Transformational leaders must rally organizational members around a shared vision. Therefore, it relies on the leader’s charisma, the ability to exercise a compelling charm that inspires devotion in people. Leaders with charisma are emotionally intelligent, understand how to communicate their vision effectively, and inspire followers to share the vision. Charisma is considered an art of charm and is among the most impactful traits of a leader; it forms the basis of the charismatic leadership theory. From this perspective, charism is a shared personal trail between transformational and charismatic leadership styles. While charismatic and transformational leadership utilizes charism and persuasive communication to inspire their followers to pursue a vision, the two styles differ in terms of individual interests, intellectual stimulation, and replaceability.
The first fundamental similarity lies in the shared personality traits that each style demonstrates. A core underlying trait is that leaders with charisma must have a vision that other people can share within and without the organization. People can only realize and share the vision if it is communicated effectively (Parry et al., 2019). Therefore, leaders with charism must also demonstrate excellent communication skills. Transformational leadership entails leaders empowering people by engaging followers in identifying necessary change and creating a vision to drive the change.
On the other hand, charismatic leadership combines interpersonal connection, persuasive communication, and charm to inspire people to follow a vision. In both cases, the vital underlying traits are a vision to guide followers and practical communication skills to ensure followers understand the vision. Therefore, while the charismatic leader uses charisma to persuade followers, a transformational leader relies on charism to keep followers active in the vision.
Another key similarity is the extreme to which each style can apply the charisma trait. Both leadership styles should inspire people to transcend personal interests for the good of the organization’s vision. The extremes of charisma in each style can either be inimical or positive to leadership (Murray, 2020). The extreme end of charisma in the charismatic leadership style is narcissistic leaders, individuals in leadership positions who use their power and charisma to engage in illegal or unethical behavior. The trait emerges when charismatic leaders are driven by strong personal convictions based on personal interests. The end of charisma in the transformational leadership style is a sense of anarchy, where followers align with an individual because the individual is transformative, causing a threat to the status quo. Therefore, in both styles, charism is an underlying trait that can strengthen or destroy organizational leadership.
Charismatic leaders who do not have ulterior motives can also be transformative leaders because their success lies in convincing followers. Transformative leaders understand the strengths and weaknesses of followers and use this basis for placing followers in positions in which they are most helpful. The same applies to charismatic leaders because they must find the right people to help realize the vision. The perspective suggests that the key underlying similarity between charismatic and transformational leadership styles is the presence and application of charisma.
Similar to similarities, differences in the two leadership styles begin with the personality traits of leaders. Despite the similarities, some leaders are strictly charismatic and rely on charisma to win support for their vision. Similarly, other leaders are strictly transformative but lack the charisma demonstrated by charismatic leaders (Lowe & Bathula, 2020). Therefore, while charism is a crucial similarity, it can also be a core difference between the two styles. Often, however, charismatic leaders with narcissistic tendencies lack the moral component exemplified by transformational leaders. The moral components include intellectual stimulation, moral ethics, and individual consideration. Through the latter, transformational leaders focus on involving followers in making decisions; thus, helping them acquire important skills for future leadership roles.
On the other hand, charismatic leaders rely on personal intuition and conviction to make decisions. In terms of intellectual stimulation, charismatic leaders will seek individuals who can perform the required tasks. Conversely, a transformational leader will focus on the development and growth of individuals to perform the required tasks. Therefore, transformational leaders help other people become more innovative and creative while charismatic leaders focus on completing tasks at hand.
Other key differences between the leadership style are shaped by origin, focus, and succession. In terms of succession, charismatic leaders are hard to replace because they rely on personality traits to realize success. It is impossible to find a replacement with the same characteristics as an outgoing or deceased charismatic leader since they do not mold their followers into leadership; charismatic leaders are more obsessed with self-interests. On the other hand, the role of transformation leaders is to transform both the organization and individuals (Lai et al., 2020). They are relatively easy to replace because they mold their followers into leaders. In terms of origin, charismatic leadership is considered inborn, while transformative leadership is considered trainable.
Charismatic and transformational leadership styles have a close relationship with their approaches. Both styles require a vision on which people can find direction. However, the success of the vision depends on how effectively the leaders can inspire followers through effective communication. In both styles, charisma is an essential trait. Therefore, charism is a crucial factor determining the differences and similarities between transformational and charismatic leadership styles.
Lai, F. Y., Tang, H. C., Lu, S. C., Lee, Y. C., & Lin, C. C. (2020). Transformational leadership and job performance: The mediating role of work engagement. SAGE Open, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244019899085
Lowe, K. B., & Bathula, H. (2020). Charismatic and transformational leadership. Oxford Publishers.
Murray, K. (2020). Charismatic leadership: The skills you can learn to motivate high performance in others. Kogan Page
Parry, K., Cohen, M., Bhattacharya, S., North-Samardzic, A., & Edwards, G. (2019). Charismatic leadership: Beyond love and hate and toward a sense of belonging? Journal of Management and Organization, 25(3), 398–413. https://doi.org/10.1017/jmo.2019.28