Charismatic vs Transformational

From YWAMKnowledgeBase

This is a summary of Mary Miller's PhD thesis


Transformational Leadership and Mutuality

There is tremendous relevance and importance in identifying the influence processes used in mutuality by transforming (transformational) leaders in their interpersonal approach towards others; that is, within the dyad relationship between the leader and their respective employees, colleagues, bosses, followers, etc. When a leader is intentionally transformational, there are specific behaviours that evidence mutuality in the interpersonal relationship between the leader and others. Understanding these behaviours, known as influence processes, provides leaders who are seeking to be transformational in their interpersonal approach towards others with valuable insight into their own behaviour; as well as providing followers with far greater understanding of their leader.

In order to discuss the mutuality between transformational leadership and others, first the conceptual basis of transformational leadership must be provided. The conceptual basis for describing and defining transforming leaders provides the basis for the discussion of mutuality. The major point of clarification in conceptualizing of transforming leadership is to distinguish between transforming leadership and charismatic leadership, differentiating the leaders' focus, goals, and process.

The discussion to follow will aim to bring clarification between charismatic leadership and transforming leadership by specifically addressing differences in the respective leader's self-perceptions and persona, which is how the leader presents her/himself to others. Understanding the self-perception of the leader will be shown to have been provided by understanding the different influence processes the leader evidences towards the follower. The identification of influence processes leads to identifying and understanding mutuality in transforming leaders' interpersonal relationship with others.

Briefly, an overview is provided of how the field of leadership theorists perceive charismatic leadership in order to draw to the reader's attention the negative perceptions that are increasingly and often associated with the use of the term charismatic leadership within leadership research. Consequently, use of the term charismatic leadership without a detailed qualification of what that term means can potentially be miscommunication to leadership theorists, as well as to the average reader. Terminology can not be presumed or dismissed.

Charismatic Leadership Versus Transforming Leadership

The research literature has not reached agreement on the differences between the charismatic and transforming leadership paradigms. A number of researchers have lumped charismatic with transformational leadership (Behling & McFillen, 1996; Conger & Kanungo, 1998; Pielstick, 1998; Fiol et al, 1999; Den Hartog et al., 1999). Others have focused on transformational leadership as a unique paradigm in its own right (Burns, 1978; Shamir, 1999; Bass & Avolio, 1997; Conger, 1999; Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe, 2001). Hunt and Conger's assessment of the field, in their researching charismatic and transforming leadership, conclude that, 'there needs to be more differentiation than there has typically been in the use of the two terms' (Hunt & Conger, 1999, p. 340).

Recent analysis chronicling the history of research on transforming and charismatic leaders by Conger (1999) -- who originally lumped charismatic with transforming leaders -- allows for the two paradigms of transformation and charisma as having significant differences, and consequently identified as being two separate theories. Conger notes that the differences are in the influence process. The influence process has a great deal to do with the persona, from which self-concept and self-identity emerge with potentially significantly different goals being valued by the leader.

Some of the reasoning for researching transformational leaders as a distinct paradigm centres on the idea that transformational leaders have different expressions of persona than charismatic leader. An individual's persona is the public representation of the identity of self, our, 'psychological skin' (Jones & Butman, 1991, p. 123). The definition of persona is linked to the self-concept of the individual, and thus can be paralleled to the personal constructs[1]; of the person, rather than the archetypal representation that is sometimes associated with use of this term. The differences of persona is a seminal distinctive between transformational and charismatic leadership, indicating that the two theories are distinct paradigms. If the persona of the two leadership approaches is different, then the values and behaviour will also reflect differences. There will a difference in focus, and a difference in process; consequently, there will be a difference of influence process towards followers.

Charismatic Leadership: Weber

The theory of charismatic leadership that emerged last century (1900's) came from Weber's (1947) borrowing of the term 'charisma' from the New Testament, where it is referred to as an impartation of the Holy Spirit as a gift from God as individuals committed their lives to Jesus (Bryman, 1992).[2] Weber took the concept of 'charisma' and applied this to some leaders within society outside of the church. He coined the term 'charismatic leadership' and gave it a multi-dimensional, somewhat confusing and contradictory meaning, both good and bad (Bryman, 1992). While appreciating Weber's substantive contribution to sociology, his theorizing on charismatic leadership has not been clearly understood by many leadership theorists (Bryman, 1992).

