Charisma is a specific quality of leaders that affects the followers to perceive it as desirable and therefore willing to follow, sometimes unconditionally. Charisma has spiritual origin and it is inaccessible to ordinary people (Aleksic, Babic, & Eric, J. 2012, p. 699).

Charisma is most often manifested in a crisis, when the leader with a specific personal characteristics and radical vision arise, offering a solution and attracting followers to believe in his/her extraordinary abilities. Therefore, charismatic leadership is "the collective excitement produced by unusual events and yielding to heroes of any kind". Charismatic leaders destroy old and re-establish new organizational framework, resulting in organizational transformation and identification with charismatic leadership (Aleksic, Babic, & Eric, J. 2012, p. 699).

Sociologist Max Weber (1968) introduced the term charisma in the nineteenth century; he described charismatic leadership as a non-rational form of authority, creating the sociological foundations for the ongoing debate over charisma today. According to Weber, charisma is defined by a specifically “supernatural” trait that emerges in natural leaders during times of distress (18-19) (Sandberg & Moreman, 2011, p. 235).

Leader charisma has been defined as “the ability of a leader to exercise diffuse and intense influence over the beliefs, values, behavior, and performance of others through their own behavior, beliefs, and personal example” (House, Spangler, & Woycke, 1991, p, 366). Leader charisma stems from leaders’ “raw” charismatic behaviors. More specifically, it is “an attributional phenomenon” (Conger & Kanungo, 1987, p. 639) in which followers ascribe leaders’ actual charismatic behaviors to the leaders’ charisma (Klein & House, 1995). Examples of specific leader charismatic behaviors which followers attribute to charisma include expressing leaders’ own desire to reform the status quo, removing environmental constraints for change, providing attractive and inspiring vision, emphasizing collective identity and interests, plus taking personal risks and being self-sacrificing (Conger & Kanungo, 1987; Conger, Kanungo, & Menon, 2000; Den Hartog, De Hoogh, & Keegan, 2007; Shamir, Zakay, Breinin, & Popper, 1998). While watching and interpreting these actual leader behaviors, followers would infer a dispositional construct of leader charisma (Conger, 1999), suggesting that leader charismatic behaviors precede leader charisma (Kwak, 2012, p.56).

The Greek word charisma means “divinely inspired gift.”  Weber used the term “charisma” to explain a 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.  charisma is “a distinct social relationship between the leader and follower, in which the leader presents a revolutionary idea, a transcendent image or ideal which goes beyond the immediate ... or the reasonable; while the follower accepts this course of action not because of its rational likelihood of success ... but because of an effective belief in the extraordinary qualities of the leader.” (Lussier & Achua, 2010, p. 335).


Aleksic, V., Babic, V., & Eric, J. (2012). Why charisma matters? Domination of charismatic leadership style in Serbian enterprises. TTEM - Technics Technologies Education Management, 7(3), 698-705.

Kwak, W. (2012). Charismatic Leadership Influence on Empowered and Less Empowered Followers' Voice: A Mediated Moderation Model. Journal Of Leadership, Accountability & Ethics, 9(1), 56-70.

Lussier, R. N. & Achua, C. F. (2010). Leadership: Theory, application, and skill development (4th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Sandberg, Y., & Moreman, C. M. (2011). Common Threads among Different Forms of Charismatic Leadership. International Journal Of Business & Social Science, 2(9), 235-240. 

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