Following a Charismatic Leader

Every organization must face the reality of leadership succession at some point or another in its life cycle. It is through succession planning that an organization can stabilize its leadership in order to ensure continued effective performance (Rothwell, 2010). The challenge is determining how a new leader is going to fill the shoes of the pervious leader adequately. This is often not a question of competencies and skill sets, but it is more a question of leadership style.

Often founding leaders of an organization are charismatic leaders who seem to almost will the organization into existence through the power of their magnetic personality. Having a succession plan that is effective when replacing a charismatic leader can be a delicate endeavor. It can seem overwhelmingly challenging for the successor of a charismatic leader. So, how does a one go about succeeding a charismatic leader.

Charismatic leaders act in unique ways that have specific charismatic effects on their followers (Northouse, 2013). For a successor, it is important to understand what those unique behavioral traits are in order to emulate them, or to at least avoid being counter to the behaviors of the previous leader. Charismatic leaders usually have a personality that included being dominant, having a strong desire to influence others, being self-confident, and having a strong sense of one’s own moral values (Northouse, 2013). Though a successor may not naturally possess these characteristics, it does not mean they can not be developed. Followers of charismatic leaders look to them for direction, often because they serve as a strong role model for followers. A succeeding leader can develop such skills and provide a taste of what followers are familiar with while also leading in a style that is more comfortable and natural.


Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Rothwell, W. J. (2005). Effective Succession Planning: Ensuring Leadership Continuity and Building Talent from Within (3rd ed.). New York, NY: AMACOM.


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