Commentators on and users of Weber's writings on charisma have invariably disagreed wildly over the meaning, content and potential of the concept. This tendency can be attributed largely to the nature of Weber's writings on the subject. They are highly diffuse, sometimes contradictory, and often more suggestive of what is interesting and important in charisma than a definitive exposition. Indeed, if there is one thing over which writers on charisma tend to agree, it is that Weber provided a highly stimulating but frustratingly abstruse discussion. Bryman, 1992, p. 23.

Weber described charismatic leaders as representing themselves endowed with special power, but essentially an unstable force that emerged in times of stress. Swindler's study of charismatic leaders showed the need for the charismatic leader to engage in, 'exaggerated personal eccentricities, and worked to appear unpredictable and mysterious' (Bryman, 1992 citing Swindler, 1979, p. 76). From the idea of being endowed by God with special talent, as it was originally understood from the Bible, the emerging conceptualizing of the charismatic leader was identified as one who took it upon him or herself to convince others that their talents were indeed supernatural in some way.

Influence Process of Charismatic Leadership

There is agreement in the literature concerning one specific aspect in how charismatic leadership is defined; specifically, on the importance of the aspect of the persona of the charismatic leader being 'larger then life', as originally suggested by Weber in much of the literature (Weber, 1947; Bryman, 1992; House, 1995; Sosik & Dworakiovsky, 1998; Conger, 1999; Jacobsen, 2001). Charismatic leader takes time to enhance how they are perceived so they receive recognition from followers. This is because the charismatic leader is seeking for an emotional appeal, so his or her aura is the deciding factor of being a charismatic leader (Weber, 1947; House, 1977; Conger & Kanungo, 1988; Behling & McFillen, 1996; Shamir, 1998; Grint, 2002). It is through and from the use of emphasizing their personhood and their gifts that the charismatic leader has impact on the follower.

Conger & Kanungo (1988) link attribution theory with charismatic leadership, which indicates the paradigm of charismatic leadership, according to Conger, is one of perception of the follower. There is ongoing discussion regarding the leader having actual (genuine) or attributed qualities or a mixture of both (Beyer, 1999). Conger (1999) outlines the four motivational outcomes from the changes in followers' self-concepts. These include the way the follower perceives work, vision, identity with others, and sense of collective.

Argyle and Colman (1999) describe charismatic leaders as those who form strong bonds emotionally with their followers, but they state that the way this bond is established has not been adequately addressed. The strong link with emotions suggests that attribution theory might be the link with charismatic leadership. Central to the definition of charismatic leadership is the perception that the leader is exceptional in some way, and the charismatic leader has the ability to make followers believe in them. The belief in the charismatic leader is the main means of impact and influence on the follower.

The followers' perception of influence processes differentiates between transforming and charismatic leadership. The follower will identify different processes, depending on the perceptions that come from leadership interaction, which are influence processes identified in specific behaviours. The follower will perceive the influence process as mainly one of charisma for the charismatic leader. It is the follower's belief in the leader because of the charisma of the leader that is the key dynamic of influence for the follower from the leader.

The charismatic leader's focus is on their own abilities as a charismatic leader to formulate, articulate, and motivate followers to join with him or her in fulfilling the vision. This is not mutual stimulation or elevation. It is stimulation of the follower and elevation of the leader. The follower is stimulated to help the charismatic leader with the vision that the charismatic leader is articulating.


As detailed earlier, charismatic leaders articulate the vision and frame the perception that they want their followers to have in a carefully crafted manner, seeking to highlight themselves as extraordinary individuals. The leader uses this approach because the follower must go through the charismatic leader to have accurate perception of the vision, and trying to envision the follower is easier when the individual doing the envisioning has components that the follower is in awe of. Here the onus is on the leader to appear and perform in such a way that the follower joins the charismatic leader's vision.

