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Charismatic vs Transformational Leadership-Which is Better?

Leaders revolutionize the world; they rarely want to be placed in boxes or put under labels. However, to help understand why leaders are more successful than others, it is important that their leadership style is assessed and then discussed by researchers. The charismatic vs transformational leadership debate has emerged due to extensive research in the area. 

Where charismatic leaders use their charisma and their personality to attract the attention of their followers, transformational leaders create products and platforms that revolutionize a section of society. Although there are many similarities between the two styles such as the presence of a great vision, determination, and resilience, there are also some key differences. 

In this article, we will be discussing the two styles and will compare them to see which one will revolutionize the world. 

What Is Charismatic Leadership?

Charismatic leadership is defined as a leader who has exceptional communication skills, is persuasive, and can charm others. Charismatic authority as a style was developed by Max Weber, a German Sociologist. It is a style of leadership where a leader derives their authority from their charisma. 

Charismatic leadership is different from other forms of leadership because it solely depends on the nature and personality of the leader. When a leader is articulate and can attract the attention of the audience, they can ensure long-term and sustainable change in the behavior of their followers. 

What Are the Characteristics of Charismatic Leadership?

1. High Confidence That Challenges the System

Talk of Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, or Rosa Parks: there is one thing that is common in all charismatic leaders. They tend to be very sure of themselves and hence exuberant, a high level of confidence. They know that they have all the right skills to get thousands of followers, and this firm belief reflects in their personalities.

Charismatic leaders are well aware of the problem they want to fix. Whether they root for something good like Martin Luther King or rooting for something bad like Adolf Hitler, their ability to showcase confidence takes them places. 

2. Creative and Innovative Style

Another characteristic common for all charismatic leaders is their signature style. Rather than copying others or doing what is popular, charismatic leaders like Imran Khan of Pakistan and Barack Obama of the USA speak aggressively and use emotions to entice people. 

Additionally, they come up with unique and innovative ways to wow their audience. They know that they can not increase their popularity if they go with the flow and don’t come across as exceptional leaders and orators. 

3. A Unique Vision or Dream

You will rarely see a charismatic leader who is not following a dream. Whether it is Alexandria Ohio Cortez or Fidel Castro, every charismatic leader has envisioned something. This is how most of them function. 

  • • They think of a problem with the status quo. 
  • • They envision a dream where they fix the problem.
  • • They raise their voices in hopes that others will join their cause.
  • • With more people, they can better fulfill their vision. 

4. Determination and Resilience to Fulfil the Dream

Take the example of Nelson Mandela, one of the most charismatic and influential leaders of the world. He spent more than 25 years in jail and when he came out, he forgave almost everyone and started working on his dream again. This determination and resilience are key to fulfilling the dream, and charismatic leaders know it. 

Another thing leaders do well is realizing their mistakes quickly and never repeat them. They know what they did wrong the first time, find ways to correct their behavior, and then continue moving ahead. This continuous trying helps them fulfill their dream eventually. 

Also read: how can great leaders change the world for the better?

5. Excellent Communication Skills to Inspire Others

You can have the best opinions and the most spectacular vision, but imagine this: you have all that but weak communication skills. You will never be able to communicate what is on your mind. You will never be able to have followers who understand your unsaid words. You will not be able to convince the big shots to give you a chance. 

Charismatic vs Transformational Leadership

This is why charismatic leaders are great orators and even great listeners. However, contrary to what you think, these leaders don’t only listen to get the other person’s perspective. They do it so that they can have all the right information before they can squash their opponent. 

What Are the Examples of Charismatic Leadership?

1. Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H)

Muslims and non-Muslims both accept that Prophet Muhammad was one of the most charismatic leaders to have graced the world. From changing the status quo to introducing a plethora of new laws, he changed the world for all times to come. 

Moreover, the fact that he came from poverty and illiteracy and was able to convince millions of people of his message also speaks volumes about his charisma. It is revealed that Prophet Muhammad was an excellent orator and used non-verbal cues to engage with his audience. Needless to say, his charisma and his excellent communication skills made it easy for him to inspire people. 

2. Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King was always a strong supporter of civil rights, but his determination was not the only reason behind his success. He was also one of the most convincing and charismatic leaders out there. He became the executive committee member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people. 

He then went on to become the first Negro leader for nonviolent demonstration. He was soon arrested for his involvement in the civil rights movement. His house was bombed, and he went through a significant amount of personal abuse. Between 1957 and 1968, Martin Luther King gave speeches 2500 times, thus inspiring people all around South Africa. Such was his allure that he is still considered an inspirational leader long after his death. 

3. Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa is often referenced when we want to talk about something great. At age 18, she left her home and joined a community of nuns. After teaching and helping the poor, she started receiving funds from different organizations. This helped her expand her work and become an even more popular leader among the masses. 

She also received permission from the Holy SEE for the initiation of her order, “The Missionaries of Charity”. The task’s primary task was to shower love and care on the subjugated people. Even after her death, the branches of the order spread all over the world. Today, it makes for one of the most popular institutions around the globe. It was undoubtedly the sheer charisma and energy of Mother Teresa that made her so popular among the elites and the masses. 

4. Abraham Lincoln

There is hardly anyone inside and outside the USA that have not heard of the brilliant oratory skills of Abraham Lincoln. However, Lincoln was not just an amazing speaker, he was also a strategic leader who thought things through and made very calculated moves. It was his exemplary leadership that helped prevent the breaking up of the United States of America. 

Even his most staunch critics agree that even after Lincoln became president, he treated everyone with honesty, humility, and courage, thus fulfilling all the exemplary traits of leadership. Additionally, his Gettysburg address and the words “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”. Are still imprinted on the hearts and minds of people. 

5. Fidel Castro

When we talk about inspiring leaders, we certainly don’t include Fidel Castro. However, his leadership style and skills can not be judged on moral metrics only; he was one of the most charismatic leaders that had the backing of a large crowd. 

He was responsible for turning Cuba into a communist state. During his 5-year tenure, Castro implemented a lot of laudable policies like installing electricity and providing education to rural areas. However, this came at a cost, as he also suppressed the free press and implemented a one-party system in Cuba. That being said, there is no denying the fact that when Castro spoke, everyone listened intently. 

Also, read: 12 key differences between exclusive vs inclusive leadership.

Charismatic vs Transformational Leadership

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Charismatic Leadership?

Advantages of Charismatic LeadershipDisadvantages of Charismatic Leadership
Allow for improved sense of connections between people. (Cambridge university Press)A morally corrupt charismatic leader can cause destruction (such as Adolf Hitler)
Can inspire others to changeCharismatic leadership dies with the death of the leader
Ensure individuals can identify strongly with their team heads and team members. ((International Journal of Psychology)Charismatic leadership is too dependent on the person’s personality and is hence less reliable
Research indicates that charismatic leaders prevent employee burnout and stressCharismatic leadership can be deceiving, as the leader’s charisma can make the followers not question anything. 
Charismatic leaders can change the society for the better.

What is Transformational Leadership?

In simpler words, transformational leadership is a leadership style that allows leaders to bring short-term and long-term changes in society (Northouse 2013). Leaders who adopt this style focus on a unique vision and mission, and then they work towards bringing that vision to light. 

Moreover, transformational leaders go for specific rather than generic changes. This is because most transformational leaders are very strategic thinkers and realize that they can not go for an ‘All or None Approach’. Additionally, transformational leaders are mostly fixated on fixing the problems of a particular area or part of society. If they have to inspire changes across borders, they also have to adopt other leadership styles, such as the charismatic leadership style. 

What Are the Characteristics of Transformational Leadership?

1.Have a Clear Vision

The first step to transformation is knowing exactly what you want to transform. If you want society to take a 180-degree turn, you need a clear vision. Transformational leaders like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg observed society and noticed a vacuum of sorts. They then came up with a solution that was both beautiful and unique so that it could capture the attention of others. 

