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From a Behavioral Toward an Interactional Theory of Charisma in Organizations
Unformatted Document Text:  Student Paper Interactional Theory of Charisma 5 important challenge Weber’s work poses for modern sociology” (p. ix). The implications of this relationship extend beyond the domain of sociology and propose to explain the relationship between organizational culture and authority as it pertains to management studies and communication as well as many twentieth century organizational phenomena such as Nazism. I begin by reviewing Weber’s dense explication of the concept of charisma as it pertains to organizations and then review contemporary behavioral theory on the qualities of charismatic leaders. Then, once again invoking Weber, I will attempt to provide an overview of how charisma becomes routinized through interaction between organizational members and charismatic offices. Finally, I conclude with implications addressing the institutionalization of charisma and its continuation in the absence of the charismatic leader. Charisma and Organizations The concept of charisma comes to us via Weber through his meditations on bureaucracy. Because this is a tale oft told I will spare the details. However, I believe it is important to refresh briefly on the origin of the concept to more fully understand how and why it has been appropriated in modern organizational theory. Weber (1947) observes three types of authority in bureaucratic organizations: Rational-legal, traditional, and charismatic. The first two types of authority, rational-legal and traditional, are made legitimate through social status, whereas charismatic authority comes directly from special qualities only the leader possesses (King, Sawyer, & Behnke, 1998). Much of Weber’s murky discussion of charisma arises out of a need to explain the essence of these “special qualities” inherent in the charismatic leader, and their power and presence in organizational settings. I will begin with a discussion of the first part of this formulation: The special qualities of the charismatic leader.

Authors: Leonardi, Paul.
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Student Paper Interactional Theory of Charisma 5
important challenge Weber’s work poses for modern sociology” (p. ix). The implications of this
relationship extend beyond the domain of sociology and propose to explain the relationship
between organizational culture and authority as it pertains to management studies and
communication as well as many twentieth century organizational phenomena such as Nazism. I
begin by reviewing Weber’s dense explication of the concept of charisma as it pertains to
organizations and then review contemporary behavioral theory on the qualities of charismatic
leaders. Then, once again invoking Weber, I will attempt to provide an overview of how
charisma becomes routinized through interaction between organizational members and
charismatic offices. Finally, I conclude with implications addressing the institutionalization of
charisma and its continuation in the absence of the charismatic leader.
Charisma and Organizations
The concept of charisma comes to us via Weber through his meditations on bureaucracy.
Because this is a tale oft told I will spare the details. However, I believe it is important to refresh
briefly on the origin of the concept to more fully understand how and why it has been
appropriated in modern organizational theory. Weber (1947) observes three types of authority in
bureaucratic organizations: Rational-legal, traditional, and charismatic. The first two types of
authority, rational-legal and traditional, are made legitimate through social status, whereas
charismatic authority comes directly from special qualities only the leader possesses (King,
Sawyer, & Behnke, 1998). Much of Weber’s murky discussion of charisma arises out of a need
to explain the essence of these “special qualities” inherent in the charismatic leader, and their
power and presence in organizational settings. I will begin with a discussion of the first part of
this formulation: The special qualities of the charismatic leader.


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