Charismatic Leadership: What Is It and Do I Have It?

Charismatic leaders have something about them, a secret sauce that attracts people, wins them over and converts them into followers.

If you look through history you'll find leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill and many, many more, who through some means of magnetism, will or voodoo, attracted and inspired others.

I've seen examples of charismatic leadership in my own life, people I've worked with or met who have "it". People who inspired me to be better, and to reach just a little bit further.

Brené Brown is one of these people for me. On paper she's a research Professor at the University of Houston, but through her work, her passion and her consistent practice in everything she does, she's become a truly inspiring leader. If secret sauce were people, she'd be China.

When I dug into what these kinds of people have in common, these are the 7 qualities of charismatic leadership I found.


It's not about them, it's about the work or the cause or the difference they want to make. Charismatic leaders don't want or need the spotlight, it's just a by-product of the ripples they make.


Charismatic leaders accept the world as it is, not as they want it to be. And it's with that acceptance, not in spite of it, they they seek to do their deep work.

Deep work

Call it a cause, a passion or a purpose, charismatic leaders are ready and willing to do deep work, simply because it matters so damn much to them, and even when it gets impossibly tough.


Congruence is that sweet harmony of belief and action. Congruence is built on acceptance, that you're human, fallible, and wonderful in equal measure, and paints all your actions with that brush.


Charismatic leaders aren't fly-by-nights and they don't worry about changing themselves to fit in. They're consistently who they are, and consistently engaging with the things that matter.


Being connected—that fundamental understanding that they're not an island and are connected to others in all kind of ways—underpins how a charismatic leader interacts with people.


The ability to feel what's there to be felt and ladle on kindness and generosity might not seem a very "leadery" thing to do, but having compassion for themselves or for others is fuel for the other qualities.

These qualities sound good, right?

I know that I'm attracted to leaders who exhibit these qualities, and just looking over them I get a little goose-bumpy. There's power in these things.

But don't look at these qualities like a tick-list, things to check off to see how you measure up on charismatic leadership, and beating yourself up if you fall short. This isn't a Cosmo quiz.

What this is, is a call to action that you don't need to hold yourself to anyone else's standards.

Charismatic leadership starts where you already are

Nowhere within those qualities does it state that you're not allowed to fail. That you have to be rigid, sombre or pious. That you have to compare yourself with anyone else. That you can't trust yourself to make this next choice. That you're not already good enough.

Nowhere does it state that you won't have insecurities, doubts and fears about whether you have what it takes.

Insecurities, doubts and fears are implicit. Practice is implicit. Self-worth is implicit.

I don't know about you, but this sure sounds like confidence to me...

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