The Concept of Charismatic Leadership theory

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The study of leadership has been important to humans since the dawn of civilisation, the concept of leadership; leader and follower were represented in Egyptian hieroglyphics written 5,000 years ago. Between 400 and 300BC the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle wrote about leadership and the requirements, characteristics, and education of leaders (Paul, et al. 2002). Leadership is central to the human condition (Wren, 1995) and has found to be important to all societies, although specific patterns of behaviour vary overtime and across cultures (Bass, 1990).

Leadership theories have evolved in the last century to the point where they began to be the basis for models that accurately describe the activities of leaders with good correlation to their success in some situations (Antonakis & House, 2002), (Yukl, 2006a). Meindl (1990) leadership can best be understood as a perception that plays a key role in people’s efforts to make sense of organisational phenomena. According to his view, organisational systems, activities, and events are hard to comprehend because they are ambiguous and complex. Nevertheless, organisational members and observers have a need to make sense of their environment to preserve an illusion of understanding and control. Because leadership provides a convenient and plausible explanation for important, but causally ambiguous outcomes, it is overused as an explanatory category. Essentially, attributers “romanticise” leadership as a causal determinant of organisational processes and performance.

In a sense, supervisory theories of leadership are about leadership “in” organisations. Strategic theories of leadership are concerned with leadership “of” organisations, see (Hunt, 1991) and are “marked by a concern for the evolution of the organisation as a whole, including its changing aims and capabilities” (Selznick, 1984). Strategic leadership focuses on the people who have overall responsibility for the organisation and includes not only the titular head of the organisation but also members of what is referred to as the top management team or dominant coalition (Cyert & March, 1963). As (Mintzberg, 1989) argues, strategy can be understood as a pattern, that is, consistency in behaviour over time. In the strategy process, there may be intentions that are fully realised as well as fully unrealised strategies. In addition, the strategy may emerge.

2.1 General Leadership Theories

2.1.1 Phases of leadership theories

The earliest modern literature on leadership appeared in the nineteenth century. This earliest generation of leadership research was set out from the assertion that the emergence of leaders must be connected with certain inherited endowments. There was even a book named ‘Hereditary Genius’ (Galton, 1970). A comprehensive review of leadership research, published in handbook form, was produced by (Stogdill, 1974). In this handbook, he provided evidence that leadership traits vary not only from situation to situation, but also from time to time. Only a few components remain comparatively consistent over time. Subsequent editions of this handbook were revised by Bass, who is Stogdill’s successor (Stogdill & Bass, 1981) and (Bass, 1990a). In the later edition Bass drew further evidence from later research and identified traits which were steadily relevant to leadership effectiveness. These included activity level, task competence, interpersonal competence, authoritarianism, power orientation and Machiavellianism, value, needs, well-being, accorded status and esteem, and charisma. (Locke et al. 1991) produced a similar list. Since then, the pace of development has mounted as the need for its application intensified following the development of society especially in business management after World War II. In terms of classifying this evolution, a widely accepted view was suggested by (Hunt, 1999a). According to his argument, this evolution can be divided into three generations; namely:

trait theory,

situational-contingency theory and

transformational leadership theory

In all it was later accepted that the trait approach failed to prove that there was a set of gifted traits, which made people become leaders. Researchers then mostly turned to the new assumption that leadership can be taught and learned under a proper set of principles according to (Lee & Thomas, 2007). Bass also added an extra chapter to the handbook, and this was dedicated to charismatic and inspirational leadership style. Charismatic leadership is actually one of the most important areas in leadership theory since it has the longest acknowledgement in the literature and actually spans across all the three generations of leadership studies. (Weber, 1924, 1947 & 1968) was the first to mention the concept of charisma. He saw charisma as a special kind of leadership trait that can lead organisations to get through periods of crisis successfully.

Since the mid-1970s, research interest in charismatic leadership was shifted from Weber’s view of ‘crisis rescuer’ to an emphasis on those leaders who could effect extraordinary influence continuously. It was found that charismatic leaders could usually improve organisational performance through their own behaviour and that this could have a powerful effect on the morale of their followers. This kind of leadership is referred to by the situational-contingency school of researchers as charismatic leadership e.g. (Adair, 1973), (Kets de Vries, 1984) and (Conger & Kanungo, 1987a), transformational leadership e.g. (Burns, 1978a) and (Bass, 1985a), inspirational leadership e.g. (Yuki & Van Fleet, 1982) or visionary leadership e.g. (Bennis & Nanus, 1985a) and (Sashkin, 1988a). Later, researchers in the generation of transformational leadership also classified it as ‘change management’ (Bass, 1990b). The first author to differentiate between charismatic and inspirational leadership was (Downton, 1973). He pointed out that the follower’s endorsement of charismatic leaders is based on blind faith in the leaders, whereas the endorsement of inspirational leaders is based on the rationale that the followers believe and share the leader’s vision and strategy.

