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Heroes or Villains? The Dark Side of Charismatic Leadership and Unethical Pro-organizational Behavior
Although prior research has emphasized the disproportional contributions to organizations of charismatic leadership, an emerging line of research has started to examine the potentially negative consequences. In this paper, a theoretical framework was proposed for a study of unethical pro-organization behavior through psychological safety based on social information processing theory, which reveals the detrimental effect that charismatic leadership can have on workplace behavior. To explore this negative possibility, a time-lagged research design was applied for the hypotheses to be verified using 214 pieces of data collected from a service company in China. According to the results, unethical pro-organizational behavior was indirectly influenced by charismatic leadership through psychological safety. Moreover, when employees experienced high performance pressure, charismatic leadership was positively associated with unethical pro-organizational behavior through psychological safety. The implications of these findings were analyzed from the perspectives of charismatic leadership theory and organizational ethical activities to alter the unethical pro-organizational behavior.
The detrimental effects of unethical behavior have been documented extensively and include detrimental effects on individual wellbeing, future careers, and organization survival. In general, it is believed among organizational researchers and managers that unethical behavior is excessively destructive or entirely driven by self-interest. Nevertheless, scholars have discovered that employees may perform unethical behavior for the interest of their company, such as lying to clients or hiding information from the public. To understand these unique phenomena, Umphress et al. proposed the construct of unethical pro-organizational behavior (UPB), which refers to activities conducted to potentially enhance the operation of the company, leaders, or members, yet breaches critical social values and damages the interests of external stakeholders [ 1 ]. Given the prevalence and negative consequences of this behavior, it is significant to understand when and why employees engage in UPB. Researchers have conducted studies on the antecedents of UPB based on social identity theory, social exchange theory, and social learning theory [ 2 , 3 , 4 ]. These researchers argued that UPB is significantly associated with leadership style [ 5 , 6 , 7 ], individual differences [ 8 , 9 ], personality, and values [ 10 ], as well as job characteristics [ 11 ]. Among these factors, leadership plays a crucial role in employees’ UPB. For instance, Graham et al. argued that leaders’ style and frames are significant factors in employees’ UPB [ 7 ]. Therefore, researchers have explored why various leadership styles play different roles in UPB. Notably, recent empirical findings implicating charismatic leadership suggest that unethical behavior may be invoked by leadership styles, which creates more risks and uncertainty in work environments [ 12 ]. Indeed, despite charismatic leadership being capable of producing strong positive effects on followers’ behavior in companies, it can also lead to adverse consequences [ 13 ]. Charismatic leadership is regarded as a dominant style of leadership in enterprises as a result of its signal values-based, symbolic, and emotion-laden style. Charismatic leadership is known to cope with cognitive and emotional challenges to produce positive outcomes in the workplace [ 14 ]. Fragouli (2018) proposed that the bright side of charismatic leadership can be eclipsed by its dark side, which causes detriment to the company [ 15 ]. Charismatic leaders are likely to build an egalitarian, non-exploitative, and altruistic organizational culture. Nevertheless, the behavior of charismatic leaders can increase the risk levels of the organization by introducing instability and uncertainty into decision-making processes [ 16 ]. Charismatic leaders inspire followers to take risks and motivate followers to achieve high corporate objectives [ 17 , 18 , 19 ]. As a result of being manipulated by charismatic leaders, staff members can be driven to perform an organizational mission or breach the ethical bottom line [ 20 ].
As such, this study concentrated on how charismatic leadership relates to UPB. Unfortunately, previous research related to the correlation between particular leadership and UPB has yielded conflicting outcomes and failed to clarify how charismatic leadership may lead to UPB in the workplace. As argued by Dang et al., a pressing issue in research is to determine how leadership facilitates UPB [ 21 ]. Moreover, this research will further contribute to theoretical knowledge by exploring the underlying psychological process of UPB, rather than exploring one single antecedent factor of UPB [ 1 ]. While social identification, social learning, and social exchange theory have been applied to account for the relationship between specific leadership and UPB [ 3 , 22 , 23 ], prior studies have failed to adequately explain why psychological safety is considered a form of interplay between leadership and unethical behavior. Therefore, drawing on social information processing, we provide a new perspective on UPB by examining the effect of charismatic leadership on motivating UPB through employees’ psychological safety. After controlling a set of control variables that would affect the variables of interest and their relationship, this study answers the call to examine a comprehensive model linking charismatic leadership to unethical behavior. Besides, we suggest that performance pressure can be a crucial factor in calibrating followers’ reactions toward leader influences. Specifically, the more performance pressure, the more a charismatic leadership will stimulate followers’ psychological safety, which will be positively associated with UPB; in contrast, the less performance pressure, the less a charismatic leadership will stimulate followers’ psychological safety, which will be positively associated with UPB. A model of hypothesized relationships is shown in Figure 1 .
By applying social information processing to the context of UPB, we try to examine the mediated link between charismatic leadership and employee cognition and behaviors, aiming to make at least four notable contributions. First, we contribute to the UPB literature by identifying more antecedent factors of UPB. Through exploring the dark side of charismatic leadership, our research offers an alternative perspective on the antecedents of UPB. We suggest that employees are motivated to engage in UPB when they perceive that it is safe to take risks. Understanding charismatic leadership related to specific unethical behaviors provides precious insights into the cognitive processes underlying the motivation of ambivalent behaviors that have both unethical and good-intention elements.
Second, this research helps unpack the intricacies of UPB. Psychological safety explains the link between charismatic leadership and followers’ UPB, which complements the social information processing perspective. We invoke psychological safety as one reason why charismatic leadership may lead to followers’ UPB. Previous theory has limitations in predicting why and when employees may engage in unethical behaviors that benefit the company under the supervision of a charismatic leader; thus, we use theoretical perspectives on social information processes to advance understandings of the triggers of UPB.
Third, we develop hypotheses implicating performance pressure as an essential characteristic that can strengthen or attenuate the effects of charismatic leadership on UPB. Our results contribute to understanding the UPB phenomenon by exploring the roles of performance pressure in a field study. Collectively, this work provides significant evidence to suggest that followers engage in UPB as a function of the psychological safety conveyed by charismatic leaders, which is more likely to be felt among followers with high performance pressure.
Finally, our focus on the harmful effects of charismatic leadership on UPB provides a new perspective on charismatic leadership literature. To date, scholars have exclusively examined charismatic leadership effects on followers’ positive behavior, yet have not investigated how charismatic leadership may influence subordinate UPB. We thus answered the call from Bratton by highlighting that great leadership does not always lead to good outcomes [ 24 ]. Therefore, this study aimed to rely on social information process theory to advance theoretical knowledge by exploring the underlying mechanism linking charismatic leadership to UPB.
2. Theoretical Background and Hypotheses
2.1. social information processing theory.
Social information processing theory (SIP) indicates that individuals intercept information from their immediate environment for the development of their attitudes, cognition, and behaviors [ 25 ]. At the workplace, leaders are one of the primary social environment sources from which members gather clues about attitudes and behaviors when uncertainty and ambiguity arise [ 26 ]. The principles of SIP are useful in explaining how charismatic leaders influence followers’ behavior through the interpretation of information. When confronted with charismatic leadership, followers may process the information provided by the charismatic leader and adjust their cognition and behaviors to the leadership environment accordingly. Charismatic leadership can convey to employees the social information that supervisors have confidence in the followers’ ability and excellent performance [ 27 ]. Influenced by this information, employees are inclined to interpret supervisors’ behaviors as supportive and a source of psychological safety. This channel is implied or assumed in discussions of charismatic leadership in many studies of leadership and its effects on followers. Thus, we submit that it is critical to test the degree to which the social information process affects followers’ UPB.
2.2. Charismatic Leadership and Psychological Safety
Psychological safety indicates the degree to which employees feel safe and confident in their abilities [ 28 ]. Psychological safety entails the perception that individuals are not scared of negative consequences to their self-impression, status, or career development [ 29 ]. Individuals are more likely to feel safe when they act within the boundaries of appropriate behavior [ 30 ]. That is, employees have a trusting and supportive relationship with their leaders and colleagues [ 29 ], and followers whose actions align with their leaders’ preferences are likely to feel more confident that they will be rewarded [ 31 ]. Concerning other corporate climate-related constructs, psychological safety is derived from interactions with leaders. Prior studies have highlighted that leadership is a significant influencing factor in psychological safety and revealed that leaders occupy a dominant position, that could shape followers’ psychological safety [ 32 ]. For organizational members, leaders are instrumental in determining what is part of their job and what is not [ 33 ]. For instance, Xu, Qin, Dust, and DiRenzo suggested that employees are less likely to feel psychological safety when they contradict the tendencies of their leaders, as they presume that their preferred approach to work will be perceived negatively [ 34 ]. Thus, we argue that charismatic leadership is crucial to enhancing followers’ psychological safety.
