Charismatic Leadership

William Gladstone and  Benjamin Disraeli were two of the fiercest political rivals of the 19th  century. Their epic battles for control of the British Empire were marked by  intense animosity that spilled over from the public arena into their personal  lives. Ambitious, powerful, and politically astute, both men were spirited  competitors and masterful politicians.

Though each man achieved impressive  accomplishments for Britain, the quality that separated them as leaders was  their approach to people. The difference is best illustrated by the account of  a young woman who dined with the men on consecutive nights. When asked about  her impression of the rival statesmen, she said, “When I left the dining room  after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in  England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest  woman in England.”

What distinguished  Disraeli from Gladstone was charisma. Disraeli possessed a personal charm  sorely lacking in the leadership style of his rival. His personal appeal  attracted friends and created favorable impressions among acquaintances.  Throughout his career, Disraeli’s charisma gave him an edge over Gladstone.

Understanding  Charisma

Of all leadership  attributes, charisma is perhaps the least understood. At first glance, charisma  appears to be an invisible energy or magnetism. There’s no denying its  presence, but it’s hard to put a finger on its source. Some mistakenly believe  charisma is a birth trait—embedded in certain personalities, but completely  absent in others.

I believe charisma is both  explainable and learnable. I also believe charisma helps to boost a leader’s influence.  I’d like to examine the causes of charisma and teach you how to increase the  charisma you display as a leader.

The Qualities  of a Charismatic Leader

Charisma is defined as, “The  ability to inspire enthusiasm, interest, or affection in others by means of  personal charm or influence.” Leaders who have this special ability share four  things in common:

1. They Love Life

Leaders who attract a  following are passionate about life. They are celebrators, not complainers.  They’re characterized by joy and warmth. They’re energetic and radiant in an  infectious way.

Look no further than the  smile to illustrate the power of charisma. When people see a smile, they  respond with a smile. If you’re skeptical, try it. Smile at cashiers, waiters,  co-workers, etc. You’ll find your smile earns a reciprocate smile almost every  time. We are hardwired to take on the energy of those around us. Leaders who  love life have charisma because they fill the room with positive energy.

2. They Value the  Potential in People

To become an attractive  leader, expect the best from your people. I describe this behavior as “putting  a 10 on everyone’s head.” Leaders see people not as they are, but as they could  be. From this vantage point, they help others to build a bridge from the present  to a preferred future.

Benjamin Disraeli  understood and practiced this concept, and it was one of the secrets to his  charisma. He once said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not to  share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” When you invest in people and  lift them toward their potential, they will love you for it.

3. They Give Hope

People have an inner  longing to improve their future and their fortunes. Charismatic leaders connect  with people by painting tomorrow brighter than today. To them, the future is  full of amazing opportunities and unrealized dreams.

Napoleon Bonaparte once  said, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” They infuse optimism into the culture  around them, and they boost morale. While attentive to the current reality,  they do not resign themselves to present circumstance.

4. They Share Themselves

Leaders with charisma add  value to people by sharing wisdom, resources, and even special occasions. They  embrace the power of inclusion, inviting others to join them for learning experiences,  brainstorming sessions, or simply a cup of coffee. Such leaders embrace team  spirit and value togetherness. As a result, charismatic leaders are not lonely  at the top.

When it comes to charisma,  the bottom line is other-mindedness. For leaders, the greatest satisfaction is  found by serving. They find great pleasure celebrating the successes of those  around them, and the victory they enjoy the most is a team triumph.


In closing, charisma has  substance. It’s not manipulative energy or a magical gift endowed upon select  personalities. Rather, it’s an attractive blend of learnable qualities.

Furthermore, charisma  compounds a leader’s influence. Without it, leaders have trouble inspiring  passion and energizing their teams. With it, leaders draw out the best in their  people, give the best of themselves, and find the greatest fulfillment.


by John C. Maxwell

Reprinted with permission of Your Success Store. Click  here for more details or to order.


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