What’s Charısma

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WHAT’S CHARISMA?

CHARISMA Charisma is often used to refer to individuals who have the “gift of grace.” A unique quality, charisma sets certain individuals above ordinary mortal so they are recognized as having exceptional powers. Found in everyday people and leaders of varied groups, charisma may lead to both good and evil. A successful charismatic leader doesn’t necessarily have to be renowned by the whole world. An example of a leader that has a positive impact on our lives is a teacher. His or her charisma and enthusiasm helps students create their own visions for the future. Teachers educate, inspire and guide us to be responsible individuals. They open our minds to the unlimited options and opportunities to achieve our goals. Teachers hold all the ideals of being a charismatic leader. A charismatic person is able to interact with other people and bring forth his or her ideas and visions. He or she is capable of gaining ultimate respect and the favor of the majority with the quality of charisma. In the book “ Lord of the Flies,” a group of boys are stranded on an uninhabited island with no adult supervision. Ralph, one of the young boys, has natural qualities of leadership and therefore is elected as leader of the group. His charisma allows him to obtain this high position. Although this story is fiction, a great part of a successful leader’s national success is his charisma. He wins the favor and loyalty of his people by creating an atmosphere where he displays confidence in himself and his followers. Charismatic leaders’ movements are enthusiastic. They see well beyond their organization’s current situation and develop an inspirational vision for the future that is different from the present and they are determined to carry out the vision. This type of leadership attracts people because they are deeply influenced by their leader’s characteristics, abilities and visions. They pursue the leader’s visions and build emotional attachment to him. They give him their loyalty and total support. Adolf Hitler and Franklin D. Roosevelt can both be classified as leaders with strong charisma even though they had different political aims. Nevertheless, they were both supported and praised by their followers. Plato said that a leader must have charisma to be successful in all his actions. Without it a leader cannot fulfill his job and be head of any type of organization. Charisma holds essential value to become a leader. Continuous training or force cannot obtain charisma, the “gift of grace.” It is something mystical. It is of divine origin.

Studies and Researchs About Charisma and Charismatic Leadership

Charisma and Charismatic Leadership

"Charisma" is a Greek word meaning "gift of grace." Its earliest use can be traced to the Bible, in which St. Paul employs the term in two letters (Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12). He enumerates such things as wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, healing, and the ability to understand and express oneself in different languages as gifts (charisma) endowed by the Holy Spirit on particular people. Subsequently, in the Christian faith the term came to be ascribed to the various roles played by the members of the church as well as the gifts (charisma) bestowed by God on those members in their particular roles. For a long time, "charisma" remained a term exclusive to the Christian religion and its ecumenical practices.

In The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (1947), Max Weber wrote:

The term charisma will be applied to a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader. [emphasis added]

Weber saw charisma as one of three forms of authority. Charismatic authority is obeyed because of faith in a leader endowed with supernatural qualities. The other two are traditional and legal-rational authorities. Only the last type is related to modern bureaucracy. Of the three, charismatic authority is the most unstable. There is no charisma without a leader. To survive after its source passes, it has to be either traditionalized or rationalized – a process Weber called routinization. When routinized, charisma loses much of its aura and the motivational powers associated with it.

Weber attributed charisma to prophets (Mohammed), saviors (Jesus), and war heroes. Friedrich (1961) wrote that charisma, as first proposed by Weber, was to designate "the kind of leadership, epitomized by men like Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, and the like, who possessed a transcendent ‘call,’ a belief, shared by their followers, in a divine being, who had called them to their founding enterprise."

It is important to note that Weber’s treatment of charisma is free of value judgment. He attributed it equally to great men as well as "shamans, …berserks, and magicians…who [are] subject to epileptoid seizures as a means of falling into trances." Contrasting charismatic authority with the other two types of authority, he explained:

Charismatic authority is thus specifically outside the realm of everyday routine and the profane sphere. In this respect, it is sharply opposed both to rational, and particularly bureaucratic, authority, and to traditional authority….Both rational and traditional authorities are specifically forms of everyday routine control of action, while the charismatic type is the direct antithesis of this.

Gerth and Mills (1946) state that:

Charisma…is used by Weber to characterize self-appointed leaders who are followed by those who are in distress and who need to follow the leader…. Miracles and revelations, heroic feats of valor and baffling success are characteristic marks of their stature. Failure is their ruin…. Charisma is opposed to all institutional routines, those of tradition and those subject to rational management. [emphasis added]

They go on to contrast charismatic structures with bureaucratic ones, maintaining that

the charismatic structure knows nothing of a form or of an ordered procedure of appointment or dismissal. It knows no regulated "career," "advancement," "salary," or regulated and expert training of the holder of charisma or of his aides. It knows no agency of control or appeal… nor does it embrace permanent institutions like our bureaucratic "departments."

Trice and Beyer (1986) delineate Weber’s definition of charisma into five components:

1. an "extraordinarily gifted" person;

2. a social crisis or situation of desperation;

3. a set of ideas providing a radical solution to the crisis;

4. a set of followers who are convinced that the gifted person has a direct link to divine powers; and

5. the validation of charisma through repeated successes attributed to the transcendental powers of the leader.