Charismatic leadership is referred to as using personal charm, attractiveness, and persuasive communication to exert influence on employees [ 35 ]. The social information process viewpoint is especially applicable to charismatic leaders, as their characters set high-performance expectations, instill hope and optimism, and gain trust and respect from their followers [ 27 ]. Charismatic leaders transform organizations and members in ways that are distinct from other leaders. They are capable of motivating followers to invest the most effort through articulating a vision for an organization’s future [ 16 , 36 ]. Charismatic leaders also inspire followers to pursue self-development [ 37 ] and lead to the satisfaction of followers. When working with charismatic leaders, followers usually feel more confident about themselves and their circumstances in the organization. Psychological safety is defined as a state in which individuals feel that it is safe to take risks when subject to many constraints to achieve corporate goals [ 38 ]. Based on SIP, if leaders can convey high confidence in the followers’ abilities, followers will feel free from potential threats or embarrassment resulting from mistakes. Thus, charismatic leadership is essential for the corporate climate by exhibiting charisma [ 39 , 40 ].
The literature on psychological safety has documented the essential role of leadership in fostering psychological safety by creating norms and guidelines. In prior literature, it was asserted that charismatic leaders are good at emphasizing the relation between effort and essential values, displaying confidence in the followers’ abilities, and communicating high-performance expectations by gaining trust and respect from followers [ 27 ]. Charismatic leadership develops a positive interface with the operating environment by assisting the company to improve performance. This is beneficial to the organizational climate, as employees can believe in each other without worrying about interpersonal risk, which is a significant feature of psychological safety [ 31 , 41 , 42 , 43 ]. When the leader exhibits some charismatic behavioral information, followers may interpret such information and infer that their risky behaviors are likely to be tolerated by the leader [ 44 ]. These arguments led to our prediction that charismatic leadership influences the psychological safety perceived by staff, and we hypothesized that:
Charismatic leadership is positively related to followers’ psychological safety .
2.3. Charismatic Leadership, Psychological Safety, and Unethical Pro-organizational Behavior
SIP indicates that charismatic leadership as a manager’s charming behavior was facilitated among followers through organizational skills. In scholarly research devoted to understanding the effect of charismatic leadership on follower cognition and workplace behaviors, prior research has primarily indicated positive relationships between charismatic leadership and corporate performance [ 18 ], knowledge sharing [ 45 ], and innovative behavior [ 19 ]. Nevertheless, these studies primarily considered the heroic aspects of charismatic leadership, with less attention devoted to its harmful effects [ 14 , 18 ], which makes it challenging to obtain a clear picture of the implications of charismatic leadership. To bridge this gap, and in response to Eisenbeib and Boerner’s call for research exploring the dark side of charismatic leadership [ 46 ], we believe that UPB in this context indicates a critical negative side-effect.
Despite the positive outcomes arising from charismatic leadership, researchers have recently proposed that employees may engage in UPB [ 5 ]. UPB creates a dilemma in which the interests of external stakeholders and customers are undermined while offering gains to the company. Prior studies demonstrated that UPB is partially motivated by various factors (e.g., organizational identity or commitment to the organization) and organizational identification mechanisms [ 6 , 47 ], yet have not examined the social information processing mechanism relating charismatic leadership to UPB.
To address this issue, the current study reveals that charismatic leadership is associated with UPB and that this relationship is mediated by psychological safety. First, charismatic leadership involves communicating a visionary mission and establishing high expectations for followers. This process is promoted through the leader, encouraging followers to exhibit considerable effort and emphasizing a collective identity. Followers who share a charismatic relationship with leaders are likely to identify with them and feel a heightened sense of collective identity and empowerment [ 48 ]. When leaders exhibit charisma, articulate an organizational vision, and describe the significance of achieving this vision, followers are more likely to feel safe when taking risks [ 13 ]. Thus, followers have a willingness to perform unethical behavior for the sake of the organization, to identify with the vision articulated by charismatic leaders [ 49 , 50 ].
Second, charismatic leaders are prepared to take high risks and engage in unconventional approaches to achieve the corporate vision. When followers trust that their leader has sufficient ability, they will feel comfortable in taking risks because of the belief that they will avoid punishment when risk-taking leads to unfavorable outcomes [ 51 , 52 ]. Indeed, psychological safety has been described as a critical affect-laden cognition that leads to unethical behavior [ 32 ]. Prior studies have confirmed the positive effect of psychological safety on unethical behaviors [ 53 ]. This suggests that charismatic leaders may be one of the predictors that cultivate followers’ confidence in their psychological safety, which in turn contributes to UPB. Thus, we predicted that psychological safety mediates the relationship between charismatic leadership and UPB among followers:
Psychological safety will have a positive relationship with followers’ UPB .
Charismatic leadership will have a positive and indirect relationship with followers’ UPB through psychological safety .
2.4. Moderating Effect of Performance Pressure
Individuals will perceive external information conveyed by leaders in different ways and respond differently to the same leadership behaviors. Previous studies suggested the significance of considering the role played by charismatic leadership through a contextual lens [ 13 ]. To gain an understanding of the contextual factors influencing followers’ behavior, we considered performance pressure as a moderator, which has been discussed in the literature on unethical behavior [ 54 ]. Performance pressure indicates the expectation that followers must deliver excellent performance outcomes [ 55 , 56 ]. Research on performance pressure has revealed negative consequences, in that it seems to increase poor ethical decision making [ 55 , 57 , 58 ] and stress [ 59 ].
We expect that performance pressure operates as a second-stage moderator, converging with psychological safety to facilitate complex behavior which violates moral norms to benefit organizations. Indeed, the combination of performance pressure and the risk-taking confidence encouraged by psychological safety contributes to a condition in which decisions to engage in unethical behavior for the interest of an organization have a higher likelihood of being encouraged by charismatic leadership. Performance pressure is accompanied by a belief that the current performance is insufficient for achieving what is required [ 60 ]. During an increase in performance pressure, the salience of consequences also increases [ 61 ]. Employees are aware that their efforts are related to consequences [ 62 , 63 ]. As suggested by Gutnick et al., performance pressure involves both high demands and high stakes [ 63 ]. Heightened performance pressure makes followers accountable for high-quality outcomes, which could lead to an individual achieving a riskier, potentially superior outcome [ 64 ]. When confronting a decision, followers who experience high performance pressure can take advantage of the safety of their circumstances to achieve the most beneficial outcome, even if it is considered unethical. As such, as an ethically laden concept, UPB should be more relevant to individuals experiencing higher performance pressure.
When facing high performance pressure, individuals who experience high psychological safety are more likely to conduct UPB, given that charismatic leaders emphasize collective identity, which may motivate followers to do whatever they can to accomplish organizational goals [ 65 ]. In particular, charismatic leaders are good at motivating followers to demonstrate considerable effort and behaviors to achieve enhanced performance [ 66 ]. When followers perceive performance gaps, they will seek to overcome these to get the job done [ 67 ]. The completion of tasks and attitudes toward the completion of work contribute to the generation of risk-taking. Psychological safety is described as a critical cognition in determining unethical behavior because of the interpersonal risks inherent in UPB, given that psychological safety provides a mechanism through which followers perceive the lower potential costs of engaging in UPB.
In contrast, when under low performance pressure, employees with high psychological safety have a lower likelihood of engaging in UPB. While psychological safety induced by charismatic leadership has the potential to prompt followers into engaging with UPB, followers with lower performance pressure are less prone to this effect. People with lower performance pressure consider the moral import of their decisions and are motivated to behave ethically, thereby eliminating the ethicality associated with unethical acts. Thus, we proposed a second-stage moderation of performance pressure on the psychological safety–UPB relationship:
Performance pressure will moderate the relationship between psychological safety and UPB, such that the relationship will be stronger when performance pressure is higher, rather than lower .
Taken together, it is logical to predict that psychological safety will conditionally influence the strength of the indirect relationship between charismatic leadership and UPB. It is expected that high performance pressure strengthens the indirect relationship by enhancing the mediating effect of psychological safety between charismatic leadership and UPB. Hence, by facilitating psychological safety, employees with high performance pressure tend to engage in UPB under the supervision of charismatic leaders. Thus, we propose a moderated mediation model to explain the effect of charismatic leadership on employees’ UPB. We hypothesize that:
Performance pressure will moderate the indirect relationship between charismatic leadership and UPB through psychological safety, such that the relationship will be stronger when performance pressure is higher, rather than lower .
3.1. participants and procedure.
This study was performed in a large service company located in Ji Lin city, northeast China. This company has about 1000 employees and provides skiing services to tourists. The CEO and human resource department distributed research announcements to employees. The participants in this study comprised 300 full-time working adults who were selected at random from a list of employees in the company. The service industry presents some unique interactions between employees and customers that make it particularly suitable for our research purpose. Previous research has demonstrated that such a workplace environment is ideal for examining third-party oriented behaviors and UPB [ 9 , 68 ]. Thus, we selected this sample to test our hypotheses by focusing on a single industry in the China context. In order to avoid common method bias, this study adopted a multi-period data collection method where participants were asked to answer the questionnaires throughout the whole of February in 2019. Previous research suggests that time separation between predictor and criterion variables can reduce standard method variance bias by decreasing consistency motifs and demand characteristics [ 69 ]. Thus, we used three separate surveys with intervals of two weeks between each survey. A time lag of two weeks is consistent with published work examining the influence of leadership on UPB [ 70 ].
