Charisma and Charismatic Leadership
- Fenwick W. EnglishFenwick W. EnglishBall State University
That some of the characteristics of leaders, ancient and modern, involve the ability of a leader to connect with and create an emotional bond with followers is an age-old documented phenomenon. Academic studies of charisma, as a special gift from the gods, have proven disappointing. Finding predictable descriptors about who is or is not such a leader have not revealed the kind of scientific reliability believed to be required to stand the test of context free generalization. Studies about charismatic leaders have shifted from compiling lists of common traits or behaviors, to recognition that situational context and culture in which a leader functions is a more reliable guide to what leaders with charisma do and what lies behind their common agendas throughout history. There are different types of charismatic leaders depending on their motivation and who benefits from their ministrations. Bureaucracies do not require leaders to be charismatic because the authority of bureaucracy is rational and legal, not emotional. Yet the essence of transformational leadership is the emotional bond between leaders and followers. Such a bond is independent of the moral legitimacy of any agenda which units them.