Charismatic Leadership in an Ad Agency

For my other Theories into Action blog post, I explained how I saw transactional leadership at Tierney. Another style of leadership I have observed, which I think can go hand-in-hand with transactional leadership, applies to the trait theory of leadership and more specifically charismatic leadership. 

A charismatic leader encourages others to complete tasks or act in certain ways by utilizing eloquent communication and persuasion. They also take advantage of their personality to motivate followers to get things done. While I will give a specific example of when I observed charismatic leadership, I want to point out that the industry of advertising is favorable for a charismatic leader. Whether the leader is hoping to convince a client of an idea or is rallying a team around a new project, charisma undoubtedly helps them get the job done.

One day, a project manager needed help transcribing a podcast, which is undeniably a tedious job. She is known as extremely outgoing, smiley, loud, and driven. When looking for someone to help her with the podcast, she approached me and first made conversation about my weekend or how work was going. The whole time she was engaged in the conversation and eventually asked me if I was too busy because she had a task she needed done within the next day. The way she approached me made it difficult to say no–she was so likeable and kind that I wanted to help her. Needless to say, she was persuasive and effectively used her personality to her advantage to get me to help her with transcribing this podcast.

Some analyses of charismatic leaders point out the danger that this type of leader may be manipulative or coercive. While I’m sure this may be the case with some employees, I think this is where the theory falls short for Tierney. I’ve mentioned the culture at Tierney and how employees are encouraged to build relationships with each other both inside and outside their respective teams; despite your “rank,” you have the opportunity to collaborate with any and all colleagues. That being said, I think people naturally turn to charisma as a leadership tool because the company promotes camaraderie. Superiors or employees are not trying to manipulate each other into completing work but instead are inspiring work by taking advantage of their personalities and company culture.

While I think charismatic leadership is positive for a company like Tierney, I think it can pose concerns long-term. Because charismatic leadership can be viewed as manipulative or “fake,” it could be easy for an employee to become tired of a charismatic leader; the employee might start to resent the leader because they are convincing them to do something purely from their personality or the way they say things. I have not yet observed that happening but am interested to see if I do during my time at Tierney.

One thought on “Charismatic Leadership in an Ad Agency

  • July 15, 2019 at 1:26 pm
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    Okay, you start off talking about transactional again here…and I THINK you mean transformational (you’ve used both – somewhat interchangeably – in past blogs). But if you are liking it to charisma, then I THINK you mean transformational. Moving on…sounds like this individual’s charisma (or idealized influence) was effective. Based on past descriptions regarding trust at the organization, it seems that despite the potential pitfalls of charism (which you identify) that shouldn’t be too much of an issue at your organization because of the high level of trust (and respect) you’ve described. If indeed there is that much trust and respect, individuals are less likely – it would seem – to consider someone “fake” if they were employing charisma. But indeed, there are pitfalls that have been documented.

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