Difference Between Charismatic and Transformational Leadership

Key Difference – Charismatic vs Transformational Leadership

Charismatic leadership and Transformational leadership are two important classifications of leadership between which a key difference can be identified. When speaking of leadership as a whole, this has a deep history. Leadership creates an ambiance for both change and also resistance to change. When focusing on the two leadership styles, the key difference is that while in Charismatic Leadership the leader’s charm and attraction create inspiration and devotion among the followers towards the leader, in Transformational Leadership, change in individuals and social systems are created through a collective vision. This article attempts to clarify the difference between these two terms in detail.

What is Charismatic Leadership?

Charisma is a gift in view of most people. Charisma is the attraction or charm of a person that can inspire devotion in others. So, arguing it as a gift has some truth. Leadership of this nature can be termed as Charismatic Leadership, where people are inspired to work for the leader based on their devotion towards that individual. Charismatic leaders have followers who admire the leader’s charm and personality. The followers are not attracted by any external power or authority.

Charismatic leaders have a clear vision and are willing to take any risk achieve their vision. They exhibit out of ordinary behaviors and are very sensitive to followers’ emotions. They will create a unique position for themselves and will be unchallengeable in their group. Their team or group will be known by their leader’s name. The identity of the group and leader will be inseparable. Further, research has shown there is a strong relation between charismatic leadership and high performance. Also, the followers will be highly satisfied due to the psychological motivation given by their leader. The followers will put more effort in work and will have a high level of respect for their leader.

There is a high criticism over charismatic leadership as there is a strong belief that they work for their personal interests more than their followers’ interests. To serve the best interest of an organization, charismatic leaders will not be the best fit they argue. They use their power for personal benefit and to improve their image than the organization.

Difference Between Charismatic and Transformational Leadership

What is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leadership is defined as a leadership approach that causes a change in individuals and social systems. In its purest form, it creates valuable and positive changes among followers with a vision of developing the followers into leaders. The transformational leader believes in their followers to succeed. Transformational leaders connect the followers’ future aspirations with the organizational vision and persuade the followers to achieve the organizational goals to satisfy themselves. They act as role models and inspire the followers. They challenge followers to take greater ownership of their work. Such leaders understand the followers’ strengths and weaknesses, so the leader can align them with tasks which will harness their optimal performance.

Transformational leaders pay attention to the well-being of their individual followers. They engage with them and communicate with them on personal issues which persuade followers to feel positive and partner in the organization’s success. The downside of transformational leadership is the transformation itself. Certain times the organization or the people would not want to transform. At this juncture, the leader will get frustrated and may lose his vision.

Key Difference - Charismatic vs Transformational Leadership

What is the difference between Charismatic and Transformational Leadership?

Definitions of Charismatic and Transformational Leadership:

Charismatic Leadership: A leadership approach that reins itself on the leaders charm and attraction which creates inspiration and devotion among the followers towards the leader.

Transformational Leadership: A leadership approach that causes a change in individuals and social systems through a collective vision.

Characteristics of Charismatic and Transformational Leadership:


Charismatic Leadership: People believe charismatic leaders are born and not made.

Transformational Leadership: Transformation leaders are adaptive leaders and mostly are trained to become leaders.


Charismatic Leadership: Charismatic leaders may not want to change anything in the organization.

Transformational Leadership: Transformational Leaders have a basic focus of transforming the organization and their followers.

Benefit Sharing:

Charismatic Leadership: Charismatic leaders tend to work more towards their personal benefit and image building.

Transformational Leadership: Transformational leaders tend to work more for the betterment of the organization and their followers.


Charismatic Leadership: Charismatic leaders are hard to replace.

Transformational Leadership: Transformational leaders will be replaced by the next in line commandment officer in the organization if they are trained well.


Image Courtesy:

1. Martin Luther King March on Washington  – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 542069. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

2. Striker Assembly [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons