Charisma: a double-edged sword

Published on April 27, 2022   10 min
My name is Professor Christopher Achua. I teach at the University of Virginia's College at Wise in Virginia. I teach Marketing, Strategy, and Leadership. Leadership to me is one of those courses that are particularly enjoy teaching. Today the title of my talk is, 'Charisma: A Double Edged Sword'.
Let me start with a question. What is charisma? The Greek translation for charisma means 'divinely inspired gift'. Max Weber first conceptualized the term charisma when he explained it as a form of influence based not on traditional or legal rational authority systems but rather on follower perceptions that a leader is endowed with the gift of divine inspiration or supernatural qualities. The power of charisma, as Weber saw it, is in a charismatic leader who can single-handedly visualize a transcendent vision or cause of action that is not only appealing to potential followers, but that also compels those followers to act on it because they believe the leader is extraordinarily gifted.
Charisma is about influencing followers. What are some of the influencing effects that charismatic leaders have on their followers? With charismatic leaders, followers are often inspired by the 'rightness' of the leader's vision and strong bond that develops between the two, the charismatic leader and follower. Another effect is the unconditional acceptance of the leader. The increased follower self-confidence and self-efficacy in their abilities because of their relationship with the charismatic leader. There's an increase in followers' organizational citizenship behavior, which is their commitment to the organization that the charismatic leader heads or is the leader of. There is a tendency of followers to assume greater risk because of their association with a charismatic leader. Their strong loyalty and obedience to the leader. There's increased follower motivation to set or aim for higher goals because that's what the leader wants. Finally followers' desire to align their beliefs, self-concept, cognitions and values with those of the leader.