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Traits of a Leader

What is Charismatic Leadership All About?

Muna wa Wanjiru asked:

Alexander the great crossed the unconquerable Alps Mountain along with his soldiers, which until then no one had conquered.  What was it that led their followers to believe in them that they did the unthinkable?  These leaders, charismatic indeed, had won the trust of their followers to such an extent that the followers believed in every word, action and deed of their leader.    

What is charismatic leadership all about? It is the magnetic personality of the leader, which attracts peoples’ mind, body and soul. These people willingly accept their leader’s authority and are ready to lay down even their life for the pleasure of their beloved master.     

Charismatic leadership is a trait and the charismatic leaders constantly hone their skills to win their followers’ loyalty.  Charismatic leaders constantly device strategies and keep on innovating themselves so that their followers are always with them. Charismatic leaders first try to understand the environment in which they are working. They give lot of importance to peoples’ moods and sentiments and try to associate with them personally.  They exhibit tremendous and deep faith in their followers.  They enchant their followers’ heart by their wit and charm. Charismatic leadership is not only about using words to impress the followers; it is also about conveying the right message to the followers with effective body language. 

Charismatic leadership is also about creating a unique identity of the group, which is very distinct from the other groups. The leaders create a distinct image of the group in the minds of the followers so that the followers can easily identify themselves with the group, which in turn gives the followers a sense of belongingness.  The charismatic leader has tremendous self-belief; they always walk the talk, have patience and exhibit tremendous determination.  They have high risk taking capability.  They are ready to give up conventional idea and willingly go for an unconventional way to achieve the desired result; most of the time comes out with excellence. 

Not all about charismatic leadership is fascinating. It has some darker side too.  What if a charismatic leader starts believing that he is infallible?  What if he starts using his charisma to ruin the young and tender minds? Leaders like Hitler, Stalin and more recently Bin Laden have used their charisma to fulfill their sinister motives and have created a chaos in the society.  These leaders sometimes become addicted to glorification and do not tolerate any kind of criticism.  They generally refrain from grooming others for leadership, as they do not want anyone to question their authority.     

In spite of some ill effects, a charismatic leader not only transforms the society but also provides a new meaning to human civilization.  Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Prabhupad – the founder of ISKCON, Jesus Christ are some of the charismatic leaders who have flown against the wind and have brought radical changes in the society.

It is believed that certain characteristic of leadership is by birth.  Someone is a born orator, someone is a born singer and someone is a born writer.  True to certain extent but it is also true that there is nothing in this world, which cannot be achieved by dint of hard work.  Mahatma Gandhi started exhibiting his leadership trait when he became young and to a great surprise Swami Prabhupad founder of ISKCON who spread the Hare Krishna movement in the west started preaching when he was in his sixties.  So it is nothing that cannot be learned.

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