We collected data from eight departments and relied on convenience and snowball sampling. In the first survey (T1), with the help of the CEO and human resource manager (HR), we asked followers to fill in the questionnaire about gender, age, education, work tenure, and charismatic leadership. Two weeks later, at Time 2, participants rated psychological safety. Two weeks after this, at Time 3, respondents provided ratings on UPB. There were 276 respondents in the Time 1 survey (92% response rate), 232 participants in the Time 2 survey (84.05% reaction rate), and 226 respondents in the Time 3 survey (97.41% reaction rate). Among them, nine did not provide a complete response in the whole study. Furthermore, the respondents who incorrectly responded to the items and those from the three waves that could not be matched were removed from the analysis, with 214 effective participants remaining in the final sample. Among these final respondents, 62.62% were men, and 46.26% held a bachelor’s degree. Most participants were aged 25 to 30 years (43.46%), with 37.85% having more than three years of work experience. The participants’ departments were, respectively, customer reception (12.56%), ski marketing (25.61%), amusement park marketing (17.12%), security (1.51%), after-sale services (4.33%), membership card marketing (27.92%), transport services (5.08%), and ski training (5.87%). The sample demographic frequencies are shown in Table 1 .
Sample Demographic Frequencies.
Charismatic leadership: Charismatic leadership was assessed by applying a 25-item scale proposed by Conger and Kanungo [ 71 ] on a five-point Likert scale (1 = “Strongly disagree” to 5 = “Strongly agree”). The 25 items were divided equally into five subscales that measure the strategic vision and articulation, personal risk, sensitivity to the environment, sensitivity to member needs, and unconventional behavior. The sample items were “appears to be a skillful performer when presenting to a group” and “recognizes the abilities and skills of other members in the organization.” Because this study focusses on the overall effect of charismatic leadership rather than the different effects of subdimensions, we summed the 25 items to arrive at an overall index of charismatic leadership following previous studies. The Cronbach’s alpha was 0.90, and the KMO & Bartlett’s test was 0.87 ( p < 0.01).
Psychological safety: Psychological safety was measured using three items from Liang and Farh’s scale [ 72 ]. Items were rated on a five-point Likert scale (1 = “Strongly disagree” to 5 = “Strongly agree”). We selected these three items because they are typical cognitions in the service industry and have more representatives with a higher loading score (more than 0.60) than the other two items on the original scale. We also invited Ph.D. students to select items that suited the organizational context and assess the final scale to guarantee content validity. The pre-test with the 73 samples showed good reliability and construct validity (the loadings of the items ranged from 0.62 to 0.84, and the Cronbach’s α was 0.71). The sample items were “I can express my true feelings regarding my job in my organization” and “I can freely express my thoughts in my organization.” The Cronbach’s α was 0.79, and the KMO & Bartlett’s test was 0.70 ( p < 0.01).
Unethical pro-organizational behavior: The respondents were required to assess UPB by applying Umphress et al.’s six-item scale [ 1 ]. Items were rated on a five-point Likert scale (1 = “Strongly disagree” to 5 = “Strongly agree”). A sample item was “I exaggerated the truth about my company’s products or services to customers and clients.” The Cronbach’s alpha was 0.74, and the KMO & Bartlett’s test was 0.74 ( p < 0.01).
Performance pressure: Performance pressure was examined with a three-item scale proposed by Rubin, Dierdorff, and Brown [ 73 ]. Items were rated on a five-point Likert scale (1 = “Strongly disagree” to 5 = “Strongly agree”). Sample items were “There is a great deal of pressure to perform here.” The Cronbach’s α was 0.74, and the KMO & Bartlett’s test was 0.70 ( p < 0.01).
Control variables: Based on the recommendations of previous studies [ 21 ], demographic characteristics may exert influence on participants’ propensity to engage in UPB. We used age, gender, education, and work tenure to control for their potentially spurious effects, as the findings of Kish-Gephart et al. revealed a week correlation between gender and age and unethical actions [ 74 ]. Thus, information on followers’ gender, age, education, and work tenure was controlled.
3.3. Data Analysis
In this study, we measured all constructs at the individual level and tested the hypothesized measurement model using Mplus 7.4. Next, the regression-based approach was obtained for testing each hypothesis in the theoretical model. Following Preacher et al., we examined the indirect effects and moderation hypotheses using a bootstrapping procedure with 5000 replications to derive CIs in SPSS 22.0 PROCESS [ 75 ].
4.1. Tests of Measurement Models
A range of confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) was conducted using Mplus 7.4 to verify how distinctive the variables would be [ 76 ]. Four indices were used to evaluate the goodness of fit: the chi-square statistic (χ 2 ), comparative fit index (CFI), Tucker–Lewis index (TLI), and the root mean square error of approximation with associated 90% confidence intervals (RMSEA). CFI ≥ 0.90 and RMSEA ≤ 0.06 indicate a model’s acceptable fit to the data. The overall CFA results confirmed that the proposed four-factor model fitted the data excellently (χ 2 = 145.72, df = 49, χ 2 /df = 2.97, CFI = 0.91, TLI = 0.90, RMSEA = 0.08), as shown in Table 2 . To examine whether common bias had affected our results, Harman’s one-factor model test was performed, inclusive of the 37 items obtained from the same source (i.e., followers) in one model, and a comparison was performed between its model fit indices and the measurement model. The results showed that the one-factor model with a combination of all items was a poor fit for the dataset (χ 2 = 917.08, df = 64, χ 2 /df = 14.33, CFI = 0.42, TLI = 0.25, RMSEA = 0.22). Therefore, we believe that common method variance did not have a significant effect on our data.
Results of confirmatory factor analysis.
Note: a charismatic leadership, psychological safety, performance pressure, UPB; b charismatic leadership + psychological safety, performance pressure, UPB; c charismatic leadership + psychological safety + performance pressure, UPB; d charismatic leadership + psychological safety + performance pressure + UPB.
4.2. Hypotheses Testing
The analyses were modeled in SPSS 20.0 (SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL, USA) using hierarchical regression. Table 3 presents the means, standard deviations, and correlations among the researched variables. Consistent with the predictions, charismatic leadership is positively related to psychological safety (γ = 0.16, p < 0.01). In addition, psychological safety is positively associated with UPB (γ = 0.20, p < 0.01).
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations among Variables.
Note: N = 214. * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01 (two-tailed); a 1 = male; 2 = female; b 1 = less than 25 year old; 2 = 26–35 year old; 3 = 36–45 year old; 4 = 46–55 year old; c 1 = high school; 2 = junior college; 3 = bachelor; 4 = master; d 1 = less than 1 year; 2 = 1–2 year; 3 = 2–3 year; 4 = 3–4 year; 5 = more than 5 year.
As displayed in Table 4 , Model 2, the results indicated that charismatic leadership had a positive relationship with psychological safety (γ = 0.21, p < 0.05). Thus, Hypothesis 1 was supported. As displayed in Model 4, the results indicated that psychological safety had a positive relationship with UPB (γ = 0.23, p < 0.01). Thus, Hypothesis 2 was supported. For Hypothesis 3, the 95% bias-corrected bootstrap confidence intervals were determined for the assumed indirect effect from 5000 bootstrap samples. As shown in Table 5 , the correlation between charismatic leadership and UPB via psychological safety was significant (γ = 0.05, 95% CI [0.01, 0.12]), which is a small but significant effect. Thus, Hypothesis 3 was supported.
Note: N = 214. * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01 (two-tailed). Standardized coefficients are presented for the linear regression.
Indirect Effects of Charismatic Leadership on UPB.
Note: N = 214. ** p < 0.01 (two-tailed).
Hypothesis 4 proposed that performance pressure would moderate the relationship between psychological safety and UPB, such that this positive relationship would be stronger in the presence of high (vs. low) performance pressure. Specifically, performance pressure had a significant moderation effect on the relationship between psychological safety and UPB (γ = 0.14, p < 0.05) in Table 4 , Model 6. We plotted this moderation effect in Figure 2 . Tests of simple slopes (at +/−1 SD of performance pressure) indicated that when performance pressure was high, psychological safety was significantly positively related to UPB (b = 0.33, t = 4.67, p < 0.01). While the simple slope computed at one standard deviation below the mean, the relationship between psychological safety and UPB was nonsignificant (b = 0.05, t = 0.53, ns). These results suggest that the moderation effect was statistically significant when performance pressure was high. Therefore, Hypotheses 4 was supported.
Moderating Effect of Performance Pressure.
We analyzed the contingent indirect effect according to suggestions by Preacher, Rucker, and Hayes [ 75 ]. According to Table 6 , in the case of higher performance pressure, the indirect effect of charismatic leadership on UPB through psychological safety was of significance (estimate = 0.07, CI [0.01, 0.16]). When performance pressure was low, the indirect effect of charismatic leadership on UPB through psychological safety was insignificant (estimate = −0.01, CI [−0.06, 0.05]). The overall indirect effect of charismatic leadership on UPB through psychological safety was also significant (estimate = 0.06, CI [0.01, 0.15]). Moreover, the indirect effect was stronger at higher levels of performance pressure than at lower levels (differences = 0.08, CI [0.01, 0.17]). Thus, Hypothesis 5 was supported. These effects are illustrated in Figure 3 .