Leaders who are all over the place and want to do this and that and then this again seldom succeed in their goals. You need to have a clear vision of A that leads to B which leads to C. 

2. Communicate Well to Inspire Others

Most transformational leaders start small. From having a clear vision to establishing their businesses, they come across many unique challenges. Most of these challenges require money and innovation to fix. However, to get hold of money, these transformational leaders had to talk to a lot of investors and get them on board. 

Additionally, these leaders work on their verbal and non-verbal cues extensively so what they say aligns perfectly with what they depict. This helps investors see the vision these leaders wanted to sell. 

Charismatic vs Transformational Leadership

3.Intellectually Stimulate Others So They Can Break Shackles

Transformational leaders are not only out there to get their businesses going or get a new product popular. They can also be leaders who want to transform society and make it more equitable or just for everyone. However, no victory can be achieved by an individual alone. Leaders need other people to back them up and support their mission. 

Leaders like Nelson Mandela wanted to end the suppression of blacks, but he knew well that he could not do this alone. This is why he intellectually stimulated other blacks, made them realize their potential, and then help them break shackles. 

4. Support Others Through Thick and Thin

Transformational leaders realize that bringing about change is not the easiest thing possible. It requires continuous effort. However, sometimes people can feel overwhelmed during the crisis and decide to give up. This is where these leaders come in, by inspiring and encouraging others, they help people stay on the mission. 

This is mostly true for transformational leaders working towards the expansion of an organization. The 15 most influential female leaders were all visionaries who supported others, thus transforming the workplaces they headed. 

5. Specificity over Generalizations

Another attribute unique to transformational leaders is that they work on problems step by step. Where charismatic leaders dream big and often talk about achieving unrealistic things, transformational leaders know their problems well. They then present solutions that are relatable, flexible, and realistic. This is what makes them so popular. 

Leaders who want to achieve their goal too quickly and all of a sudden often fall hard. This is also one of the main reasons why leaders fail. They are not specific about what they want to do. They want to do it all at once and end up doing nothing at all. 

What Are the Examples of Transformational Leadership?

1. Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos, one of the richest people on the planet, does not need any introduction. To think of how much he has transformed society, simply ask yourself: what would your life be without Amazon? Difficult to imagine, right? That is exactly why Jeff Bezos is considered one of the most transformational leaders out there. 

Amazon was founded on a vision in 1994. In less than three decades, the company has expanded and taken over the entire world, all thanks to the amazing intellect of Jeff Bezos. His strategic thinking and focused approach allowed him to dominate a niche that no one took advantage of before.

2. Reed Hastings

Talking about things that have taken the internet and the world by storm, there is one platform that the entire world is familiar with: Netflix. Netflix revolutionized the entire market and introduced a new way of consuming entertainment. Since its launch, many more platforms like Amazon and HBO have emerged and increased the competition in the market. 

Reed Hastings is the man behind this transformation of the internet. He co-founded Netflix in 1995 and today, Netflix has a total market cap of about $73 billion. After introducing the online streaming service in 2011, Reed has only done wonders. 

3. Oprah Winfrey

When we talk about Oprah Winfrey, we talk about charisma and inclusivity. She is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring women out there. Viewers are always hooked to the television whenever Oprah Winfrey comes on. However, you may wonder what makes Winfrey a truly transformational leader. 

Oprah Winfrey was a trendsetter in the way she conducted her interviews. Where other people were mostly using their platforms to invite celebrities and have them talk about their recent projects, Winfrey dug deeper and inspired millions of people to dream bigger. This is why Time Magazine named her “one of the most influential people” of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. 

Also, read: 15 most influential female business leaders in the world.

4. Bill Gates

You don’t always think of Bill Gates when you think of transformational leadership. He was considered an autocratic leader in the early years, however, his leadership style took a 180-degree turn. From focusing on the capitalistic market in the early years to doing a lot of non-profit work in recent years, Bill Gates is transforming how leaders ought to act. 