For charismatic leaders to emerge, say Trice and Beyer, supernatural, superhuman, or exceptional powers have to be attributed to them because of the transcendental qualities people see in them. They must have a mission, espouse radical innovations, challenge established practices, and, most important, have a vision for the future. And an integral part of charisma is the followers’ belief in the charismatic’s "link to divine powers." The followers see solutions to their problems and crises in the mission of the charismatic leader and his miraculous, transcendental powers.

Not all researchers have agreed with Weber’s concept of charisma. Friedrich, a political scientist, appears to have been the first to criticize Weber’s secularization of charisma. He accused Weber of generalizing a religious concept to secular situations that are far removed from the nonrational, belief-based ambient necessary for charisma to take root. According to Friedrich, the followers’ belief that their charismatic leader receives his charisma from divine sources is an essential part of charisma. Because a strong or general belief in a transcendent being is absent in modern political settings, Friedrich argued that there was no role for charisma in politics.

When Friedrich wrote his article, charisma as a concept had become a fad in political science research. Objecting to this arbitrary borrowing of a purely religious concept, he asserted, "At the present time, charismatic leadership is of minor importance, simply because the faith in a transcendent being is not sufficiently strong to generally provide an adequate basis for legitimizing any political leadership." Charismatic leadership, he said, is based on "a transcendent call by a divine being, believed in by both the person called and those with whom he has to deal in exercising his calling." Differentiating between charismatic and inspirational leadership, he averred that overly enthusiastic political science researchers confused the two. Charisma necessarily connotes transcendental powers, whereas inspiration does not. In a charismatic situation, the followers believe that the leader’s quality is supernatural, a gift from God; in an inspirational situation, the quality is merely unusual. Friedrich insists that not every leader who inspires confidence should necessarily qualify as a charismatic.

Bryman (1992) attempts to respond to Friedrich’s objections. But instead of concentrating on the main points, he focuses on side issues, accusing Friedrich of, among other things, taking exception to "applying ideas stemming from one area [of research] to another." This was not Friedrich’s main objection. He was against generalizing charisma to secular settings because such settings are not conducive to fostering transcendental beliefs – an essential ingredient of charisma.

Like Friedrich, Etzioni (1961) unreservedly rejected the idea that Weberian charisma could apply to modern organizational settings. The influence that managers wield over their subordinates and employees cannot be called charisma, he maintained. According to Etzioni, charisma is much more "diffuse and intense" than any influence a manager could ever exercise in the workplace, and more characteristic of political and religious leaders than people of practical affairs. Wanting to retain the term, Etzioni coined his own definition of charisma as "the ability of an actor to exercise diffuse and intense influence over the normative orientations of other actors." This definition, however, did not gain acceptance among researchers and scholars.

Shils (1965) championed an attributional concept of charisma, something that followers attribute to their leaders as a result of their mutual interactions. He claimed that charisma can be attributed not only to individuals but also to institutions, roles, norms, or even symbols through the perceived connection of these things to the extraordinary powers of the leader. But despite this broadened concept, Shils emphasized the importance of a belief in transcendence for follower acceptance of charisma. The emergence of charisma, he maintained, is limited to leaders of religious, social, or moral movements whose adherents are disposed to ascribe transcendental powers to those leaders or their institutions.

Willner (1984) attributes four characteristics to a charismatic leader-follower relationship: (1) the leader is considered divine or semi-divine; (2) he is believed to be endowed with extraordinary qualities, even supernatural or superhuman ones; (3) followers accept his authority unconditionally; and (4) followers become highly committed to him. Bryman concedes that with such an "exclusive" characterization, very few – if any – modern leaders would qualify as charismatic.

Until House (1977) and the researchers who followed his lead came onto the scene, charisma, although generalized, still retained some of its transcendental connotations. But he and his associates succeeded in demystifying the term, completely divesting it of its religious meaning and reducing it to its traits and behavioral manifestations and the effects it is purported to produce in followers. House contends that charismatic leadership should be defined in terms of its effects on the followers: trust in the validity of the leader’s beliefs; the affinity of their beliefs with those of the leader; unquestioning acceptance of the leader; feelings of affection and devotion for the leader; willing obedience to, identification with, and emulation of the leader; emotional involvement in the mission; heightened goals; and the feeling that they will be able to contribute to the accomplishment of the mission.

House and Baetz (1979) attribute three characteristics to charismatic leadership: (1) extremely high levels of self-confidence, (2) dominance, and (3) a strong conviction in the moral righteousness of their beliefs. House, Spangler, and Woycke (1991) define charisma as "the ability of a leader to exercise diffuse and intense influence over the beliefs, values, behavior, and performance of others through his or her own behavior, beliefs, and personal example." They see charisma as a "relationship or bond between a leader and subordinates" – an attribution assigned by the followers coupled with personality traits intrinsic to the leader. Moreover, a follower’s belief in the charismatic’s divine link is watered down to "inspirational powers." Note that in this instance, "inspirational powers" has no divine connotations. Inspiration as defined by Trice and Beyer is "the extent to which a leader stimulates enthusiasm among subordinates for the work of the group and says things to build their confidence in their ability to successfully perform assignments and attain group objectives."

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