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From a Behavioral Toward an Interactional Theory of Charisma in Organizations
Unformatted Document Text:  Student Paper Interactional Theory of Charisma 8 its ‘pure’ type is at work, it is the very opposite of the institutionally permanent” (1968, p. 21). It is here that Weber’s concept of charisma in organizations becomes unclear and shows an underdevelopment of the subject in his writings (Riesebrodt, 1999). And it is from this opaque description of the phenomenon that studies of charisma forked into two separate streams of study: Charisma as a behavior, and charisma as a quality of an office. The next section will explore the development of charisma as a behavior, a quality to be obtained by an organizational leader. Charisma as a Trait in Leaders In an attempt to understand how charisma works, many organizational theorists have looked to the characteristics of charismatic leaders (Conger & Kanungo, 1998; House, Spangler, & Woycke, 1991; Waldman, Bass, & Einstein, 1987). These efforts have largely attempted to expand Weber’s ideas of charisma as a gift. The inherent quality of a leader who possesses some special trait that makes others follow has been an area of interest to organizational theorists and leadership practitioners. Yet the popularization of the notion of charisma had long removed it from consideration as a serious authority for organizing (Rieserbodt, 1999). Conger and Kanungo’s (1987) formulation of a behavioral theory of charismatic leadership moved toward taking seriously the notion that there were certain things someone with charisma does to get people to follow, and that if charismatic leadership was only theorized sufficiently, and such characteristics distilled from the practices of actual charismatic leaders, then charisma could be taught to organizational leaders. In attempting to see what charisma is, it is instructive to see what it is not. On this point Weber makes an historical generalization: “It is the fate of charisma, whenever it comes into the

Authors: Leonardi, Paul.
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Student Paper Interactional Theory of Charisma 8
its ‘pure’ type is at work, it is the very opposite of the institutionally permanent” (1968, p. 21). It
is here that Weber’s concept of charisma in organizations becomes unclear and shows an
underdevelopment of the subject in his writings (Riesebrodt, 1999). And it is from this opaque
description of the phenomenon that studies of charisma forked into two separate streams of
study: Charisma as a behavior, and charisma as a quality of an office. The next section will
explore the development of charisma as a behavior, a quality to be obtained by an organizational
leader.
Charisma as a Trait in Leaders
In an attempt to understand how charisma works, many organizational theorists have
looked to the characteristics of charismatic leaders (Conger & Kanungo, 1998; House, Spangler,
& Woycke, 1991; Waldman, Bass, & Einstein, 1987). These efforts have largely attempted to
expand Weber’s ideas of charisma as a gift. The inherent quality of a leader who possesses some
special trait that makes others follow has been an area of interest to organizational theorists and
leadership practitioners. Yet the popularization of the notion of charisma had long removed it
from consideration as a serious authority for organizing (Rieserbodt, 1999). Conger and
Kanungo’s (1987) formulation of a behavioral theory of charismatic leadership moved toward
taking seriously the notion that there were certain things someone with charisma does to get
people to follow, and that if charismatic leadership was only theorized sufficiently, and such
characteristics distilled from the practices of actual charismatic leaders, then charisma could be
taught to organizational leaders.
In attempting to see what charisma is, it is instructive to see what it is not. On this point
Weber makes an historical generalization: “It is the fate of charisma, whenever it comes into the


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