Conditional Indirect Effect of Charismatic Leadership and UPB via Performance Pressure.
Conditional Indirect Effects.
Note: PP = performance pressure. The indirect effect displays positivity and significance when performance pressure is equal to or greater than 3.50 and equal to or less than 4.14 (on a five-point scale).
In this study, SIP was applied to investigate when and why employees perform unethical behavior for the interests of their company. Departing from prior research examining the heroic aspects of charismatic leadership, we explored why and when charismatic leadership leads to adverse outcomes, such as UPB. Our predictions revealed that charismatic leadership might provide psychological safety to subordinates and lead to UPB. We also explored the possibility that some followers with intense performance pressure may have a higher likelihood of engaging with UPB.
5.1. Theoretical Implications
This research has several necessary implications for leadership and ethical literature. First, we have underscored the role of charismatic leadership in boosting unethical behavior for the benefits of the organization. Psychological safety was proposed as one of the fundamental mechanisms connecting charismatic leadership and UPB. Our findings confirmed the theory that charismatic leadership enhances psychological safety, which results in the stamina required for UPB. It is significant to understand that charismatic leadership does not necessarily lead to positive outcomes [ 77 ]. Charisma is not a God-given characteristic and may be used for wrong and tragic ends. In particular, charismatic leadership can enhance the psychological safety of followers and inspire them to achieve organizational goals by taking risks, such as conducting unethical behavior for the benefit of the organization. As such, charismatic leadership is not necessarily good and does not necessarily lead to positive outcomes.
Second, our study has revealed the critical preconditions of the relationship between charismatic leadership and UPB through psychological safety, with our outcomes demonstrating that a substantial performance pressure amplifies this positive relationship. A psychologically safe environment is supposed to enhance employees’ wellbeing. Previous research has suggested that psychological safety facilitates positive appraisals of work and life and plays a decisive role in wellbeing [ 78 ]. This finding suggests that leaders’ charisma mainly exerts influence on unethical behavior for the benefits of the organization when followers experience high performance pressure and do not fear taking risks, which is accounted for by the fact that, in this circumstance, followers are motivated by their leader’s charismatic capabilities to endeavor to achieve organizational goals.
Third, we considered why a relationship might exist between charismatic leadership and UPB through SIP. Prior research has typically been reliant on fundamental tenets from social learning theory [ 79 ] or social exchange theory [ 80 ] to examine the antecedents of UPB. While admitting that these theories may explain the increase of UPB, we held the view that the effects of charismatic leadership on UPB will be more significant and enduring when psychological safety is formed through interpreting information from leaders and the environment.
5.2. Practical Implications
Our findings have several implications for organizations and practitioners. UPB is undertaken with good intentions, yet it is detrimental in the workplace. Our findings provide evidence that performance pressure can reinforce the relationship between charismatic leadership and UPB through psychological safety. Therefore, decision-makers requiring employees to achieve high performance should be aware of this dilemma and the management of employee UPB. Perhaps it is impractical to alleviate performance as organizations seek to maintain competitive advantage; however, managers can carefully consider how to uphold performance requirements while emphasizing the importance of ethical values. For instance, performance anticipation should be fulfilled with moral standards as the bottom line for how performance is achieved. Moreover, the infrastructure that staff members navigate in their performance must be linked to the company’s moral practices [ 57 , 70 ]. Leaders act as a crucial driver of employee ethical behavior and can adapt activities to promote ethical values and information to followers and reduce employees’ UPB.
5.3. Limitations and Future Directions
Despite the research contributions, this research also involved some limitations. First, we assessed all our hypotheses with self-reporting measures and raised concerns about common method bias. Future research can be conducted on how to reduce common method bias by adopting experimental, longitudinal, or quasi-experimental designs and including data from other sources, such as the assessments of UPB by leaders or coworkers. Second, charismatic leadership has two dimensions; we measured global charismatic leadership in this study. Future studies could focus on the effects of the two types of charismatic leadership on UPB to improve the research design and offer a more comprehensive understanding of charismatic leadership functions.
Despite these limitations, our research provides the basis for further study. The results suggest charismatic leadership as a means through which organizations can increase psychological safety in taking risks, thus reinforcing employees’ UPB. Researchers could consider other clues that may influence staff members’ motivation to participate in UPB. For instance, researchers have found that particular emotions may motivate unethical behavior. It would be useful for researchers to consider the effect of charismatic leadership from various perspectives. While our research focused on charismatic leadership from the perspective of individuals, it may be informative to evaluate charismatic leadership at the team level. A further study exploring the diverse nature of charismatic leadership may help account for how companies mitigate the harmful effects of charismatic leadership for enterprises.
We collected the data from a single industry and a single cultural context. The study was collected in China and may limit the generalizability of our findings. Previous studies have demonstrated that, traditionally, the Chinese have a strong spirit of sacrifice for the sake of collective interests [ 81 ]. The Chinese may treat UPB as a more appropriate way to repay their supervisors in response to charismatic leadership. Thus, the relationship between charismatic leaders and UPB may be stronger in Chinese firms than in Western companies. Therefore, we suggest that future studies verify the relationship between charismatic leadership and UPB in non-Chinese culture. Although our findings might probably be repeated in other industries, given the similarity of sale and service jobs in different industries, we cannot completely ensure the generalizability of our results to other industries. Future research may investigate more industries to ascertain the generalizability of our findings.
Finally, though our findings shed light on the role of charismatic leadership, the broader role of leadership and organizational culture remains unclear. Further research is needed to focus on the effects of other types of leadership in the organization on UPB. This might contribute to a more comprehensive knowledge about the functioning of leadership. Similarly, it may be worthwhile to consider additional mediating mechanisms that may transfer the effects of leadership on UPB. Our results showed that social information processing translated charismatic leadership’s effects into UPB. We did not consider the joint effects of leadership and moral judgments on UPB, and future research should consider how these relationships and moral cognition jointly contribute to the motivation to engage in UPB. Although we relied on theory to present directional hypotheses, field study is not ideal for establishing causal direction. Future research should use a combination of experimental research and repeated-measures longitudinal designs to establish the robustness of the effects.
Based on SIP, this study has proposed and validated a theoretical model on the relationship between charismatic leadership, psychological safety, performance pressure, and UPB. Following an analysis of 214 pieces of data gathered from a company in China, the results revealed a positive, indirect effect between charismatic leadership and UPB via psychological safety, and a moderating effect of performance pressure. Further, we concluded that charismatic leadership might alleviate employees’ UPB. Future research can explore further ways to reduce UPB from the perspective of social information processing.
Conceptualization: X.Z. and Y.T.; methodology: L.L.; software: L.L.; validation: G.T. and L.L.; formal analysis: X.Z.; investigation: G.T. and Y.T.; resources: G.T. and Y.T.; data curation: L.L.; writing-original draft preparation: X.Z.; writing-review and editing: Y.T.; visualization: X.Z.; supervision: Y.T.; and project administration: Y.T. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
This research received no external funding.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
International Journal of Psychology
Charismatic leadership and organizational outcomes: The mediating role of employees' work‐group identification
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GENERAL DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Original articles, charismatic leadership and organizational outcomes: the mediating role of employees' work‐group identification.
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This research examines the degree of employees' identification with the work‐group as a function of charismatic leadership (e.g., Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1998 ) and the mediating role of work‐group identification (Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ) in the relationship between charismatic style and different work outcomes. Thus, the general aim was to analyse leadership and work outcomes as they are associated to social identification processes, referring both to recent developments of charismatic leadership models and to the recent developments of the social identity analysis applied to the workplace (see Abrams & Hogg, Citation 2001 ). Two field surveys were conducted using 200 Italian public and private sector employees (two different working organizations). Two questionnaires were designed in order to collect data. They included different measures of charismatic leadership derived by the literature (e.g., the Conger‐Kanungo Charismatic Leadership Questionnaire; Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1994 , Citation 1998 , for Study 2), a scale to assess the degree of identification with the work‐group (Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ), and some scales to measure the different outcomes considered (e.g., Brown and Leigh's effort measure, Citation 1996 ; Mobley's turnover intention measure, Citation 1977 ). As predicted, results of Study 1 revealed that charismatic leadership was positively related to work‐group identification, and employees' work effort was positively related to work‐group identification. Work‐group identification also mediates relationship between charismatic leadership and work effort. Results of Study 2 replicated the positive association between charismatic leadership and employees' work‐group identification; work‐group identification is also associated with their job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, and turnover intention. The same mediating role of work‐group identification between charismatic leadership and the criteria mentioned above was found. Underlying mechanisms as well as implications are discussed.
