.

This essay will address the concept of charisma itself as well as some of the most common areas of controversy linked to it.

Is there a way to learn to be charismatic?

Is charisma always a good thing? What kind of influence it has on others?


Charisma is a Greek word, meaning "divinely inspired gift", such as the ability of performing miracles or predicting future events.

The German sociologist Max Weber, whose early writings are considered to be the most influential on the subject, defined charisma as a form of influence based on a follower's perception that a leader possesses exceptional qualities, rather than as a formal authority.

In his view, charismatic leaders display a remarkable self-confidence and a strong self-determination. They are likely to have a strong conviction in the moral righteousness of their own beliefs. Moreover, their subordinates see them as unconventional, risk-taking, visionary and exemplary.

According to Weber, charismatic leaders emerge with their vision during a period of exceptional crisis, and by providing a solution to that crisis, attract their followers who believe in their leader's vision and who perceive him as extraordinary.

A number of sociologists and...