3.1 The Concept of Charismatic Leadership (up to 1992) and how it fits in to the general leadership theories

3.1.1 Theoretical background of charismatic leadership

The term “charisma,” whose initial meaning is ‘a gift’ in Greek, has been frequently used in politics and religion to adduce legitimacy to power. (Weber, 1968) defined it as an individual’s personality quality (or at least, specifically exceptional powers or qualities) by virtue of which he/she is set apart from ordinary people and which thus legitimises his/her exercise of influence. (House, 1977a) developed a theory of charismatic leadership which is among the first attempts to build a comprehensive theoretical basis for studying the topic. Leadership theory, alternatively referred to as “charismatic,” “transformational,” “visionary,” or “inspirational,” has emerged in the organisational literatures of (House, 1977b), (Burns, 1978b), (Bass, 1985b), (Bennis & Nanus, 1985b), (Tichy & Devanna, 1986), (Boal & Bryson, 1988), Conger & Kanungo, 1987b), (Kuhnert & Lewis, 1987), (Sashkin, 1988b). Relating to this new genre of leadership theory, such leaders transform the needs, values, preferences and aspirations of followers from self-interest to collective interests. Further, they cause followers to become highly committed to the leader’s mission, to make significant personal sacrifices in the interest of the mission, and perform above and beyond the call of duty. Theories of charismatic leadership highlighted such effects as emotional attachment to the leader on the part of the followers; emotional and motivational arousal of the followers; enhancement of follower valences with respect to the mission articulated by the leader; follower self-esteem, trust, and confidence in the leader; follower values; and follower intrinsic motivation according to (Shamir, House & Arthur, 1993a).

The integration of charismatic leadership theory with the upper echelons perspective in an attempt to better understand the leadership role of chief executive officers (CEOs) was reviewed by (Waldman, Javidan & Varella, 2004). They proposed that emerging charismatic leadership theory and research may provide new possibilities for the upper echelons perspective. In the past, leadership theory has been seen as the domain of organisational behaviour and micro-oriented perspectives. (House, 1999) organisational behaviourists are generally more psychologically oriented and define charisma as one of the following:

a relationship between an individual (leader) and others (followers) based on deeply held shared ideological (as opposed to material) values;

an individual who accomplishes unusual feats through the efforts of followers who are exceptionally loyal to the leader, have a high degree of trust in the leader, and are willing to make personal sacrifices in the interest of the leader’s vision and the collective led by the leader;

a complex set of personal characteristics and/or behaviours of an individual that leads to the above outcomes. The specific traits and behaviours are defined somewhat differently among the organisational behaviourists’ theories. Organisational behaviourists have used all three of the above definitions, none of which are incompatible with the others.

Charismatic leadership is assumed to have three core components: envisioning, empathy, and empowerment according to Conger (2006), increasing attention has been directed during the past several decades toward charismatic leadership.

Charisma represents a potentially key construct relevant to strategic leadership (Pawar & Eastman, 1997). Apparently, a recent theoretical perspective has begun to link charisma to strategic leadership. For example (Finkelstain & Hambrick, 1996) acknowledged that charismatic leadership could affect firm performance in one of several ways. First, the values of such leaders could influence strategic choices through their impact on their field of vision, their perception and interpretation of information, and their strategic decision making. Furthermore, the day-to-day actions and behaviours on the part of charismatic chief executive officers could also affect organisational functioning and performance. Unfortunately, in their view, they did not make potential linkages between charisma and performance especially clear and, indeed, devoted little attention to such linkages in their consideration of strategic leadership.

Conger & Kanungo (1992) developed a model that focuses on several behavioural dimensions of charismatic leadership within organisations. According to the model, charismatic leadership is an attribution based on followers’ perceptions of their leader’s behaviour. The leader’s observed behaviour is interpreted by followers as expressions of charisma in the same sense as a leader’s behaviours reflect that individual’s participative, people and task orientations. Charismatic leaders differ from other leaders by their ability to formulate and articulate an inspirational vision and by behaviours and actions that foster an impression that they and their mission are extraordinary. As such, individuals choose to follow such leaders in management settings not only because of formal authority but out of perceptions of extraordinariness. Thus any measurement of charismatic leadership must be based on follower’s perceptions of the specific behavioural attributes of the leader that engender such outcomes. The Conger-Kanungo model proposed several distinguishing behavioural components in three distinct stages of the leadership process.