Cette recherche examinait le degré d'identification des employés à l'équipe de travail en fonction du leadership charismatique (p. ex., Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1998 ) ainsi que le rôle de médiateur de l'identification à l'équipe de travail (Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ) dans la relation entre le style charismatique et différentes données relatives au travail. Ainsi, le but général était d'analyser le leadership charismatique et les données relatives au travail tels qu'associés aux processus d'identification sociale, en se référant à la fois aux récents développements des théories du leadership charismatique et aux récents développements de l'analyse de l'identité sociale appliquée au milieu de travail (voir Abrams & Hogg, Citation 2001 ). Deux études ont été conduites auprès de 200 employés italiens du secteur public et du secteur privé (dans deux entreprises différentes). Deux questionnaires ont été conçus afin de recueillir les données. Ces questionnaires incluaient différentes mesures du leadership charismatique tirées des écrits (p. ex., le Questionnaire de leadership charismatique Conger‐Kanungo de Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1994 , Citation 1998 , pour l'étude 2), une échelle permettant d'évaluer le degré d'identification à l'équipe de travail (Van Knippenberg &t Van Shie, Citation 2000 ) et des échelles mesurant différentes conduites au travail (p. ex., la Mesure d'effort de Brown et Leigh, Citation 1996 ; la Mesure d'intention de quitter de Mobley, Citation 1977 ). Comme prévu, les résultats de l'étude 1 ont clairement indiqué que le leadership charismatique et l'effort au travail des employés étaient tous deux positivement associés à l'identification à l'équipe de travail. L'identification à l'équipe de travail avait également un rôle médiateur entre le leadership charismatique et l'effort au travail. Comme pour l'étude 1, les résultats de l'étude 2 ont également indiqué une association positive entre le leadership charismatique et l'identification des employés à l'équipe de travail. Cette identification était également associée à leur participation au travail, à leur satisfaction professionnelle, à leur performance au travail et à leur intention de quitter. De plus, comme dans l'étude 1, l'étude 2 a révélé que l'identification à l'équipe de travail jouait un rôle de médiateur entre le leadership charismatique et les variables reliées au travail mentionnées plus haut. Les mécanismes fondamentaux aussi bien que les implications sont discutés.
Esta investigación examina el grado de identificación de los empleados con el grupo de trabajo como una función del liderazgo carismático (e.g., Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1998 ) y el rol mediador de la identificación (Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ) en la relación entre el estilo carismático y diferentes resultados de la actividad laboral. El propósito general del estudio fue analizar el liderazgo y los resultados del trabajo como asociados a procesos de identificación social, ambos referidos a recientes desarrollos de los modelos de liderazgo carismático y a los desarrollos recientes del análisis de la identificación social aplicado al lugar de trabajo (ver Abrams & Hogg, Citation 2001 ). Dos encuestas de campo fueron realizadas a más de 200 trabajadores italianos de los sectores público y privado (dos organizaciones laborales diferentes). Fueron desarrollados dos cuestionarios con el fin de recoger los datos. Ambos incluían diferentes medidas del liderazgo carismático derivadas de la literatura (e.g., the Conger‐Kanungo Cuestionario de Liderazgo Carismático; Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1994 , para el Estudio 2), una escala para evaluar el grado de identificación con el grupo de trabajo (Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ), y algunas escalas para medir los diferentes resultados considerados (e.g., medida del esfuerzo de Brown and Leigh, Citation 1996 ; medida de intenciones de movilidad del puesto de trabajo de Mobley , Citation 1977 ). Como se predijo, los resultados del Estudio 1 revelaron que el liderazgo carismático estaba relacionado positivamente con la identificación con el grupo de trabajo, y el esfuerzo laboral de los empleados estaba positivamente relacionado con la identificación con el grupo de trabajo. La identificación con el grupo de trabajo también media la relación entre liderazgo carismático y el esfuerzo laboral. Los resultados del Estudio 2 replicaron la asociación positiva entre el liderazgo carismático y la identificación de los empleados con el grupo de trabajo; así como la identificación con el grupo de trabajo está también asociada con su implicación en el trabajo, satisfacción laboral, rendimiento, e intenciones de movilidad del puesto de trabajo. También se encontró este papel mediador de la identificación con el grupo de trabajo entre el liderazgo carismático y estos criterios. Mecanismos subyacente como sus implicaciones también fueron discutidos.
In social and organizational psychology, relevant outcomes are treated as consequent of the charismatic leadership (e.g., Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1998 ). While there is an extensive literature regarding the links between such a leadership style and work outcomes, the relationship between charismatic leadership style and social identification processes, according to the social identity theory applied to the workplace (e.g., Abrams & Hogg, Citation 2001 ), has been less analysed. In fact, charismatic features of the leader may affect followers' sense of collective identity and group task performance (cf. Bass, Citation 1999 ; Bass, Avolio, Jung, & Berson, Citation 2003 ; Conger, Kanungo, & Menon, Citation 2000 ; Judge & Piccolo, Citation 2004 ).
The recent renewed interest in the social identification processes within organizational contexts highlighted the constructs of identification both at the organizational and/or work‐group level (Organizational Identification—OID, and Work‐group Identification—WID; Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ); these constructs clearly originate from social identity theory (e.g., Tajfel & Turner, Citation 1986 ). Prior studies mostly analysed the relationship between charismatic leadership style and followers' effects, and the relationship between identification and these effects.
We propose a unique frame of analysis where, on the basis of previous studies, we expect to find a relationship between charismatic leadership style, specific work‐group identification, and several outcomes typically investigated in organizational research; in addition, we predict that identification at the work group level mediates the relationship between charismatic leadership and such outcomes. These hypotheses were tested through two field studies in work settings.
Charismatic leadership and followers'outcomes
The model of charismatic leadership has been developed within organizational settings (Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1987 , Citation 1998 ; House, Citation 1977 , Citation 1999 ; House & Shamir, Citation 1993 ) and is defined as an attribution based on followers' perception of their leader's behaviour. Charismatic leaders are able to formulate and articulate inspirational vision and behaviours that foster an impression that they and their mission are extraordinary. Individuals choose to follow such leaders not simply because of the formal authority of the leader but also on the basis of the perceptions of the leader's extraordinary character (Weber, Citation 1925 ). This charismatic leadership style is linked to the early conceptualization of the transformational leadership style (Bass, Citation 1985 , Citation 1999 ); charismatic and transformational leaders transform the values and priorities of followers and motivate them to perform beyond their expectations (Yukl, Citation 1998 ). Such leadership styles affect the self‐concept of followers, help build identification with the mission and goals of the organization, and enhance, for instance, feelings of involvement, cohesiveness, and commitment (Shamir, House, & Arthur, Citation 1993 ). Thus, charismatic features of both charismatic and transformational leadership have been defined as highly associated with positive work outcomes (Avolio & Bass, Citation 1988 , Citation 1995 ; Avolio, Waldman, & Einstein, Citation 1988 ), i.e., level of performance (e.g., Bass, Citation 1985 , Citation 1999 ; Bass et al., Citation 2003 ; Kon, Steers, & Terborg, Citation 1995 ), job satisfaction (e.g., Hater & Bass, Citation 1988 ; Shamir et al., Citation 1993 ), and organizational commitment (e.g., Pillai & Williams, Citation 2004 ). In particular, the perception of leaders as charismatic was found to be associated with followers' performance and satisfaction (Shamir et al., Citation 1993 ), with a high level of followers' perception of a shared and collective identity, and with the perception and expectations of successful group performance (Bass et al., Citation 2003 ; Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1998 ; Conger et al., Citation 2000 ). More specifically, Pillai and Williams ( Citation 2004 ) highlighted the fact that the presence of transformational leadership may enhance followers' self‐efficacy, which in turn may enhance unit performance and followers' commitment (for similar results see also Bass et al., Citation 2003 ). The perception of successful group performance has been found to be directly linked to followers' perceptions of themselves as a collective entity able to accomplish a high level task effort (Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1998 ; Shamir et al., Citation 1993 ), which leads individuals to strive to achieve the mission of the group rather then their own personal goals (Shamir et al., Citation 1993 ). It follows that charismatic and transformational leaders may also play a relevant role in affecting employees' level of effort displayed on behalf of work goals, especially when the group dimension is salient. In this research, we analyse the charismatic leadership associated with some outcomes, following the conceptual and empirical considerations presented above; more specifically, our aim is to confirm previous results as well as to extend them to diverse variables such as followers' turnover intention and job involvement. Then, the outcomes work effort, job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, and turnover intention are considered as effects of charismatic leadership style on followers. So we may predict that:
H1 : Charismatic leadership is positively associated with followers' work effort, job involvement, job satisfaction, and performance, and negatively associated with their turnover intention.
