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From a Behavioral Toward an Interactional Theory of Charisma in Organizations
Unformatted Document Text:  Student Paper Interactional Theory of Charisma 7 continued the study of charisma in religious leaders such as Joseph Smith (King, Sawyer, & Behnke, 1998) and Romaine-la-Prophetesse (Rey, 1998). Following the Weberian model contemporary scholars have critiqued charismatic leaders based on their narrative skill, communication strategies, and risk-taking abilities. Such qualities provide a description of charismatic leadership as a personality trait (Wren, 1994) while hallmarking its importance as a communication-based practice (Boss, 1976; Lewis, 1988). Returning once again to Weber, legitimate authority is granted or recognized by the subject, not forced upon him; charisma must be recognized, not imposed. Weber’s motive for delineating the qualities of a charismatic leader was to show how charisma could become a type of authority in the newest technology of his day: The organization – so defined: An “organization” (Betrieb) is a system of continuous purposive activity of a specific kind. A “corporate organization” (Betriebsverband) is an associative social relationship characterized by an administrative staff devoted to such continuous purposive activity (1968, p. 15). Weber’s deliberate use of quotations around the word “organization” shows his difficulty in defining the object of his study. Realizing that most social action of his day was taking place within the confines of this new technology prompted him to examine how leadership practices became instantiated in organizational life and transmuted into authoritative structures that produced the now legendary “iron cage.” Defining charisma as a form of authority, however, put Weber in an awkward position. Authority structures conditioning administrative orders verwaltungsordnung governed by bureaucracies must be lasting since the bureaucracy is one of, if not, the most stable social structures. Yet Weber clearly explains that the quality he takes to be charisma is by its very nature “not an ‘institutional’ and permanent structure, but rather, where

Authors: Leonardi, Paul.
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Student Paper Interactional Theory of Charisma 7
continued the study of charisma in religious leaders such as Joseph Smith (King, Sawyer, &
Behnke, 1998) and Romaine-la-Prophetesse (Rey, 1998). Following the Weberian model
contemporary scholars have critiqued charismatic leaders based on their narrative skill,
communication strategies, and risk-taking abilities. Such qualities provide a description of
charismatic leadership as a personality trait (Wren, 1994) while hallmarking its importance as a
communication-based practice (Boss, 1976; Lewis, 1988).
Returning once again to Weber, legitimate authority is granted or recognized by the
subject, not forced upon him; charisma must be recognized, not imposed. Weber’s motive for
delineating the qualities of a charismatic leader was to show how charisma could become a type
of authority in the newest technology of his day: The organization – so defined:
An “organization” (Betrieb) is a system of continuous purposive activity of a
specific kind. A “corporate organization” (Betriebsverband) is an associative
social relationship characterized by an administrative staff devoted to such
continuous purposive activity (1968, p. 15).
Weber’s deliberate use of quotations around the word “organization” shows his difficulty in
defining the object of his study. Realizing that most social action of his day was taking place
within the confines of this new technology prompted him to examine how leadership practices
became instantiated in organizational life and transmuted into authoritative structures that
produced the now legendary “iron cage.” Defining charisma as a form of authority, however, put
Weber in an awkward position. Authority structures conditioning administrative orders
verwaltungsordnung governed by bureaucracies must be lasting since the bureaucracy is one of,
if not, the most stable social structures. Yet Weber clearly explains that the quality he takes to be
charisma is by its very nature “not an ‘institutional’ and permanent structure, but rather, where


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