A number of different behaviours may lead to perceptions of charisma (Bass & Avolio, 1993), (Conger & Kanungo, 1987c) and (Shamir, House & Arthur, 1993b).

Following earlier experimental research by (Yorges, Weiss & Strickland, 1999), they demonstrated that a leader making personal sacrifices to achieve the collective vision rather than personally benefiting from his or her action was perceived as more charismatic. The more recent psychological and organisational behaviour literature has dealt with these variables rather extensively, arguing that charismatic leaders strongly appeal to the values and self-concepts of followers by articulating radical solutions to their problems (Shamir, House & Arthur, 1993c).

4.1 Development of Charismatic Leadership (post 1992)

In the past decade, the bulk of leadership research has focused on transformational and charismatic leadership (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). In sharp contrast to the rational nature of the transactional leadership paradigm of the 1960s and 1970s (Bass, 1990e), transformational and charismatic leadership theories (Bass, 1985c), (Burns, 1978c), (Conger & Kanungo, 1998a) and (House, 1977c) recognised the affective and emotional needs and responses of followers performance, placing more emphasis on the emotional, inspirational, and symbolic aspects of leadership influence (Shamir, House & Arthur, 1993d) and (Conger & Kanungo, 1998b). Attempts to integrate the multiple theories of transformational and charismatic leadership reveal many commonalities, including leader vision and a charismatic communication style (House & Shamir, 1993) and (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1996). Newer frameworks that can be applied to leadership theory include meso-level paradigms that attempt to provide an integration of micro and macro organisational behaviour (House et al. 1995) and (Hunt & Dodge, 2001). Concurrent with the development of meso-level paradigms, the field of leadership has witnessed an infusion of theory dealing with charismatic and inspirational leadership.

4.1.1 Realisation of Vision content and organisational performance

Drawing from the communication literatures, (Holladay & Coombs, 1993 and 1994) invoked the concepts of message content and delivery to explain the two-step process whereby charismatic leaders initially craft and then articulate an idealised vision. An idealised vision is generally considered to be a prerequisite for a leader to become transformational or charismatic e.g. (Bass, 1988). Once formulated, the vision must be articulated to mobilise followers to pursue it.

Studies in the past decade have identified six behaviours exhibited more frequently by charismatic leaders than by non-charismatic leaders. These include:

vision and articulation;

sensitivity to member needs;

environmental sensitivity;

unconventional behaviour;

taking personal risks; and

not maintaining the status quo as defined by the Conger-Kanungo scale (Conger & Kanungo, 1994a).

Envisioning involves creating an overall picture of a desired future state with which people can identify and which can generate excitement. In addition to formulating a vision, they are adept at communicating the vision and infusing day-to-day work with a larger sense of purpose and greater intrinsic appeal (Conger, 1989a). Most charismatic leaders, therefore, are known as persuasive speakers. They often rely on various rhetorical techniques such as metaphors, analogy, and stories to inculcate key ideas into the followers’ minds, so that their message would have a profound impact on followers (Conger, 1989b).

(Awamleh & Gardner, 1999) suggested an agenda for research to clarify. In particular, the joint effects of vision content, delivery, organisational performance cues, and generalised leadership beliefs on perceived charisma and leader effectiveness warrant empirical attention. Accordingly, in their study they projected three key objectives:

to explore the combined effects of vision content and delivery on perceptions of leader charisma and effectiveness;

to investigate the relative effects of performance outcomes on these perceptions; and

to examine the effects of generalised beliefs about leadership (i.e., romance of leadership disposition) on leadership perceptions.

To put the results in perspective, they reconsidered (Lord & Maher’s, 1993) definition of leadership as “the process of being perceived by others as a leader.” Accordingly, when people use prototypes to infer leadership, strong delivery of an idealised and well articulated vision will lead to perceptions of charisma and leader effectiveness. These perceptions, in turn, provide the leader with an attentive audience of followers who will be highly receptive to the leader’s influence attempts. On the other hand, when followers use organisational outcomes to assess leadership qualities, high performance appears to similarly enhance the leader’s image of charisma and effectiveness. Importantly, such perceptions will in turn provide the leader with greater leverage in influencing others. Their point is that the “recognition” and “inferential” models are not mutually exclusive. To maximise their influence potential, leaders must provide a strongly articulated and idealised vision, and successfully attain high performance outcomes.