Conger identifies his own model as coming, 'closest to the Weber's original assertions (1947)' (Conger, 1999, p. 155), and recent theory using a dramaturgical model by Gardner and Avolio (1998) also point to charismatic leaders deliberately exaggerating their abilities and identity to impress their followers. Aspects of the persona of the charismatic leader are being researched to gain an understanding of how the process of 'charisma' works within this leadership theory for both leader and follower. Gardner and Avolio's theory use Schlenker's (1985) identity theory as a basis for identifying the leader's identity, high self-esteem, and self-monitoring as key components for the charismatic leader. This seems a very promising line of research in understanding charismatic leaders.

The organizational behaviour literature describes charismatic leader's persona as possibly including elements of distance from followers, of achieving hero status, of narcissist personality tendencies, and possibly self-aggrandisement. The potentially and possibly inappropriately paternalistic and destructive self-power of the charismatic leader can have negative consequences in the life of the follower (Bryman, 1992). The power basis for the charismatic leader is described as, 'personal power (based on expert power; respect and admiration as a unique hero)', with a resultant, 'reverence and trust' (Conger & Kanungo, 1998, p. 51). The behaviours cited as charismatic by Conger and Kanungo include, 'passionate advocacy, unconventional means, strong inspirational future vision', placing the onus on the leader to stir others up as the means to attain the vision with resultant, 'reverence and trust for the leader' (Conger & Kanungo, 1998, p. 50).

Transformational Leadership: Burns

There is agreement in the field that Burns's conceptualizing of transforming leadership was seminal in providing a framework for understanding transforming leaders.

The transforming leader looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower. The result of transforming leadership is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents. Burns, 1978, p. 4.

The starting point for the research in understanding transforming leaders was Burns's (1978) in-depth historical analysis identifying transforming leaders as a unique phenomenon or theory within the field of leadership research. Burns's conceptualizing of transforming leaders thrust this paradigm into prominence. Burns's definition, quoted above, provides a definition from which transforming leaders' behaviours and conceptualizations could be assessed.

Influence Process of Transforming Leadership

It is possible to understand influence process by identifying underlying processes that are being used. This section will identify how Boulding's (1989) theory of love has concordance with Burns's (1978) definition of love, and how this association points to love -- understood as a power basis -- being an underlying process in the leader and follower dyad with the outcome of having specific influence processes used by the transforming leader.

The clarification (of what influence processes are being used by the transforming leader) can receive some insight from theory that articulates the behaviours that are descriptive of influence processes that are used when a leader has an orientation to love as a power base. Boulding's (1989) theory of love as integrating power identifies the influence process used by leaders who use love as a power base. Because the influence processes identified by Boulding (1989) have concordance with Burns's definition, then these influence processes can be used to understand the influence processes of the transforming leader.

The following discussion will briefly outline Boulding's (1989) identification of love as the basis for power, and will identify how Boulding's theorizing can be used to understand the outcome of mutuality and power sharing in the transforming leader and follower relationship, when understood from Burns's definition of transforming leadership. The implications from the discussion of mutuality and power sharing lead to a potential way to diagram the influence process (see Diagram 2) used by the transforming leader.

Boulding's Theory of Love

Boulding identifies specific types of power that are used by leaders within society, and identifies love as a type of power that is used by leaders. Boulding's theorizing centres on identifying differences in types of power, and he defines power as, 'in the human sense, power is a concept without meaning in the absence of human valuations and human decision...its widest meaning is that of a potential for change' (Boulding, 1989, p. 15). It is evident that power can not exist in a vacuum, so power always has a value base, just as it is clear that leadership has an attendant power base. Boulding brought the two concepts together, and identified attendant power bases for leadership; one potential power basis of the leader being love.