Social identification and organizational outcomes
With respect to social identification processes (Tajfel & Turner, Citation 1986 ), it has been found that work effort, strongly linked to high corporate performance (Porter, Steers, Mowday, & Boulian, Citation 1974 ), is positively associated with identification. In particular, organizational identification would lead to a merging of organizational (i.e., social) and individual identities that, in turn, are supported and sustained by their activities (Burke & Reitzes, Citation 1991 ). From this, it derives that those employees who share organizational values and goals, and are proud to be part of the organization, are more willing to work harder on behalf of the entire organization and of the work‐group (cf. Dutton, Dukerich, & Harquail, Citation 1994 ). The concept of identification in organizational and working contexts may also be analysed at group level. In fact, literature on identification processes refers to the distinction between the constructs of identification at an organizational level (OID; Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ) and/or at a work‐group level (WID; Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ). More specifically, these authors found that the effect of WID on outcomes like employees' job motivation, job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, and turnover intention is stronger than that of OID. Accordingly, individuals who strongly identify with their group also perceive their work context and condition more positively, and this would affect a set of related indicators. Moreover, such ideas are aligned to previous results, which clearly indicated that social identification within the workplace is positively associated with individuals' performance, satisfaction, and well‐being, and negatively associated with turnover intention (for an overview see Van Dick, Citation 2004 ; see also Riketta & Van Dick, Citation 2005 ). In this current investigation, then, we examine the role of specific work‐group identification as an antecedent of some relevant organizational outcomes in order to provide new confirmations for previous results on diverse outcomes, postulating that:
H2 : Followers' identification with the work‐group is positively associated with their work effort, job involvement, job satisfaction, and performance, and is negatively associated with their turnover intention.
Charismatic leadership as an antecedent of identification
The links between leadership processes, followers' group membership, and consequent identification with the group have recently been analysed (e.g., Hogg & Van Knippenberg, Citation 2003 ). In our opinion, charismatic leadership should be analysed as it, too, affects followers' identification with group membership. From the empirical investigations on charismatic‐transformational leadership, it is found that one of the charismatic leadership style effects is followers' identification at a collective level (Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1987 ; Conger et al., Citation 2000 ). Specifically, the role of the group in charismatic and transformational leadership has been analysed by using different concepts, often linked to group cohesiveness (e.g., Bass et al., Citation 2003 ; Conger et al., Citation 2000 )—“the resultant forces which are acting on the members to stay in a group” (Festinger, Citation 1950 , p. 274)—and to organizational identification (e.g., Epitropaki & Martin, Citation 2005 )—the perception of belongingness to or “oneness” with an organization of which the person is a member (Mael & Ashforth, Citation 1992 ). In contrast, the role of social identification with work‐group results have been less studied, especially within a larger framework that includes a mediation model (for a similar analysis on transformational leadership see Kark, Shamir, & Chen, Citation 2003 ); the present contribution attempts to examine this specific area. Kark and Shamir ( Citation 2002 ) have already suggested that transformational leadership would have a positive effect on social identification because transformational leaders successfully connect followers' self‐concept to the mission of the group and prime the collective level of followers' self‐identity, leading to social identification with the work unit. In a similar vein, Shamir and colleagues ( Citation 1993 ) highlighted that charismatic leaders enhance the salience of collective identities in the self‐concept of followers, which, in turn, would increase the probability that followers may engage in cooperative behaviours towards group mission and goals rather than personal aims. Kark and colleagues ( Citation 2003 ) found that followers' identification at a social level mediates the relationship between transformational leadership and their empowerment, whereas personal identification mediates the relationship between this leadership style and their dependence on the leader. All this evidence suggests that charismatic leadership activates mechanisms that are in some way linked to followers' identification with the relevant group function, as an antecedent of identification.
Moreover, as reported above, individuals who feel a high sense of collective identity at a group level present a higher degree of willingness to contribute to group objectives (Conger et al., Citation 2000 ), of job involvement—the cognitive belief‐state of a psychological identification with one's job (Kanungo, Citation 1982 )—of job satisfaction, and of performance (at a group or an individual level), and present a lower degree of turnover intention (see Van Knippenberg & Van Schie, Citation 2000 ). Then, within the present contribution, work effort, job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, and turnover intention may be considered as consequences of followers' work‐group identification.
Accordingly, we may expect that charismatic leadership, which enhances identification at a group level, is likely to increase followers' work effort and to affect a set of outcomes. The process is activated by the degree of identification with the work group. Subsequently, the present research postulates as a main hypothesis that:
H3 : Followers' identification with the work‐group mediates the relationship between charismatic leadership and work effort, job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, and turnover intention.
Two field studies were conducted to test these hypotheses within different working organizations; they adopted different instruments in order to enlarge the validity of the results. In particular, we analyse the relationship between charismatic leadership and work‐group identification, and the mediating role of work‐group identification in the relationship between charismatic style and employees' work effort (Study 1), job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, and turnover intention (Study 2) within different workplaces.
Ninety‐five employees (29 men and 66 women) of an Italian manufacturing company participated in the study on a voluntary basis. Their mean age was 36.3 years ( SD = 7.9); on average respondents had been with their company for about 12 years ( M = 12.0; SD = 8.4). Respondents occupied different job positions: 30.5% were managers/professionals, 69.5% were manual workers. Of the participants, 10.5% had a university degree, 55.8% had a high school degree, and 33.7% had a middle school degree.
Participants filled in the Charismatic Leadership Scale and the Work‐group Identification Scale. They then completed a measure of work efforts scale. Study variables were assessed in a questionnaire that was administered to participants individually with the collaboration of the Human Resource staff. The questionnaires administered to participants included an introductory letter in which the purpose of the study was explained. Anonymity was guaranteed, and it was made clear that analysis of the data would be at the aggregate organizational level.
We asked participants to indicate to what extent they agreed with the Italian translated version (with subsequently back‐translation) of five items inspired by Bass ( Citation 1985 ; e.g., “My team leader has a sense of mission which he transmits to others”) from 1 ( strongly disagree ) to 6 ( strongly agree ). This set of items has already been used as a measure that captures the essence of the charismatic dimension within a study that tried to integrate some notions of charismatic‐transformational theories and the social identity analysis of leadership (e.g., Van Knippenberg & Van Knippenberg, Citation 2005 ). To explore the structure of the scale, we performed an exploratory factor analysis on participants' scores on the items, which yielded a 1‐factor solution accounting for 65.7% of the total variance with all the items loadings >.70. Then, a composite charismatic leadership score was computed by summing and averaging the responses to each item (α = .87; M = 4.27; SD = 1.24).
This was assessed with the Italian version (cf. Pierro, Cicero, Bonaiuto, Van Knippenberg, & Kruglanski, Citation 2005 ) of five items derived by Mael and Ashforth ( Citation 1992 ; see Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ; e.g., “When someone criticises my work team, it feels like a personal insult”; “I'm very interested in what others think about my work team”). Participants' responses were recorded on a 6‐point scale ranging from 1 ( strongly disagree ) to 6 ( strongly agree ) . A composite group identification score was computed by summing and averaging the responses to each item (α = .81; M = 5.02; SD = 0.94).
This was measured through the Italian version (with subsequently back‐translation, cf. Pierro, Kruglanski, & Higgins, Citation 2006 ) of Brown and Leigh's ( Citation 1996 ) 10‐item scale designed to assess the level of effort that participants perceived to spend on their job activities (e.g., “Among my colleagues I am always the first to arrive and the last to leave”; “When I work, I do so with intensity”). The response format was a 6‐point Likert‐type scale ranging from 1 ( strongly disagree ) to 6 ( strongly agree ) . A composite work effort score was computed by summing and averaging the responses to each item (α = .78; M = 4.45; SD = 0.82).
As predicted, the study revealed significant and positive associations between charismatic leadership and work‐group identification ( r = .32, p < .001), charismatic leadership and work effort ( r = .23, p < .05), and between work‐group identification and work effort ( r = .35, p < .001) .
Table 1. descriptive statistics and correlations between variables (study 1).
Our hypothesis regarding the mediating role of work‐group identification in the relationship between charismatic leadership and work effort was tested through a multiple hierarchical regression analysis, which also considered a few control variables. In the first block, work effort was regressed on the control variables considered (gender, level of education, job position, age, and job seniority), which were entered blockwise; in the second block, charismatic leadership was entered, and in the third block work‐group identification was entered. The results are shown in Table 2 . According to Baron and Kenny ( Citation 1986 ), for mediation to occur, four conditions need to be met. First, variation in the independent variable (i.e., charismatic leadership) should significantly account for variation in the mediator (i.e., work‐group identification). Second, variation in the mediator should significantly account for variation in the dependent variable (i.e., work effort). Third, variation in the independent variable should significantly account for variation in the dependent variable. The preliminary correlations presented show that these three preconditions were satisfied. Fourth, the effect of the independent on the dependent variable should be substantially reduced once the mediator effect on the dependent variable is controlled for. The results of the multiple hierarchical regression analysis showed that the relationship between charismatic leadership and employees' work effort decreased at the level of β = .12, ns in the third block (compared to β = .20, p = .05, in the second block), when controlled for followers' work‐group identification (β = .30, p <.01). Using Baron and Kenny's ( Citation 1986 ) modification of the Sobel test (see Kenny, Kashy, & Bolger, Citation 1998 ) the reduction in effect size attributable to work‐group identification is significant ( Z = 2.14, p = .03), confirming its mediating role in the relationship between charismatic leadership and work effort.