4.1.2 Charismatic leadership and followers’ outcomes

(Conger, 1999a) over the last decade and a half, highlighted that the topic areas of charismatic and transformational leadership in organisational settings have undergone a significant evolution in terms of both theory development and empirical investigations. Both the greatest amount of theory development as well as empirical research on charismatic and transformational leadership has been in the area of leader behaviours and, to a lesser extent, on follower effects. This was due largely to the backgrounds of the most active researchers, almost all of whom have had a strong behavioural orientation. While there have been a number of individuals studying either transformational or charismatic leaders e.g. (Bennis & Nanus, 1985c) and (Kouzes & Posner, 1987).Kouzes, J.M. and Posner, B.Z., 1987. . The leadership challenge Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Three principal leadership processes are involved (Bass, 1985d)Bass, B.M., 1985. . Leadership and performance beyond expectations Free Press, New York. in achieving such outcomes: these leaders heighten followers’ awareness about the importance and value of designated goals and the means to achieve them;

they induce followers to transcend their self-interests for the good of the collective and its goals; and

they stimulate and meet their followers’ higher order needs through the leadership process and the mission.

Bass was the first organisational scholar to operationalise the transformational leadership model into a measurement instrument. As a result, more studies employ his scale than any of the other models proposed to date. As such, today four behavioural components make up the dimensions of transformational leadership:

charisma or idealised influence;


intellectual stimulation; and

individualised consideration.

In contrast to the other theories, charisma is a separate component and is defined in terms of both the leader’s behaviour (such as role modeling) and the followers’ reactions (such as trust, respect, and admiration for the leader’s ability) (Conger, 1999b).

(Bono & LLies, 2006) suggested that positive emotions play a role in the charismatic leadership process in an extensive literature linking positive affect to the same outcomes achieved by charismatic leaders (e.g., cooperation, task performance, motivation, creativity). Their aim was to examine the effects of leaders’ positive emotional expressions on follower mood and perceptions. They discovered that charismatic leaders express more positive emotions than do less charismatic leaders and that leaders’ positive emotional expressions have a direct effect on follower mood. Furthermore, they argued that both leaders’ emotional expressions and follower mood had independent effects on perceptions of leadership effectiveness and attraction to a leader.

First, (Isen, 2004) has demonstrated that positive change is associated with task performance, particularly on creative tasks, though these effects are not universal, as (George & Zhou, 2002) demonstrated that under certain conditions positive mood was negatively associated with creativity. Other studies linked group affective tone (i.e., positive group mood) to group effort and coordination (Sy, Cote & Saavedra, 2005), improved cooperation and decreased conflict among group members (Barsade, 2002), and subjective assessments of performance (Totterdel, 2000) and (Frederickson’s, 2003) broadened-and-built theory posits that positive emotions broaden the relationship between thought and action, leading to increased novelty and exploration of ideas on the part of employees who experience them. (Rousseau, 1998) suggested the possibility that high-quality relationships may develop even when only a few well specified and important resources are exchanged, such as hard work for high pay.

In the recent work of (Cicero & Pierro, 2007a), they reviewed that leadership and work outcomes are associated to social identification processes, referring both to recent developments of charismatic leadership models and to the recent developments of the social identity analysis applied to the workplace, e.g. (Abrams & Hogg, 2001). Two field surveys were conducted using 200 Italian public and private sector employees (two different working organisations). Two questionnaires were designed in order to collect data. They included different measures of charismatic leadership derived by the literature e.g. the Conger-Kanungo Charismatic Leadership Questionnaire; (Conger & Kanungo, 1994b and 1998), for Study 2), a scale to assess the degree of identification with the work-group (Van, K.D., & Van, S.E.C.M., 2000) and some scales to measure the different outcomes considered e.g., (Brown and Leigh’s effort measure, 1996) and (Mobley’s turnover intention measure, 1977). As they predicted, results of Study 1 revealed that charismatic leadership was positively related to work-group identification, and employees’ work effort was positively related to work-group identification. Work-group identification also mediates relationship between charismatic leadership and work effort. Results of Study 2 replicated the positive association between charismatic leadership and employees’ work-group identification; work-group identification is also associated with their job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, and turnover intention.

(Cicero & Pierro, 2007b) admitted that their research has some limitations. The first one to note was that a causality relation cannot be inferred due to the cross-sectional nature of the data, although it was one of the most-used methods in applied and field psychological research. They suggested that future investigations, then, should adopt an experimental or longitudinal design. A second one was represented by the fact that the criteria variables had been assessed by paper-and-pencil self-report measures, which may reflect participants’ perceptions rather than objective realities. However, some of the analysed variables (e.g., work-group identification, turnover intention, job involvement, etc. pertain exclusively to individuals’ perceptions and feelings, so only a few of these measures (for instance leadership style and performance) should be assessed through actual behaviours and more objective measures in order to substantiate the results obtained. They concluded that their results enlarged the knowledge of the dynamic that may affect work outcomes and underline the tangible relevance of social identification processes and, in particular, the relevance of employees’ identification with the work-group to the organisation life.

