During Unprecedented Times: Charismatic vs. Transformational Leadership

With the dawn of high-impact organizations, the antagonistic advent of global crises, and the upsurge of new-growth transformation initiatives, distinctive leadership styles are catapulted into the limelight. Evident during these unprecedented times of transversely fast-tracked challenges and competitions, the question arises — if it’s down to achieving higher-purpose missions between two heroic leadership styles, which do we choose: charismatic or transformational leadership?

In my organization, I observe how our charismatic and transformational leaders are trusted and stress-tested to the maximum, enabling their distinctive leadership types to showcase a butterfly effect of results. The best leadership styles offer evident degrees of building meaningful new growth and of repositioning core values (Anthony and Schwartz, 2017). These leadership styles offer compelling strategies with measurable execution, continuous feedback loops, responsive adaptation, and disciplined ability to unite a broad-based team behind a strong vision (Stine, 2019). Despite unprecedentedness, the leaders’ approaches on behavioural and verbal cues enact influence and inspire change (Munyon and Cleavenger, 2013).

Charismatic Leadership

Embodying three core components (envisioning, empathy, empowerment), charismatic leadership behaviour promotes motivational effects on clearer role perceptions, improved task performance, greater satisfaction, collective identity and group cohesiveness, organizational citizenship behaviours, and self-leadership (Choi, 2006). One research identified how personalized (self-aggrandizing, non-egalitarian, exploitive) and socialized (collectively oriented, egalitarian, nonexploitive) charismatic leader traits strengthen their locus of control, in comparison to non-charismatic ones (House and Howell, 1992). Another academic article confirms that in various stages of the relationship-building process, clearer mission-driven opportunities, greater self-concept, and better intrinsic consequences can result from charismatic leadership (Howell and Shamir, 2005).

Charismatic Leaders

Charismatic leaders’ self-systems and situational assessments influence their strengths to achieve support on their vision, following, and organization. In a recent dramaturgical study (framing, scripting, staging, performing), charismatic leaders strategically invoke exemplification and promotion to facilitate the attainment of socially beneficial goals (Gardner and Avolio, 1998). Likewise, a study of 156 managers against a five-factor model of personality reveals that for in-role behaviours and social desirability, charismatic leaders own proactive personalities that can generate great perception and impression (Crant and Bateman, 2000). Another study from the University of Lausanne uncovers leadership charisma through verbal and nonverbal traits (Antonakis, Fenley, and Liechti, 2012).

I recognise them as unbelievably outstanding orators, inspiring in almost any context, and creating simple yet profound emotional connections that make people feel powerful, competent, and worthy of respect towards them / their vision, in a way that others cannot. I am reminded of historical world protagonists with their solicitous, sensitive, and supportive forerunner-like charm: Margaret Thatcher, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Winston Churchill, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Transformational Leadership

Billed as leaders of the future, transformational leadership is earmarked for creating positive revolutions notwithstanding turbulent times of change and innovation (Rooke and Torbert, 2005). One analysis explained how transformational leadership builds a lasting relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation of followers to leaders, and leaders to moral agents (Kuhnert and Lewis, 1987). Similarly, a field experiment of 54 military leaders and 814 followers uncovered how transformational leadership develops an enduring impact on follower development/performance, for direct/indirect outcomes (Dvir et al., 2002). In short, driving performance through revolutionary strategies on harnessing evolutionary aspects of prosocial motivations is what distinguishes transformational leadership.

Transformational Leaders

Transformational leaders have been research-proven to have a mediating effect on an individual’s creativity, self-efficacy, and learning orientation (Gong, Huang, and Farh, 2009). Morgan (2019) also shares ten evident traits of transformational leaders, namely: 1.) self-awareness, 2.) self-management, 3.) visionaries, 4.) innovative, 5.) network-builders, 6.) proactive, 7.) open-minded, 8.) trust initiator, 9.) humble, 10.) decision-maker. In a quasi-experimental study done, transformative leaders, even without strong rhetoric and charm, can transcend self-interest, motivate through interaction, and follow through with the vision towards prosocial impact and meaningful consequences (Grant, 2012).

I perceive them as those who lead by example, who are open to risks or innovative ideas, and who are enablers of conveying complexity, acting as beacons of direction and reliance through groundbreaking initiatives and in times of change.  I am reminded of high-impact CEO superstars with unparalleled vision, intellectual stimulation, and motivational communication ability: Jeff Bezos, Reed Hastings, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs.


Because of cultural democracy and political/public policies, there is no perfect leadership style (Portis, 1987). Depending on the perceived and contextual characteristics of the individual/follower, plus his current hierarchy of needs, I deem certain aspects of each leadership style will require fair room for improvement; certain tactics and traits can be measured as substandard, some facets can be unknown, and styles can be customized.