Table 2. Work effort as a function of work group identification and charismatic leadership: Results of the multiple hierarchical regression analysis (Study 1)
One hundred and five employees of a public government department (49 men and 56 women) participated in the study on a voluntary basis. Their mean age was 46.4 years ( SD = 9. 2); on average respondents had been with the company for about 20 years ( M = 20,3; SD = 10.1). Of the participants, 14.3% had a university degree, 79% had a high school degree, and 6.7% had a middle school degree.
Procedure was the same as for Study 1, while some of the measures used were different to enlarge the validity of results. Participants filled in the Charismatic Leadership Scale and the Work‐group Identification Scale. They then completed scales of job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, and turnover intention.
This was assessed using the Italian translated version (with subsequent back‐translation in order to reduce mistranslations as far as possible) of the 23‐item Conger‐Kanungo Charismatic Leadership Questionnaire (Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1994 , Citation 1998 ; e.g., “Provides inspiring strategic and organizational goals”). Participants indicated the extent to which each statement is characteristic of their supervisor, on a 6‐point scale ranging from 1 ( very uncharacteristic ) to 6 ( very characteristic ). As in Study 1, an exploratory factor analysis was conducted to explore the structure of the scale, which showed a one‐dimensional solution, with 54.5% of the variance accounted for by the first principal component with all the 23 items loadings > .47. A charismatic leadership score was computed for each participant; reliability (Cronbach's α) of the measure was satisfactory at .96.
Participants responded to the same five items used in Study 1 (α = .85).
This was assessed through three items derived from the Italian version (Pierro, Lombardo, Fabbri, & Di Spirito, Citation 1995 ) of Lodahl and Kejner's scale ( Citation 1965 ), such as “I am very much personally involved in my job”. Participants responses were recorded on a 6‐point scale ranging from 1 ( strongly disagree ) to 6 ( strongly agree ). A composite job involvement score was computed by summing across responses to each item (α = .67).
Overall job satisfaction
This was assessed with the Italian translated version (with subsequently back‐translation) of the four‐item scale by Brayfield and Rothe ( Citation 1951 ; e.g., “Most days I am enthusiastic about my work”, “I feel fairly satisfied with my present job”). Participants responded on a 6‐point scale ranging from 1 ( strongly disagree ) to 6 ( strongly agree ). A composite job satisfaction score was computed by summing across responses to each item (α = .77).
Assessed through the following two items (cf. Pierro et al., Citation 2005 ): (1) “In percentage terms, to what extent were your work objectives reached during the last year?” (responses to this item were recorded on a 10‐point response scale ranging from 1 [ 10 %] to 10 [ 100 %]); (2) “Globally speaking, how would you rate your results in your current position within the last year?” (responses were recorded on a 10‐point response scale ranging from 1 [ extremely negative ] to 10 [ extremely positive ]). A composite performance score was computed by summing across responses to each item. Cronbach's α of the performance measure was .82.
This was assessed through the Italian version (cf. Pierro et al., Citation 2005 ) of three items from the turnover intention measure by Mobley ( Citation 1977 ; e.g., “I have often seriously considered finding a job elsewhere”). Participants' responses were recorded on a 6‐point scale ranging from 1 ( strongly disagree ) to 6 ( strongly agree ). A composite turnover intention score was computed by summing across responses to each item (α = .91).
Descriptive statistics and correlations between variables are presented in Table 3 . As predicted, the study revealed significant associations between charismatic leadership and work‐group identification, charismatic leadership, and all the outcomes considered, as well as between work‐group identification and such outcomes.
Table 3. Descriptive statistics and correlations between variables (Study 2)
As in Study 1, the mediating role of work‐group identification in the relationship between charismatic leadership and each of the four outcomes considered was tested through four multiple hierarchical regression analyses, which also considered some control variables. The results are included in Table 4 . Similarly to the first study, in the first block the four criteria scores were regressed only on the control variables considered (gender, education, job seniority, and age) entered blockwise; in the second block charismatic leadership was entered; and in the third block work‐group identification was entered. These analyses revealed that the relationship between perceived charismatic leadership and employees' job involvement (β = .14, ns in the third block compared to β = .35, p < .001, in the second block), job satisfaction (β = .36, p < .001 in the third block compared to β = .50, p < .001, in the second block), performance (β = .19, ns in the third block compared to β = .31, p < .001, in the second block), and turnover intention (β = −.15, ns in the third block compared to β = −.25, p < .01, in the second block) decreased when we controlled for followers' work‐group identification. The Sobel test shows that the reduction in effect size attributable to work‐group identification is significant (on job involvement Z = 3.67, p < .001; job satisfaction Z = 2.93, p < .01; performance Z = 2.11, p < .05; turnover intention Z = 1.93, p = .05). These results indicate that the relationship between charismatic leadership and job involvement, performance, and turnover intention were fully mediated by work‐group identification, whereas the relationship between charismatic leadership and job satisfaction is partially mediated by work‐group identification.
Table 4. Organizational outcomes as a function of work group identification and charismatic leadership: Summary of the multiple regression analysis (Study 2)
The main goal of the research was to examine the interplay between charismatic leadership, followers' identification with the work‐group, and some relevant organizational outcomes. Findings supported the prediction that charismatic leadership was positively related to work‐group identification, providing evidence that leadership is a process strictly linked to group membership and related processes (e.g., Hogg & Van Knippenberg, Citation 2003 ; Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ). Also, results confirm the existence of a relationship between charismatic leadership and the organizational outcomes considered: work‐effort (Study 1; cf. Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1998 ; Shamir et al., Citation 1993 ), job involvement, job satisfaction, performance, and turnover intention (Study 2; cf. Bass et al., Citation 2003 ; Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1998 ; Conger et al., Citation 2000 ; Pillai & Williams, Citation 2004 ; Shamir et al., Citation 1993 ). Consistent with these trends, results of both studies suggest that the level of employees' work‐group identification mediates the relationship between charismatic leadership and such outcomes.
From a leadership viewpoint, these results are aligned with the definition of charismatic aspects that heighten the sense of collective identity (cf. Conger & Kanungo, Citation 1998 ; Epitropaki & Martin, Citation 2005 ; House, Citation 1977 , Citation 1999 ; Shamir et al., Citation 1993 ); this contribution allows further confirmation that the group membership dimension is relevant to a better understanding of complex organizational processes like leadership and its outcomes (Hogg & Van Knippenberg, Citation 2003 ).
These results also permit the extension of the social‐identity analysis of leadership, which has already verified the existence of different possible links between social identification processes and charismatic‐transformational leadership. For instance, the perception of leaders as charismatic may be affected by leaders' group prototypicality (Van Knippenberg & Van Knippenberg, Citation 2005 )—the extent to which the leader represents the group's standards, values, and norms—a concept directly linked to group identification (e.g., Hogg, Citation 2001 ). Also, transformational leadership would affect identification at an organizational level (Epitropaki & Martin, Citation 2005 ). Moreover, the present research analysed such a relationship from a different perspective, highlighting a mediation frame in which charismatic leadership activates followers' membership and work‐group identification, which in turn activates several relevant organizational outcomes. The present results may be seen as an extension of Kark and colleagues' ( Citation 2003 ) findings (transformational leadership activates identification processes, which in turn may affect some outcomes linked to individuals' feelings and perceptions), focused on a comparison between the mediating role of identification at an individual level and of identification at a social level. The present research analysed more deeply the mediating role of the specific identification with the work group in the relationship between charismatic leadership and some work outcomes, and considered new variables and different organizational contexts as well as different procedures. Such a perspective can also be considered innovative and modern, showing teamwork as the fundamental unit of the contemporary organizational structure. Some may raise the issue that an alternative relationship model could be tested; in our opinion the model on which this research is based is the most reasonable, theoretically and empirically speaking, on the basis of considerations already presented throughout this contribution.
A minor result, still aligned with the conceptual and empirical frame, is the existence of a direct relationship between work‐group identification and all the considered organizational outcomes, confirming that the perception of belonging to a specific team/work unit and the related identification with it plays a relevant role in workers' behaviours and feelings (cf. Van Knippenberg & Van Shie, Citation 2000 ). Future developments may further analyse these effects, and may also include the role of organizational identification within a more complex frame of analysis.
We admit that this research has some limitations. The first one to note is that a causality relation cannot be inferred due to the cross‐sectional nature of the data, although it is one of the most‐used methods in applied and field psychological research (especially in organizations, cf. Spector, Citation 1994 ). Future investigations, then, should adopt an experimental or longitudinal design. A second one is represented by the fact that the criteria variables have been assessed by paper‐and‐pencil self‐report measures, which may reflect participants' perceptions rather than objective realities. However, some of the analysed variables (e.g., work‐group identification, turnover intention, job involvement, etc.) pertain exclusively to individuals' perceptions and feelings, so only a few of these measures (for instance leadership style and performance) should be assessed through actual behaviours and more objective measures in order to substantiate the results obtained. From a methodological perspective, the fact that the hypothesis is confirmed across both studies with different measures of perceived charismatic leadership, with different samples, and on different outcomes enhances the validity of the results.
