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).
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’ 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.
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 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?