For new-growth transformation (for individual, organization, global influence), these two heroic leadership styles can work wonders under pressure because they can drive motivation towards achievement and growth actualization. Just like any protagonist, the situation is never a hindrance to how a hero maximizes the story’s climax. I trust that one is not better than the other; rather, the odds of success for both charismatic and transformational leadership are extremely high, because of how their exponential level of cathartic effectiveness impact character, connection, and change.

Are you a charismatic or a transformational leader?

This blogpost is intended to be interactive, so feel free to leave a comment in the section below or, alternatively, you can send a request to find out more about the academic references used in this article.

31 thoughts on “During Unprecedented Times: Charismatic vs. Transformational Leadership

  1. Thanks for your insightful on the leadership especially transformational leaders who are playing also certain charismatic leadership style are most the most motivated leadership in any organisation. In many scholar study, it has proven to be the best among all the leadership style. Great to learn more from your blog !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the post, really love how you managed to summarise the traits into a quick read, but yet not leaving out key portions of the topics. the 3 components of a charismatic leader. ❤ looking forward to your next blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is an impressive article to share the Transformational and Charismatic leadership effectiveness with examples.
    I agree with you that there is no perfect leadership style.

    Thanks for the sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you that one is not better than the other. There are factors i.e culture or the situation that we are in that influence our preferences. During these unprecented times, I think what’s more important now, more than ever, is the focus on the mission/purpose of the organization that which will be the driving force for leaders and their teams. So maybe a mix of both? 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A great write up explaining the difference between the two leadership styles. I agree, not one style is better than the other. In this changing world, I believe, leaders and followers adapt and accept a variety of leadership styles to be able to address the needs of the company.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great insights there, and i do agree that transformational and charimastic leadership goes hand in hand and has a better chance at delivering with success. Odds are high for leaders who do not possess both type if leadership to leap the organisation forward.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love the illustrations as a quick overview of the different leadership styles! I think that being a charismatic leader takes a certain personality; and transforming a team takes someone with passion and vision! Look forward to reading more of your blogs – they certainly trigger ongoing discussions on the ever-evolving subject of leadership! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It is remarkable how you were able to discuss both leadership styles in a condensed yet comprehensive manner. Amen to charismatic leaders! Great read, thanks Eldrin!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Interesting article with deep analysis of leadership types. Really good examples from both political and business environments. I think to achieve goals in a very turbulent time a strong leader should combine some features of charismatic and transformational types.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree with this blog! One is not better than the other. In fact, great leaders are multi-skilled leaders who instinctively know the optimal mix of being charismatic and transformational!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great article from the writer again! I can’t disagree with the examples that quoted which very relevant to the current fast moving environment. The Charismatic core components (envisioning, empathy, empowerment), this will be something I will always applying and will share with my colleagues as to bring greatest values to the team mates. I believed the values sharing will bring or return greater values to the organization.

    Nice one Eldrin, looking forward the next sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A good article from Eldrin with many examples. I would say sometimes to be a charismatic or transformational leader should depend on the situation. Desperate times call for desperate methods.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for sharing. I would like to be a transformational leader who has a mediating effect on an individual’s creativity, self-efficacy, and learning orientation as your mention 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow, reading your blog is a real eye-opener for me. Well structured of charismatic transformational leadership, and I do agree both charismatic leaders and transformational leaders have a very high chance of success because of their exponential level of cathartic effectiveness affects personality, connection and change.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. First, this was a very aesthetically appealing article with all the associated images! Second, I would agree that neither leadership style is better than the other. But rather, leaders must be both in order to fully maximise the teams’ potentials; they should be able to communicate eloquently and support their words with action by being a role model to really inspire and motivate,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very informative post. Infographics are wonderful and makes it easier to digest.
      Both leadership styles has its pros and cons. Leaders must fully understand each style and apply the style most suitable for different situations.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Good insights! The article is giving me useful information that the two heroic leadership styles can work wonders under pressure because they can drive motivation towards achievement and growth actualization. Good blog and Thanks for sharing~

    Liked by 1 person

  17. So many good points called out here! Spot on that Transformational and Charismatic leaders needs to articulate the vision and communicate to their followers. Apart from this, strong moral values and trust are also some of the key characteristic and leaders need to find that “connection” to motivate their followers.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Awesome entry to explain the differences between charismatic and transformational leadership! Good to see examples as well for each leadership type, noting down several historical figures as well as contemporaries that people can relate to and set as their role models.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Very impressive piece of work, Eldrin! very detailed research on both leadership styles and backed with great examples to support each of them. Truly agree on your reflection on neither one of them is better than the other. It is really about effectiveness impact on character, connection, and change.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Very good blog, both attractive and in-depth. Well elaborated on the characteristics of the two types of leadership and how to motivate employees. I like your point of view. There is no best leadership style. Every leadership style has room for improvement. Of course, many successful leaders currently possess the characteristics of transformational leadership and charismatic leadership.

    Liked by 1 person

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