Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Is the Charismatic Leader a Super Hero?

The Charismatic leadership model offers other challenges to researchers. Often charismatic leaders are viewed as superheroes that swoop down in a moment of need, reminiscent of fictional characters such as Batman and Superman. Within organizational development, finding these heroes becomes even more challenging during times of crisis. Jacobsen (2001) showed that all the conditions that should create the charismatic leader’s appearance, does not. Shamir, House, and Arthur (noted within Jacobsen’s study) mapped the conditions when charismatic leaders appear. The charismatic leader’s appearance is most apt when: 1. The situation is perceived to threaten important values, 2. The relationship between performance and goal achievement is nebulous, 3. The situation is unstable, and 4. The task requires exceptional effort. Attempting to reconcile some sense of pragmatism between the superhuman traits under Jacobsen’s concept with the realism under Callan’s views makes identifying the traits, conditions, and environment that much more problematic to uncover.

Jacobsen tried to bridge the gap empirically by identifying six historical figures deemed charismatic by their transforming an organization, country, or movement. Some individuals included John F. Kennedy, Lee Iacocca, and Adolf Hitler. The biggest challenge with attempting to gauge the charismatic leadership models’ impact on organizational development under Jacobsen is that it happens after the fact. Once the event is over and recorded by history, researchers are tasked with attempting to analyze and articulate what happened. This is more the challenge with monumental events. The impact of the event cannot be thought until it transpires. Contemporary CEOs such as the late automotive designer John DeLorean and Hewlett Packard’s (HP) Carly Fiorina, who was ousted by HP, are not emblematic of the invincibility attributed to the charismatic leadership model. Though they were rising stars at one point of their careers, they could not maintain the luster of the charismatic leader. The subjectivity of the charismatic leadership model makes it such that success is measured far into the future compared to the objective standards ascribed to the traditional leadership model. With the traditional leadership model, the CEO enhances stakeholder profitability, cuts costs, and expands into new markets or does not.

Jacobsen, C. (2001 Spring). Dynamics of charismatic leadership: A process theory, simulation model, and tests. Leadership Quarterly, 12(1), 75.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Impact of Charismatic Leaders Founding Organizations

Though the impact of the charismatic leadership model is often discussed within established organizations, there are other challenges with charismatic leadership when the leader is the founder or owner of an organization. Hernandez and Leslie (2001) identified some challenges of charismatic leaders who founded organizations and the leaders’ inability to move forward or select a successor. The potential void left by the charismatic leader’s departure creates a degree of insecurity throughout the organization. Anxiety is developed among frontline personnel as well as organizational stakeholders become overly dependent or ambivalent over the potential void left by the charismatic leader who produces split loyalties. At the end of a charismatic leader’s reign, such uncertainty and fractured loyalties could divide the organization. Hernandez and Leslie went on to say that an organization’s continuity is better served when the charismatic leader exerts influence in creating a vision for the future of the organization as opposed to allowing frenzy within the infrastructure. Also the natural fear of the unknown within individuals could be ameliorated through clear and consistent communication. Additionally, the board of directors could be proactive in identifying potential concerns in operations before these concerns trickle down to the lower echelon of the organization.


Hernandez, C.M., and Leslie, D.R. (2001 Summer). Charismatic leader the aftermath. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 11(4), 493.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Charismatic Leadership Model is Difficult to Measure Objectively

Researchers are challenged with developing instruments to measure the impact of charismatic leadership on organizational development. At first look it would seem logical that the same measures that apply to measuring other leadership models should be apropos for measuring charismatic leadership. Rowold and Laukamp (2009) reported that existing empirical support highlights the positive relationship between charismatic leadership and subjective indicators as important to organizational success. However, there are few studies that have examined the relationship between charismatic leadership and objective measures. Rowold and Laukamp asserted that this lack of measuring objectivity makes it difficult to view charismatic leadership through objective lenses. Following Rowold and Laukamp’s perspective to its logical conclusion suggest that charismatic leadership is difficult to validate because of its subjective nature. If charismatic leadership is founded on the vagaries and capriciousness of individualized responses, it becomes not only challenging to quantify its effectiveness but also to decipher the immutable principles that can be taught to budding leaders and managers within corporate structures.


Rowold, J., and Laukamp, L. (2009 Oct.). Charismatic leadership and objective indicators. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 58(4), 602-621

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Following Charismatic Leaders

Yukl (1999) acknowledged the strong personal identification followers have with charismatic leaders as a means of solving problems germane to the needs of followers. Yukl stopped short in his assessment by suggesting that followers identified more with the mission than with the charismatic leader when their needs were tied to the mission. Yukl also pointed to researchers often looking at the socially acceptable behavior of charismatic leaders to achieving a goal and not the manipulative practices sometimes practiced by charismatic leaders over followers. Researchers have preconceived notions about charismatic leadership and followership that often becomes self-fulfilling prophecies. Researchers either believed that charismatic leadership is directly related to organizational advancement or to organizational regression. Yukl suggested that there were opportune times when charismatic leadership was most effective for organizational development as well as providing the most advantageous opportunities for followers. These opportune times for charismatic leaders are: When a visionary entrepreneur overcomes difficulty in establishing a new organization, a guru of a new religion, a passionate revolutionary who transforms a corrupt organization from the ground up, and a manager who rescues a company from the brink of extinction.


Yukl. G. (1999 Summer). An evaluation of conceptual weaknesses in transformational and charismatic leadership theories. Leadership Quarterly, 10(2), 285.