Boulding conceptualizes love as a form of power in a leader within an organization with a number of distinctive. Boulding points out that love is a form of power that integrates, and is the only form of power that is not abusive (Boulding, 1989). Boulding believed that a leader who operates out of a power base of love avoids the abusive elements that so often pervade power, and that love as a basis for leadership provides integration. Boulding states, 'the most fundamental form of integrative power is the power of love' (Boulding, 1989, p. 110), and suggests, 'integrative power as the ultimate power' (Boulding, 1989, p. 109).

Boulding describes integrative power in a number of different ways in seeking to conceptualize how integration functions within an organization. Boulding identifies the structure of integrating power as a, 'complex network of communication and learning' (Boulding, 1989, p. 117). He suggests that a reciprocal dynamic is an important aspect of integrative power; that integrative power is the enabling force within productive power in organizations. Boulding hypothesises that it might be possible to learn to have integrative power. This would involve willingness on the part of the leader to learn to institute processes that would enable reciprocity between others and him/herself.

He states that this integration, specific actions by the leader, is the key to success within organizations because these actions enable the individual to have a 'personal identity' within the organization (Boulding, 1989, p. 61). Importantly, he does not identify the leader being the one with which the individual must have a personal identity. Integration is the space that is held open for the individual to form their own identity with the organization, in whatever shape or form is important to the individual.

Boulding's concept of love as a basis of power is tangible, not emotive, although undoubtedly there will always be an emotive element associated with love. Boulding is describing love as action in identifying that love is not abusive, and that love as a power base integrates.

The definition Burns gives of transforming leadership fit the descriptors of Boulding's non-abusive and integrative power. There are strong indicators that Burns's definition alludes to the power base of the transformational leader potentially being identified as love. Burns's (1978) definition does not state the motivation or the basis of leadership, but the leaders influence process is; 'satisfying higher needs, mutual stimulation and elevation of followers' (Burns, 1978). The use of power for the transforming leader is not reverence for the leader, but the aforementioned space is held open for the follower to form a personal identity within the organization in a non-abusive manner. The specific behaviours that are used include elevation of the follower and mutual stimulation. In Burns's articulation of transformational leadership, the value base within the power base has positive impact on individuals and community (Burns, 1978), because the outcomes of the leader's input to the follower has positive consequences in the life of the follower. All of these points identify Burns's definition being a fit with Boulding's descriptors of a power base of love for the leader.

Boulding's theorizing might provide additional understanding for distinguishing between charismatic and transformational leadership. If love -- understood as a power base -- is foundational in the transforming leader, then there will be a large difference between the charismatic leader, as defined in organizational behaviour literature, and transformational leaders.

Outcomes: Mutuality and Power Sharing

Burns's definition describes transformational leaders elevating followers in the process or as a process of enacting vision. The transforming leader empowers, but Burns's definition also alludes to a mutual stimulation that elevates both follower and the leader. The aspect of mutual stimulation can be seen as the mutuality of the leader and follower relationship. Burns prefers the term 'transforming' to the term 'transformational' in describing the leader because 'transforming' captures this dimension of mutual interaction, with the implication of both leader and follower simultaneously being transformed (Bailey, 2001). The dimension of mutuality is an important aspect of transformational leadership.

Mutuality is also addressed in Boulding's thinking on power. The integration component of love as a basis of power involves a reciprocal dynamic. Boulding believes this reciprocity enables productivity within organizations.

The mutuality component, described as the ability on the part of the follower to have impact on the life of the leader, and the position of this at the very core of the definition of transforming leadership, points to the fact that this type of paradigm differs substantively from the charismatic leader paradigm.

The transformational leader has a different focus, a different process, and different goals. This can be diagrammed below:


There are two foci for the transforming leader, both the follower and the vision. These are distinct and somewhat complimentary foci. But the distinctive here is seminal because the vision is to develop the follower not only as a means to an end (getting the vision accomplished), but also as an end in itself. The leader is not doing this development of the follower out of a sense of expediency, but because it is part of his/her vision.

