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From a Behavioral Toward an Interactional Theory of Charisma in Organizations
Unformatted Document Text:  Student Paper Interactional Theory of Charisma 11 Modern behavioral theories of charismatic leadership have built heavily on the qualities of organizational leadership outlined by these classic scholars. In addition to physical attributes (Bryman, 1992), characteristics and behaviors of charismatic leaders have been meticulously studied so as to be able to replicate the qualities possessed by them. Behling and McFillen (1996) outline several common behaviors of charismatic leaders including demonstration of empathy, articulation of vision, projected self-assurance, and the ability to empower followers (p. 166). Similarly, Nahavandi (1997) proposes that charismatic leaders are self-confident, have extraordinary communication skills, show high levels of personal energy as well as high levels of commitment and conviction about the correctness of their own ideas (p. 185). In organizational life, charisma stems form a leader’s constant advocacy for the future (Conger & Kanungo, 1987) and for change (Nadler & Tushman, 1990). These trait-qualities correspond directly to the hypotheses for a behavioral theory of charismatic leadership outlined in much detail by Conger and Kanungo (1987) and have become the hallmarks of charismatic leadership taught by management professionals (DuBrin, 1997). In sum, charismatic leaders use the qualities discussed herein to have profound and lasting effects on their followers (House, 1977). They enter into an organization and dramatically change its direction by utilizing practices of persuasion, empathy, and control. In teasing out the behavior characteristics of charismatic leaders, scholars of leadership and organization have demystified the notion of the “gift” so eloquently described by Weber, and have transformed the qualities of the charismatic leader into practices that can be taught and replicated. Such ideas represent organizational “psychologizing” of Weber’s essentially sociological and historical account of charisma; if it is truly a gift it cannot be replicated. Weber noted that the charismatic leader was, more than anything, a revolutionary figure and that in its

Authors: Leonardi, Paul.
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Student Paper Interactional Theory of Charisma 11
Modern behavioral theories of charismatic leadership have built heavily on the qualities
of organizational leadership outlined by these classic scholars. In addition to physical attributes
(Bryman, 1992), characteristics and behaviors of charismatic leaders have been meticulously
studied so as to be able to replicate the qualities possessed by them. Behling and McFillen
(1996) outline several common behaviors of charismatic leaders including demonstration of
empathy, articulation of vision, projected self-assurance, and the ability to empower followers (p.
166). Similarly, Nahavandi (1997) proposes that charismatic leaders are self-confident, have
extraordinary communication skills, show high levels of personal energy as well as high levels of
commitment and conviction about the correctness of their own ideas (p. 185). In organizational
life, charisma stems form a leader’s constant advocacy for the future (Conger & Kanungo, 1987)
and for change (Nadler & Tushman, 1990). These trait-qualities correspond directly to the
hypotheses for a behavioral theory of charismatic leadership outlined in much detail by Conger
and Kanungo (1987) and have become the hallmarks of charismatic leadership taught by
management professionals (DuBrin, 1997). In sum, charismatic leaders use the qualities
discussed herein to have profound and lasting effects on their followers (House, 1977). They
enter into an organization and dramatically change its direction by utilizing practices of
persuasion, empathy, and control.
In teasing out the behavior characteristics of charismatic leaders, scholars of leadership
and organization have demystified the notion of the “gift” so eloquently described by Weber, and
have transformed the qualities of the charismatic leader into practices that can be taught and
replicated. Such ideas represent organizational “psychologizing” of Weber’s essentially
sociological and historical account of charisma; if it is truly a gift it cannot be replicated. Weber
noted that the charismatic leader was, more than anything, a revolutionary figure and that in its


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