He is also considered a transformational leader because of his strong drive and passion for creating something truly innovative and unique. In the process, he is also trying to help society as much as he can.

5. Steve Jobs

Last, but not least, on our list of transformational leaders is the co-founder of Apple Computers, Steve Jobs. From an early age, he was selling computers at consumer-friendly and accessible places. Even in his early years, he had a very staunch work ethic and inspired a lot of people. 

It was through innovation and change that he was able to transform the world of technology. He has also introduced a plethora of programs and devices that have changed how people operate and interact with each other. His contributions to the technological world are unmatched. 

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Transformational Leadership?

Advantages of Transformational LeadershipDisadvantages of Transformational Leadership
Have a clear vision that is grounded in realityIs mostly capitalist where leaders want to gain profit
Works on specific problems and gradually move Towards solving bigger problemsMost transformational leaders are from the business community (very few who are working towards societal progress)
Inspire others in the field to work harderInnovation and creativity often requires capital and resources that new leaders might lack
Encourages passion among people interested in the same fieldIs risky and comes with a huge chance of failure

Charismatic vs Transformational Leadership: Which Style Is Better?

Charismatic vs Transformational Leadership

Both styles have many commonalities; it is hence difficult to draw generic conclusions. However, there is one major difference that separates the two styles. Let us discuss it in detail. 

1. Charismatic Leadership Focus On Society

Charismatic leaders are often interested in getting top leadership positions like heads of state and organizations. They are also interested in creating long-term, sustainable and cross-border changes in society. This requires them to have charisma and excellent oratory skills. 

By using verbal and non-verbal communication, they can inspire and influence their thousands and millions of followers. These leaders are also great at persuading others to join their mission. They can make anyone believe or aspire to something different. 

Charismatic leaders like Recip Erdoğan, Imran Khan, or Donald Trump can also inspire a cult following where the followers follow their leaders unconditionally. Most charismatic leaders use humor, stories, and analogies to woe people. 

2. Transformational Leadership Facilitates Organizations

Transformational leaders can do two things. They can either transform a part of society or transform an entire category. Take the example of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of WhatsApp. By introducing something innovative and unique, he was able to transform how the world uses the internet. 

Similarly, other transformational leaders, especially those heading organizations, can create products or platforms that revolutionize a section of society. However, that is not to say that transformational leaders don’t care about society. There are many leaders like Muhammad Ali Jinnah of Pakistan and Mahatma Gandhi of India, who were both charismatic and transformational. 

How Can Best Diplomats Help You Become a Transformational Leader With Charisma?

In the past, leaders may have confined themselves to one leadership style. However, you do not have to. You can be anything and everything with Best Diplomats. It is an international organization that helps identify emerging leaders. From honing your oratory skills to giving you confidence, Best Diplomats trains you to be the best in the field.

Charismatic vs Transformational Leadership

Additionally, its 3-day conferences happen in multiple cities including Dubai, New York, Istanbul, etc. by attending these, you get a chance to instill charisma in your personality. Furthermore, the training also helps you understand your potential, so you channel it and transform the world. 


Charismatic leaders were popular back then, and they are popular still. Their energetic and visionary personality helps them get ahead in the race. However, charismatic leadership dies with the death of the leader.

If you truly want to transform society and create innovation, you need to be a transformational leader. You need to envision something big, list out all the things you have to do, and show resilience while doing them. And having some charisma never hurts, so you can inculcate the traits of a charismatic leader.


Is charismatic and transactional leadership the same?

Transactional leaders lack innovation and creativity, whereas charismatic leaders challenge the status quo and come up with solutions to fix society. However, charismatic leaders are not always morally superior. Some, like Adolf Hitler, can also cause massive destruction on the land. 

Can a transformational leader also be a charismatic leader?

According to Martin Luther King, “those leaders who are charismatic and do not have ulterior motives or “dark tendencies”, can still be considered transformational leaders who happen to possess charismatic attributes.”. History has witness to a plethora of leaders who have tendencies for both charisma and transformation. One popular name that comes to mind is Abraham Lincoln. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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