Transforming leadership was conceived by Burns as leaders who valued a learning process, specifically leaders who were able to learn from others. The fact that the leader seeks to receive from the follower, in Burns's definition, profiles the transformational leader as a learner, not the one who has all the answers. It is this modelling of learning that impacts the follower to perceive that they, as followers, are also learners and as such can enter into a free exchange with the leader. Boulding, referring to the structure of integrative power, stated that, 'the extent and the power of this network depends a great deal on the development of what might be called a 'learning identity' and a culture that puts a high value on learning' (Boulding, 1989, p. 118).

In some contexts, the vision of the transformational leader can be almost exclusively to impact the life of the follower, as Burns's definition suggests, and as is often the case within an educational context in a teacher and student relationship. The emphasis on mutuality allows the follower to help frame her/his own vision as part of the overall vision setting process, as well as impacting the leader to further develop the vision. This interactive process is also seminal to fields such as social work, rehabilitation work, and development programs within communities. It may be that transformational leadership is easier to implement within these contexts because the goal of these organization is already to foster mutual exchange.

Yukl (1998) identifies value internalisation as a key component of the influence process for transformational leaders. According to Yukl, the focus is not necessarily on the leader, but the goals articulated as vision and mission for the organization play a significant role for the follower. The bond the follower has to the organization is not necessarily with the leader or the characteristics of the leader, but the follower has values that align with the organizations. This is in contrast to the charismatic leader's focus on the appeal being him or herself.

Discussion of Differences

The process that is used by charismatic and transformational leader also has substantive differences. The charismatic leader is the 'head of the show', ultimately responsible to not only articulate his/her vision clearly, but also gain agreement and commitment to that specific vision. The transforming leader has openness to follower input and impact of the vision, which involves power sharing and participation. This is the mutual stimulation that Burns refers to in his definition of transforming leaders. This approach has parallel's with Senge's (1994) 'learning organization', which identifies followers and leaders as each having significant aspects of the vision that together constitutes the vision. The triangle above depicts the fact that both leader and follower have aspects of the vision. The leader allows followers to influence what the vision is. This does not take place with the charismatic leader.

The difference in process of the leaders points to a difference in the self-schemas of the leaders. The openness, which the transforming leader extends to the follower that encourages and fosters mutual stimulation, can only happen because of the leader's self-schema. Self-aggrandisement can not come into the picture here because self-aggrandisement prohibits the type of free exchange that allows for mutual stimulation to occur. In order to have an environment that fosters mutual stimulation, the power differential can not be the focus of the relationship. Boulding (1989) was aware of this, and undoubtedly this is one of the reasons he posited that integrative power and integrative leadership has its basis in love.

What role does 'charisma' play in identification of transforming leaders? The literature on transformational leadership does focus on the leader being a change agent, but the transforming leader's 'charisma' is not the defining characteristic for the transformational leader (Burns, 1978; Bass & Avolio, 1997; Beyer, 1999; Alban-Metcalfe & Alimo-Metcalfe, 2000). The need to appear larger then life or to embellish oneself or distance oneself in order to attain status by a 'charisma' that is larger then life is not characteristic of the transformational leader. This charismatic aspect of persona is not the major focus in describing transforming leaders. Mother Theresa and Ghandi are both cited by Burns (1978) as being transformational leaders who exemplify transformation, but who would not fit the criteria of charismatic or 'charisma' as Weber (1947) defined the term. It is this very fact that led Burns to identify transformational leaders as distinct from charismatic leaders. Self-aggrandisement did not factor into and/or is not necessary to the transformational leader's approach. Beyer's (1999) identifies the fact in her critique pointing out House, et al.'s (1991) identification of need for power and affiliation as central to charismatic leaders with both affiliation and achievement being negatively associated with the term. Beyer's suggests that, 'Gandhi, Mandela and Mother Theresa probably fall short, in his eyes, on need for power and dominance' (Beyer, 1999, p. 585), but then again, Mandela and Mother Theresa were not charismatic leaders. They were/are transformational leaders.

