Transformational Leadership vs. Charismatic Leadership

First, we will provide the definitions of both transformational leadership and charismatic leadership. Our textbook defines charisma 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. The first researcher to consider charismatic leadership in terms of OB was Robert House. According to House, followers make attributions of heroic or extraordinary leadership abilities when they observe certain behaviors,” (p. 167). “These kinds of leaders guide or motivate their followers in the direction of established goals by clarifying role and task requirements. The main characteristics found in a charismatic leader are: vision and articulation; personal risk; sensitivity to follower needs; and unconventional behavior. Examples provided of charismatic leadership from the public sector: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ronald Reagan. Transformational leaders are defined as people who, inspire followers to transcend their own self-interests for the good of the organization and are capable of having a profound and extraordinary effect on their followers. They pay attention to the concerns and developmental needs of individual followers, they change followers’ awareness of issues by helping them to look at old problems in new ways; and they are able to excite, arouse, and inspire followers to put out extra effort to achieve group goals,” (p. 170). “Followers of transformational leaders are more likely to pursue ambitious goals, be familiar with and agree on the strategic goals of the organization, and believe that the goals they are pursuing are personally important,” (pgs.171-172). The characteristics found in transformational leaders are: idealized influence; inspirational motivation; intellectual stimulation; and individualized consideration.

Second, the differences and similarities between these types of leadership. Differences: Under transformational leadership, “leaders encourage their followers to be more innovative and creative”, (p.171). “Bernard Bass considers charisma to be part of transformational leadership but argues that transformational leadership is broader than charisma, suggesting that charisma is, by itself, insufficient to account for the transformational process,” (p. 173). Similarities: Mr. House reportedly considers both charismatic and transformational leadership as being similar with “modest and minor differences. Studies show that a leader who scores high on transformational leadership is also likely to score high on charisma,” (p.173). It appears that both of these forms of leadership can be learned.

Next, based on the research and the examples of public sector leaders that we’ve provided, in our opinion, both charismatic and transformational leadership styles seem to be too closely related to determine which one is best overall. Our textbook supports this response and states, “although many researchers believe that in reality a leader who scores high on transformational leadership is broader than charismatic leadership, studies show that in reality a leader who scores high on transformational leadership is also likely to score high on charisma. Therefore, in practice, measures of charisma and transformational leadership may be roughly equivalent,” (p.173).

In conclusion, a contemporary public sector figure that we feel could be categorized under either one of these leadership styles presented is President Obama, but we will just have to wait and see what the research suggests in the future.

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3 Responses to Transformational Leadership vs. Charismatic Leadership

  1. John poteat says:

    How do you feel about transformational leaders who do not succeed? I feel that some people with high charisma and who are transformational figures are treated with suspicion. If the leaders are not successful are they still transformational?

  2. President Abe Lincoln was considered to be a Transformational Leader. Do you see any of those transformational similarities between him and President Obama? Why or why not?

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