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From a Behavioral Toward an Interactional Theory of Charisma in Organizations
Unformatted Document Text:  Student Paper Interactional Theory of Charisma 25 This model of charisma in organizations is termed interactional rather than behavioral for two specific reasons. First, while behavioral theories of charismatic leaders take into account the importance of the follower’s recognition of charisma, they do not adequately theorize the follower’s role; rather they propose that leaders have charismatic qualities, or participate in practices that help to make them charismatic, and that this happens independent of the follower. The part of the follower in such a model is simply to validate the leader’s charisma. The interactional theory proposed here pays equal attention to both the leader’s actions (thus the elaborate explanation of behavioral theories earlier in this essay) and the follower’s attributions. This model proposes that a leader must initially appear to be charismatic so as to attract a following, but that the maintenance and perpetuation of her charisma depends heavily thereafter on the follower’s perceptions of her. This theory then becomes useful in explaining the second important difference between interactional and behavioral models of charisma in that it can account for the ways in which charisma becomes routinized and turned into charisma of office. This paper has suggested that the substantiation of charisma of office is wholly dependent upon the interaction between that office and organizational members. While the charismatic office must address member concerns, members must continually perceive advantages bestowed upon them by the office. The interactional process as a site for meaning production (Deetz, 1994; Mead, 1934) then becomes the process wherein charisma of office is generated. Empirical research based on a theory of interactional charisma of office could lead to practical management solutions for how to create stronger relationships between management and workers. Also, the discussion above has shown that charisma of office is as much an attribution as it is a quality; therefore, an interactional theory may help to explain why certain roles or symbols in organizations, such as unions or technologies, are often viewed

Authors: Leonardi, Paul.
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Student Paper Interactional Theory of Charisma 25
This model of charisma in organizations is termed interactional rather than behavioral for
two specific reasons. First, while behavioral theories of charismatic leaders take into account the
importance of the follower’s recognition of charisma, they do not adequately theorize the
follower’s role; rather they propose that leaders have charismatic qualities, or participate in
practices that help to make them charismatic, and that this happens independent of the follower.
The part of the follower in such a model is simply to validate the leader’s charisma. The
interactional theory proposed here pays equal attention to both the leader’s actions (thus the
elaborate explanation of behavioral theories earlier in this essay) and the follower’s attributions.
This model proposes that a leader must initially appear to be charismatic so as to attract a
following, but that the maintenance and perpetuation of her charisma depends heavily thereafter
on the follower’s perceptions of her. This theory then becomes useful in explaining the second
important difference between interactional and behavioral models of charisma in that it can
account for the ways in which charisma becomes routinized and turned into charisma of office.
This paper has suggested that the substantiation of charisma of office is wholly dependent upon
the interaction between that office and organizational members. While the charismatic office
must address member concerns, members must continually perceive advantages bestowed upon
them by the office. The interactional process as a site for meaning production (Deetz, 1994;
Mead, 1934) then becomes the process wherein charisma of office is generated.
Empirical research based on a theory of interactional charisma of office could lead to
practical management solutions for how to create stronger relationships between management
and workers. Also, the discussion above has shown that charisma of office is as much an
attribution as it is a quality; therefore, an interactional theory may help to explain why certain
roles or symbols in organizations, such as unions or technologies, are often viewed


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