Other examples of transformational leaders include Glad and Blanton's (1997) analysis of De Klerk and Mandela. Their research concluded that 'charisma' was not the factor that created the environment for change in South Africa; rather they described De Klerk and Mandela as transformational leaders whose characteristics included offering a listening ear to followers. This is different than a larger then life personality. Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe's (2001) research also found a component of 'charisma' but this was not the key factor in follower perception of transforming leaders. The key factor in transformational leadership perception by followers in the Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe's (2001) research was the 'Genuine Concern for Others' scale. The research suggests that the focus for the transformational leader is not primarily on the self, but inclusive of others.

The discussion so far has shown that the leaders that have been identified as transforming leaders in the literature do not use charisma as their main influence process with others. The transforming leader does not focus on elevation of self, so the transforming leader's perception of self differs from the charismatic leader's perception of self. In other words, the persona (self-perception) of the leaders differentiates between these theories, as indicated by the difference in the influence processes with the follower.

The charismatic leader is responsible for 'buy in' of followers for the vision that s/he establishes. The dynamic in this type of process is leader focused. It is the leader's responsibility to continue to stimulate and envision. In contrast, the transforming leader operates on the assumption that followers have vision and need to be able to have a context where that vision is allowed to come forward. There is respect towards the follower's contribution to articulating the vision. This is the mutuality that Burns refers to.

Boulding's theory of love is a conceptual fit with aspects of Burns's definition of transforming leadership. Because love can be viewed from a base of power perspective, love can be seen as integrative; consequently, fostering transformation as an aspect of a learning environment in the relationship between leader and follower. This led to the identification of a learning environment being created with deliberation by the transforming leader possibly as a consequence of having a self-schema that includes Boulding's description of love as one of its bases.

The discussion of themed differences between charismatic/heroic leaders and transforming leader is presented in Table 1.

PLEASE NOTE: Table 1 is not representative of all differences between transforming leaders and charismatic leaders, but identifies only the discussion raised in this article.

Leader paradigm Transforming Leader Heroic/Charismatic Leader
Definition Burns's theorizing:

leader and follower reciprocal process of empowerment (Burns, 1978; Dvira & Shamir, 2003 acknowledge this definition in their recent research)

Conger & Kanungo's theorizing:

follower empowers leader via acquiescence to leader's vision (Conger & Kanungo, 1998; Dumas & Sankowsky, 1998; Jacobsen, 2001; Shamir & Howell, 2000 cited in Dvira & Shamir, 2003)

Orientation possibly servant; change agent

(Bass & Steindlmeier, 1998; Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe, 2001)

hero imaging; change agent

(Conger & Kanungo, 1998; Dumas & Sankowsky, 1998; Dorian et al., 2000)

Self-schema allows mutuality (Burns, 1978; Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe, 2001; 2001b) need for control (view mutuality as inappropriate) (Shamir et al., 1998) actors (Gardner & Avolio, 1998)
Power Orientation shares power; power basis potentially Boulding's definition of love as integrating power (Miller, 2005)

Consequences: succession not as problematic

personal power: SEA power, S symbolic is paternal symbol, E as expertise is skills and abilities and A as advocacy is personal appeal and skills of persuasion (Dumas & Sankowsky, 1998)

Consequences: succession is problematic (Conger, 1999)

Perceptions of Success mutual elevation and stimulation; followers become leaders; vision fulfilment inclusive of follower and leader vision (Burns, 1978; Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe, 2003) vision fulfilment by envisioning and stimulating followers to follow leader's vision (Shamir et al., 1998; Conger & Kanungo, 1998)
Fit across Cultures transforming leader seen in all cultures (Den Hartog et al, 1999) charismatic leader seen in all cultures (Den Hartog et al., 1999)
Leader Proximity comfortable with nearby in orientation whatever level in organization even if top leader (Miller, 2005) comfortable with distant -- usually described as top leaders (Shamir et al., 1998)

Table 2:1 Themes/differences: Transforming vs. Heroic/Charismatic Leader

Organizational Behaviour's Research Concerning Charismatic Leadership

Clearly, the discussion so far has not involved the research examining charismatic leadership as leaders within church contexts; those leaders who would describe themselves as charismatic because of their belief that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in evidence within the church today. It is to those leaders specifically that the remainder of this article is being written; to provide understanding of the term, as well as perceptions of the leadership process when the term is being used within organizational behaviour research and much of the business community.

