Charismatic and Transformational Leadership Traits

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Meg Whitman, CEO of the internet auction site eBay, displays several traits of both charismatic and transformational leadership. Whitman moved from a tightly structured, traditional button-down corporate environment at Hasbro's Playskool division into the T-shirt and jeans atmosphere of an internet start-up company without missing a beat. In doing so, she illustrated that sometimes it is more important to have a vision and the willingness to commit to that vision than to have targeted knowledge of how the business works. Much credit must be given to Meg Whitman's particular leadership style for the fact that she has managed to guide eBay to incredible success when so many other internet start-up companies have gone out of business, been forced into corporate takeovers, or else have attempted to rewrite business models in order to keep up with shifting paradigms.

How has she done this? Whitman is a charismatic leader in the sense that she uses influence rather than force, and that influence inspires trust in her vision that leads to trust in her as a person. As Whitman herself says, "I don't tell people what to do—I try to influence the direction of the company" (Fisk 2002). Whitman's vision for eBay has revolved around her intuitive understanding that the key to eBay lies in its users rather than in any sort of managerial structure that is typical of the successful companies from which she learned.

Whitman's leading-by-example type of leadership is made possible by her strong communicative skills. Not just verbal communication of a daily type, but the willingness to communicate her vision through business practices. It was Whitman who first initiated eBay's first move toward national advertising, it was Whitman who recruited executives from various industries. Communication and trust go hand in hand in creating a charismatic transformational leader and Whitman has executed both great skill, managing to transform eBay into a company significantly...
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