A Model of Charismatic Leadership

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A Model of Charismatic Leadership





According to Sandberg and  Moreman (2011) leadership is an attribution that people make about other individuals. A lot of literature on leadership has been developed. Available literature on this subject has focused on the personal traits that characterize leadership, the relationship between leaders and followers and the conditions that positively impact on leadership.  This paper focuses on charismatic leadership.


Leadership research has  a range of definitions. Krech and Cruthcield (1948) defines leadership as the focus of group processes. This definition positions a leader as the nucleus for integrating group activity. This central position allows a leader to coordinate all the activities that occur in an organizational setting.

Leadership is also viewed as a personality and its effects. Following this definition a leader could viewed as a person who is more than ordinarily efficient in carrying psychosocial stimuli to others. The third school of thought tends to view leadership as an art of inducing compliance. Following this dentition, a leader should be able to induce a subordinate to behave in a desired manner. Leadership is also defined in terms of power relationships among members of a group. Power is regarded as a form of influence relationship. In my view leadership, is vital in deciding what is done and influencing others to do it. Leadership is also a process whereby an individual is able to influence others to achieve a common goal.

A lot of leadership-related theories have been developed. One of the earliest theories ever developed in the great man theory. The theory asserts that leaders are born with certain traits where a trait is defined as a generalized and a focalized neuro-psychic system. The great man theory later gave way to the Trait theory. Just like the great man theory, the trait theory contends that there is a finite set of personality characteristics that distinguish effective leaders from ineffective leaders. According to Sandberg and  Moreman, (2011)  research on trait theory began in 1904. The trait approach has inspired many studies. In such one study Sandberg and  Moreman, (2011)  found out that several traits are associated with leadership. In the study Ghiselli further found out that the outstanding traits are: intelligence, supervisory traits, initiative, self-assurance and individuality (). The perception that leadership is an innate ability and as such it cannot be taught has attracted the interest of researchers. In regard, to charismatic leadership, Sandberg and  Moreman, (2011)are of the view that, charismatic qualities can be acquired through leadership training.

Charismatic leadership

Translated in Greek, charisma means “gift of grace” (Sandberg, &  Moreman, 2011). The term charismatic was first introduced by the sociologist Max Weber and is described  as the non-rational form of authority. On the other hand, Weber described charisma as the supernatural trait that emerges in natural leaders during times of distress (Sandberg, &  Moreman, 2011). Charismatic leadership represents the ‘new leadership genre.’ In theology, charismatic leadership is defined as the endowment with the gift of divine grace. The Weberian model of charisma contains five elements:  a charismatic leader has extraordinary qualities, charismatic leadership occurs during times of desperation and distress, a charismatic leader has a radical vision that offers a solution to the crisis, charismatic leadership cannot be productive without followers who are attracted to the leader and come to believe in his or her exceptional powers and radical vision, and there must be a validation of the leader’s extraordinary gifts by repeated processes. Charismatic leadership is prevalent whether in the business or the political world.

There exist three different interpretations on charismatic leadership: sociological, religious and modern interpretation. The religious interpretation is based on the idea charisma is derived from a divine power. The sociological interpretation is based on the Weber’s theories while the modern interpretation regards charismatic leaders as having intelligent, innovative, persuasive and magnetic qualities. According to the Post-Weberian or the modern interpretation, these qualities emerge in situations where people are socially, economically and politically oppressed. This paper will use the model below to look at the concepts of charismatic leadership.

Vision and goal articulation by leader

leader communication of

Reinforced follower perfomance

Leader role modelling of value systems and coaching

Diagram 1: adopted from Hunt, Baliga,  Dachler, and  Schriesheim (2004)

Key components of charismatic leadership

Cognitive abilities

Cognitive abilities are made up of creative reasoning abilities, and complex problem-solving skills. The various studies that have been conducted have established a positive relationship between cognitive ability and managerial performance, general intelligence and organizational performance, general intelligence and team decision accuracy, and leader intelligence and subordinate ratings . In regard to charismatic leadership, researchers have found a positive correlation between assessment-center measures of cognitive ability and charismatic leadership.