The dictionary meaning of the term as an adjective within the phrase 'charismatic' leader means 'possessing an extraordinary ability to attract', or 'a magnetic personality'. The quality of being charismatic is seen as a dimension of the individual's personality, not a gift from God of 'charisma'. This meaning has nothing whatsoever to do with belief in the gifts of the Holy Spirit for today.

Context plays a part in understanding what the term 'charismatic leadership' means within cultures (Den Hartog et al., 1999). Certain cultures perceive charismatic leadership as malevolent and potentially destructive. The Dutch, who suffered greatly during the war, are openly sceptical of awarding hero status to leaders (Den Hartog et al., 1999).

Organizations are increasingly calling into question whether the charisma qualities of a charismatic leader are to be prized. Recent longitudinal research over 10 years with a sample of Fortune 500 companies indicated that, 'in essence, charismatic CEO's seem able to influence their compensation packages and stock prices but no other indicators of firm performance' (Tosi et al., 2004, p. 405). Apart from influencing stock prices, the charismatic leaders did not influence firm performance. Beyer's raises the concern that the negative consequences of charisma are, 'seldom addressed in empirical work' (Beyer, 1999, p. 583).

The term 'charismatic leadership' has been used by some leadership theorists to describe positive impact on society (Shamir, 2001), but this has been the centre of much debate. The consequences of a charismatic leader's impact on society have a great deal to do with the ultimate motive and agenda of the leader for good or bad (Burns, 1978). Shamir, House & Arthur (1993) developed a self-concept theory of charismatic leaders that emphasizes the leader valuing the follower's ideals as well as being impacted by the follower's willingness to be led. Shamir et al.'s theory places charismatic leaders in a positive light with the possible emphasis suggesting some charismatic leaders have elements of altruism.

However, the picture that emerges across numerous leadership theories and research is confusion about the term 'charisma' or charismatic, and it is defined as either good or bad in accordance with the model that it represents (Conger & Kanunga, 1998). Leadership research indicates that charisma can be used to impact others beneficially (as Shamir et al's model suggests) or harmfully (House, 1977; Burns, 1978; Shamir, 1995; Conger & Kanunga, 1998). No one can doubt the charismatic quality of Osama bin Laden (Kakutani, 2001), or the appeal that Hitler had to a generation of youth, or Jim Jones to a community of religious followers.

In the US, there are mixed feelings about charismatic leadership and the underlying 'magic' that is associated with a larger then life persona. One major concern repeatedly raised is that the power imbalance between the leader and follower can have a negative effect on followers (Dumas & Sankowsky, 1998; Conger & Kanunga, 1998; Jordan, 1998). Ross and Offerman (1990, citing Hogan, Raskin, & Fazzini) argue that charismatic leadership may have a negative and dark side, which can harm people and organizations, and this is re-enforced by Goleman[3] (1990). Some theorists altogether dismiss the benefit of charismatic leadership. Khurana (2002) equates charismatic CEO's as detrimental to organizations, and equates belief in 'charisma' with belief in magic.

Charismatic leadership has been relabelled 'heroic' leadership by some and the name charismatic/heroic is used interchangeably in the leadership literature. The central features of the heroic leader mirrors the charismatic leader in that heroic leaders are perceived as larger then life, and are role models that others are supposed to look up to, and seek to emulate. The charismatic leadership style represents a 'role-model' approach that seeks to inspire the follower (Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe, 2001).

Mintzberg identifies the heroic style of leadership as inappropriate for long term organizational growth and development (Mintzberg, 1999). Senge describes the heroic leadership model as, 'the destructive hero-CEO myth' in his video series on leadership, focusing instead on trust and relationship in a collective organization environment to bring transformation (Senge, 2004).