4.1.3 Concept between Instrumental, transformational and transactional leadership

Research on leadership started with a concern for identification of leadership traits, so that this might be used to as a basis for management selection and training. When the relationship of such traits to organisation effectiveness proved weak, researchers sought to emphasise specific leadership behaviours, starting with participative management, and the later behavioural research on social/task and instrumental leadership behaviours, revealed the complexity of leadership and showed the futility of simple answers according to (Vasu, Stewart & Garson, 1998).

Current notions of leadership in particular, transformational leadership perspectives see (Hunt, 1999b), (Lowe & Gardner, 2000) fail to address the strategic and task-oriented developmental functions of leaders (referred to as “instrumental leadership” by (Antonakis & House, 2002), see also (Yukl, 1999). Theoretically, these instrumental leader functions are essential for ensuring sustainable organizational and follower performance. Instrumental leadership is not included in transformational leadership theories (e.g., the full-range leadership theory of (Avolio, 1999), (Avolio & Bass, 1991), (Bass, 1985e), (Bass & Avolio, 1994, 1997), an omission that might limit:

the extent to which the full-range theory is able to predict effective leader functioning and

our understanding of the contexts in which different types of leadership are important.

(Antonakis & House, 2004) defined instrumental leadership as a class of leader behaviours concerning the enactment of leader expert knowledge toward the fulfillment of organisational-level and follower task performance, see also (Nadler & Tushman, 1990). Instrumental leadership is distinct from transformational (i.e., ideals, inspirationally based, etc.) and transactional (i.e., exchange-based) leadership and encompasses two subclasses of leader behaviours. Each of these subclasses, in turn, consists of two factors:

strategic leadership – leaders actions centered on environmental scanning strategy formulation and

follower work facilitation – leaders actions focused on facilitating follower performance.

On the other hand, transformational leadership is associated with strong personal identification with the leader, the creation of a shared vision of the future, and a relationship between leaders and followers based on far more than just the simple exchange of rewards for compliance. The ability of the leader to articulate an attractive vision of a possible future is a core element of transformational leadership (Hartog & Verburg, 1997).

Transformational leadership goes beyond the cost-benefit exchange of transactional leadership by motivating and inspiring followers to perform beyond expectations (Bass, 1985f). As (Hater & Bass, 1988) pointed out, contrasting transactional and transformational leadership does not mean the models are unrelated. Burns (1978d) thought of the two types of leadership as being at opposite ends of a continuum. However, here we follow (Bass, 1985g) who viewed transformational and transactional leadership as separate dimensions. This viewpoint implies that leaders could show both transactional and transformational behaviours. Bass argues that transformational leadership builds on transactional leadership but not vice versa. Thus, high-quality relationships have more in common with a transformational kind of relationship than with a purely transactional one (Gerstner & Day, 1997).

5.0 Conclusions

Each of the theories under consideration has evolved over time by different intellectuals and is still being studied and used today to explain modes of leader behaviour (Harris, Harris & Eplion, 2007), (Yukl, 2006b), (Sagie & Koslowski, 1994). Each of the theories considers both the leader’s effect on followers and the interaction between leader and follower.

According to (Summary Report of Accomplishments: 2003‐2008) reported that one measure of a journals influence on a field is Impact Factor and Citation Data. To calculate the impact factor, Thomson Scientific records the number of citations in a particular year to articles published in the two previous years, divided by the number of articles in the same previous years. For The Leadership Quarterly, the Impact Factors (and ranking within the categories of Management and Psychology, Applied) for the last 5 years as reported by its publisher, Elsevier, is illustrated in Appendix 1.

Another measure of journal impact is the number of full text downloads between 2003 and 2008. The number of downloads for The Leadership Quarterly increased as summarised is shown in Appendix 2. The summary of the Impact Factor, it shows there has been a substantial increase in this index between 2003 and 2007 is shown in Appendix 3.

I disagree with (House’s, 1992) article that ‘charismatic leadership’ was a new genre of leadership theory. For the fact that in the past and the present, several publication have shown significant contribution by scholars in the study and practice of charismatic leadership. Researchers have played a key role in shaping and nurturing the fields of leadership and management to generate new knowledge and insights into leadership theories.


Appendix 1.


Impact Factor

Management Rank

Psychology Rank





















Appendix 2.






2008 *Jan-Jun







Appendix 3.











Source: ISI Web of Knowledge.

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