Attitudes and values

From my own understanding, a charismatic leader is supposed to inspire others and as such he or she should display positive traits that encourage followers to achieve a particular goal  (diagram 1). This also means a charismatic leader should have positive attitudes and values that other followers could borrow from. The available literature on this subject indicates that charismatic leadership is negatively to cynical attitudes towards organizational change. In contrast, there exists a positive correlation between charismatic leadership and attitudes such as organizational commitment, and perceived psychological empowerment. When it comes to values, charismatic leadership is positively related to traditional collectivistic, self-transcendent and self-enhancement values. The relationship between attitudes and values can be explained using the diagram below.

Diagram 2

From diagram 2, one can see that all traditional, self-transcendent, collectivistic, and self-enhancing values define charismatic leadership. In turn, charismatic leadership influences the followers to enhance managerial performance.  The self transcendent values influences the leaders to put aside his or her ambitions and pursue interests that resonate with the followers. From diagram 1 you will see that one important component is the leader’s ability to arouse the followers’ behavior. The self-sacrificing attitude is able to stimulate this behavior. At the same time, the collectivistic values enable a leader to pursue a cause that reflects the wishes of the followers. This is an important component of the charismatic leadership as illustrated in diagram 2.

Personality traits

Trait refers to a neuropscyhic structure that has the capacity to render many stimuli functionally equivalent, and to generate and control equivalent forms of adaptive and expressive behavior.  In other words, traits  refer to a collection of personal characteristics that foster a consistent pattern of leadership performance across a variety of situations or settings. The charismatic leaders require a leader to create a vision (see diagram one) and then follow through with this vision until it is actualized. However, the perceptions of the leader by followers is imperative in order to attain the necessary support. The individual traits that are associated with charismatic leadership are discussed individually in the next few chapters.


Envisioning is an important component of charismatic leadership. Charismatic leaders are required to formulate a vision and communicate the same to the followers. The vision captures the ideal goals of the organization and the values that attract the followers. In most cases, the vision challenges the status quo and as such charismatic leaders could also be referred to as transformative. Indeed, according to Somani and Krishnan (2007) the vision is not only discrepant from the status quo but it also articulates the ideological goals of the followers.

Besides communicating to the followers the right mission, other conditions are necessary for charismatic leadership to be productive. Firstly, charisma has to be institutionalized. In that case, an administrative apparatus has to be developed in order actualize the leader’s vision. Secondly, the vision of the leader must be incorporated into oral and written traditions. Thirdly, a leader should transfer charisma through rites and ceremonies. Fourthly, there should be a continued identification by organizational members with the leader’s vision. Finally, the successor should resemble the charismatic leader and he or she should continue pursuing the founder’s mission.


It is widely acknowledged that people who possess a postivie self – concept have emotional stability. Emotional stability makes such individuals to believe in their self-worth. Such individuals also develop a high generalized self-efficacy besides having an internal locus of control. From the examples of Martin Luther and Nelson Mandela I can also rightly say that charismatic leaders are persons who have overcome an inner conflict to realize their full potential. In  Somani and Krishnan’s ()view, a charismatic leadership has a positive impact on the feeling of reverence, a sense of collective identity and the perceptions of group task performance.


As you can see, in order for charismatic leadership to work, the leader must win the the followers by being honest and empathetic. A charismatic leader is always empathetic of others.  This trait requires a leader to develop insight into the needs, values and hopes of followers.

Self confidence

One of the upstanding traits of charismatic leaders is self-confidence. Self-confidence is a product of self-esteem and it helps the leader to maintain the loyalty from the followers.

Self determination

Somani and Krishnan (2007) believe that charismatic leaders possess, inner bearing, uniqueness, self-purpose for being exceptional. This trait allows the leader to focus on his personal vision as well as leading a group to accomplish a shared goal. Moreover, self determination leads to self-actualization. Leaders who are self-actualized are motivated to transfer this status to the followers he.............

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