Charismatic Leadership: A Controversial Style

Essay by tarditoUniversity, Master'sA+, March 2004

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Charismatic Leadership: A Controversial Style

On January 22, 2004, our class discussed what makes a leader a leader. One of the topics discussed was that of the "charismatic leader." This style of leadership intrigued me more than the other styles because of the ethical issues that arose in my mind as we discussed what makes a leader charismatic.

In accordance to the article "Transformational Leadership", our class believes that the charismatic leader is dominant, confident, inspirational, and most of all an effective communicator. In an attempt to describe what a charismatic leader does the following were mentioned: charismatic leaders are people who describe goals by painting word pictures and have an exceptional ability to win the devotion and support of followers. They have no fear of presenting their ideas to anyone who may be able to help them, and are reputed to possess excellent persuasion and negotiation skills. Their followers want to identify with them and emulate them, they develop intense feelings about them, and above all they have unrelenting trust and confidence in them.

Managers are being told they need charisma to be a successful leader in visionary companies; students are being taught the pathway to certain organizational success is through the use of charismatic leadership. Buried in the literature, however, are at least three areas of controversy. First, is charismatic leadership always a good thing? Do world class companies need charismatic leaders? Assuming charisma is a good thing, are we doomed by nature to either be charismatic or not? Is there a way to learn to be charismatic? Is charisma an ethical construct or does the use of charisma all too often result in manipulative behavior on the part of the leader and blind obedience on the part of the follower?

Is charismatic leadership always a good...