The focus of heroic leadership is the leaders' ability and seeming perfection and invincibility. O'Neil and O'Neil identify the heroic leader as one who has all the answers, with an influence process that does not enable participation from others in the organization. However, complexity within organizations and the rapid pace of change are helping to clarify and identify the fact that the heroic style of leadership is antiquated. O'Neill & O'Neill (2002) go on to suggest that leadership can be construed appropriately as a multilateral instead of unilateral relationship because of the complexity of today's organizations. Their point is that no one person will have all the correct answers, all the time, and therefore point to, 'all parties have a say' (O'Neill & O'Neill, 2002, p. 13).

The liability of the charismatic/heroic leader is their own ego can potentially get in the way of benefiting others and the organization. Behaviours such as not including competent others into decision making limits the knowledge base from which decisions are being made (Senge et al., 1994). If the leader is threatened by having competent others around him/her, and consequently bases decision making on a set of potential fears of being undermined, then this can have a compromising effect on what is ultimately best for the organization as well as all the individuals within it (Senge et al., 1994). In the increased complexity of organizations and the need for increased integration that complexity requires, the heroic leader can be a liability (O'Neil & O'Neil, 2003).

The charismatic/heroic leader contrasts sharply with the quiet leader. Although not referring specifically to transforming leaders, Badaracco sums up the style of middle and senior level managers whom he believes ultimately enable the success of their organizations. 'What usually matters are careful, thoughtful, small, practical efforts by people working far from the limelight. In short, quiet leadership is what moves and changes the world' (Bandaracco, 2002, p. 8). The concept of quiet leaders is a conceptual fit with the 'nearby' leaders described by Shamir (1995) who are perceived by followers as transformational. Alimo-Metcalfe's (2004) description of transactional behaviours delivered in a transformational manner is also a fit with Bandaracco's description.

Concluding Remarks

Conger & Kanungo point out that the common ground for these leadership theories (charismatic versus transformational) is the ability of both leadership approaches to influence followers and promote change (Conger & Kanungo, 1998). This is the common ground for both charismatic and transforming leaders.

The research literature indicates that the influence processes used by charismatic leaders is different from the influence processes used by transforming leaders, which provides evidence of differences in persona. The leader's persona, which is her /his self-perception and consequent self-schema, has ramifications throughout the organization.

Because there is continued debate in distinguishing between charismatic and transforming leadership in the research literature, this article has sought to identify sufficient grounds in assessing transforming leadership influence processes as conceptually distinct from charismatic leadership processes; to enable identification of distinctive influence processes used by transforming leaders. The discussion was limited to analysis of persona and influence processes related to love as a form of power for the transforming leader, and identification of two transformational leadership influence processes, mutuality of exchange and power sharing.

The discussion identifying Boulding's theory of love, when understood in light of Burns's definition of transforming leaders, provided understanding of how the influence processes of mutuality and power sharing is used by the transforming leader. The transforming leader's influence process enables followers the space from which to have impact on the vision, the leader provides a learning environment, and the leader models being a learner. There is a reciprocal process of empowerment that is multi-faceted, but it is not dependent mainly on the 'charisma' of the leader.

Lastly, clarification of terminology is essential when using the phrase 'charismatic leadership'. The extensive research specifically referring to organizational behaviour's perception of charismatic leadership has spawned multiple attendant articles within journals across many fields. It is therefore highly likely that use of the term 'charismatic leadership' will call to mind what the reader has learned via these articles about the term. It is prudent to keep this in mind whenever the term charismatic leadership is being used, especially when describing leaders who are leaders within the context of the church.


  1. 'A construct is essentially a discrimination which a person can make. Personal construct psychology is an attempt to understand the way in which each of us experiences the world, to understand our "behaviour" in terms of what it is designed to signify and to explore how we negotiate our realities with others' (Bannister & Fransella, 1986, p. 27).
  2. Freidrich (1961) severely criticized this approach as inappropriate, because the meaning of the word indicated specific gifts from God. Freidrich felt the term should not extend beyond the church and suggested the term 'inspirational' should be substituted for charismatic.
  3. Goleman (1990) suggested that the very traits that help get leaders to the top of the organisation can be disastrous for the organisation later.

Next: Transformational Leadership and Mutuality Bibliography