In conclusion, our results enlarge the knowledge of the dynamic that may affect work outcomes and underline the tangible relevance of social identification processes and, in particular, the relevance of employees' identification with the work‐group to the organization life.
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Personality and charismatic leadership.
In this paper we review prior theory and empirical evidence relevant to the personality characteristics that differentiate charismatic leaders from noncharismatic leaders. We conclude from this review that charismatic leaders in present day complex organizations fit the stereotypical image of supportive, sensitive, nurturing, and considerate leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela, rather than the traditional stereotype of aggressive, demanding, dominant and critical leaders such as Jim Jones or Field Marshall George Montgomery. We then present a review of research relevant to four traits that theoretically differentiate personalized (self-aggrandizing, non-egalitarian, and exploitive) charismatic leaders from socialized (collectively oriented, egalitarian, and nonexploitive) charismatic leaders. We conclude that the personality traits of the need for power, power inhibition, Machiavellianism, authoritarianism, narcissism, self esteem and locus of control are traits that are likely to differentiate personalized from socialized charismatic leaders.
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The Art of Charm: The Charismatic Leadership Theory
Posted August 7, 2019 | Psychology
Choosing the right leadership method can be confusing and challenging. Starting in the 20th century and extending to now, psychologists have given charismatic leadership theory attention because of the strong personalities who have been able to manage in that style. Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paull II have made their legacies for leading with a great deal of charm and charisma.
Through a close look at charismatic leadership theory’s significance, its advantages and disadvantages, and some real-world historical examples, we give a comprehensive overview of the leadership style. The psychology behind this unique leadership model deserves more attention because of its current and future applications in our society. There’s definitely a compelling case for adopting the charismatic leadership strategy, but leaders should understand its nuances more thoroughly before they consider implementing it in their own leadership practices.
What is Charismatic Leadership Theory?
Before adequate attention can be given to the significance of charismatic leadership theory, it must first be defined. Recently, a study titled “Charismatic leadership: Eliciting and channeling follower emotions” offered that “charismatic leaders elicit strong emotions from followers which encourage devotion and action, and these emotions mediate the relationship between charisma and its effects.” In simpler terms, the leadership concept can be chalked up to the successes of different leaders based on their charismatic approach to problem-solving.
Max Weber, a prominent sociologist from the early 1900s, originated the terminology for the three dominant kinds of leadership styles: charismatic, bureaucratic and traditional. He maintained that leaders embody all three kinds of authority models in different proportions or ratios.
According to the study “The Relationship between Bureaucratic Leadership Style (Task-Oriented) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM),” bureaucratic leadership can be defined as a model where “Leaders impose strict and systematic discipline on the followers, and demand business-like conduct.” Further, bureaucratic leaders are typically rule-reliant and project their authority rigidly.
Separately, traditional authority models are founded on long-standing conventions. More directly, traditional leaders find their power and legitimacy through customs that have existed for long periods of time.
Charismatic leadership, thus, is much more dependent on the personality of the leader. Status, a business communications company, stated that leaders who apply the style are “individuals who use their personality and communication style to gain the admiration of followers.” Because of this, more than any other type of leadership style, charismatic leaders depend on the strength of their personalities to win over their audience.
Furthermore, Status said that charismatic leaders are capable of responding intelligently to social cues. In fact, charismatic leaders’ success stems in part from their ability to respond to the emotional needs of their followers. While this unique leadership style certainly has its perks, it also has some unexpected consequences.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Charismatic Leadership Theory
Charismatic authority, which so strongly depends on the personality of the leader, can certainly yield positive results. Because charismatic leaders often play on emotional appeals, they occupy a unique position where they are able to both motivate and calm their audiences.
David E. Rast, a social psychologist, has proved as much. In his work, he’s stated that charismatic leaders, or “transformational leaders,” become more desirable in times of social uncertainty. This logic makes sense considering the decisive nature found in the leadership method.
Another stark advantage of charismatic leaders is their ability to consistently motivate their followers. In the article “The Motivational Effects of Charismatic Leadership: A Self-Concept Based Theory,” the authors stated that charismatic leaders “cause followers to become highly committed to the leader’s mission, to make significant personal sacrifices in the interest of the mission, and to perform above and beyond the call of duty.” By intricately and compellingly playing on the values and feelings of their followers, charismatic leaders can successfully motivate people to accomplish their goals.
What’s more is that charismatic leaders can empower their followers through a unique bond or trust. Charismatic leadership theory can be put into action only if the leader can cultivate a profound sense of trust with a group of followers. This bond relies then on the charismatic leader holding their own actions and behaviors accountable.
At the same time, though, there can be several drawbacks to the unconventional leadership style. While charismatic leaders often rely on their confidence to build and maintain a following, having too much confidence could prove problematic. Workplace psychologist Steve Nguyen outlined four major drawbacks to leaders depending on their charisma. These include:
- An arrogance that distracts the leader.
- An inability to groom possible successors.
- A power vacuum after the leader steps down.
- A proneness to resist addressing problems.
In some instances, charismatic leaders have employed their charm for manipulative purposes. Roger Eatwell, a political scientist, has weighed in on this issue exhaustively and believes it could be a reason for the rise of fascism in the right before World War II. In the workplace, charismatic leaders can bring disadvantages, as well. Shelley Frost of the Houston Chronical said charisma by itself is not a strong enough quality to lead, and “the leader must have the best intentions of the company at heart and have other leadership qualities to back up the charisma.” These other qualities would be industry knowledge, receptiveness to criticism, and the ability to listen, to name a few.
To avoid these pitfalls, leaders should blend their authority styles. Relying too heavily on charisma compromises the ability to maintain support and trust. A study by the American Psychological Association found that individuals who were excessively charismatic were not as effective as moderately charismatic leaders because of their inability to lead operationally. In other words, extremely charismatic leaders usually could not keep up with the structural requirements of their positions. Separately, leaders who mixed authority styles in a more balanced way were much more capable of satisfying the requirements of their posts.
The Psychology of Charismatic Leadership Theory
In order to understand the psychology of people who have applied their charisma to their leadership styles, it’s helpful to look at real-world examples. By understanding their behaviors and actions, we can better understand the inner workings of some of the most immediately recognizable charismatic leaders.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Civil Rights leader in the 1950s and ’60s displayed an intense confidence in front of crowds to help peacefully desegregate the United States. Uniquely, King was able to deliver his charismatic leadership style in an inclusive way to help motivate his following to non-violently overthrow Jim Crow-era laws. His legacy today is important not only for the rhetorical power of his speeches, but also for the effective and inspiring ways he was able to lead America toward Civil Rights legislation.
Pope John Paul II
As the pope who led the Catholic Church through the millennium, John Paul II was responsible for proposing and carrying out several changes to the institution in the late 20th century. He was able to do this because of his outward and infectious charisma, which according to Telegraph correspondent Damian Thompson, “was so overpowering that people felt giddy in his presence.” Because of his ability to lead through his palpable charisma, he was able to unite and inspire Catholics across the world.
As the CEO of Apple in different stages of his career, Steve Jobs was able to bring the world into the 21st century by motivating his teams to produce their best work. His authority style, based on his own charisma, successfully introduced our world to impressive music storage, smart phone technology and cloud computing.
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Charismatic Leadership Research Paper
Many leaders, past and present, have been identified as charismatic leaders. The author explains the history of charismatic leadership and its characteristics. Different charismatic leaders and their leadership characteristics are discussed. An explanation of the characteristics and behaviors of followers of charismatic leaders is discussed. Cultural and situational charismatic leaders are explained and why certain individuals originate as leaders. A comparison and relationship between transformational, transactional, and charismatic leadership styles is discussed.
Society is made up of many different types of leaders. One of these types is charismatic leadership. Charismatic leadership was introduced around the turn of the century and has been researched and studied ever since. The leaders that are defined as charismatic leaders display characteristics that followers relate to. Charismatic leaders’ posses’ characteristics that enable them to win follower’s respect and support for his or her beliefs or visions. Leaders from all walks of life both good and bad have been identified as charismatic leaders because of their ability to persuade others that their beliefs were right. The history, characteristics, charismatic leaders, and charisma related to other leadership styles will be discussed in this paper. Charismatic leadership can be a forceful leadership style that can be used to improve societies and organizations or it can also be used for detrimental purposes.
The German sociologist Max Weber is the person responsible for introducing the idea of charisma as being a type of leadership. Weber believed that leaders who possessed charismatic leadership qualities were highly esteemed persons. Due to his research on leadership, sociologist began to study the concept of charisma in both social and political walks of life in the early twentieth century.
Talcott Parsons is widely credited with importing Weber to the United States; Parson’s introduced his work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1937 which dominated American sociology for decades. Parson’s view of Weber’s ideas was challenged over the decades by famous sociologist such as Pope, Cohen and Hazelrigg. They believed that Parson’s views of Weber’s ideas were distorted by misinterpreting the German’s original ideas.
Lowell Bennion was the first person responsible for making available Weber’s original ideas in the United States. He translated Weber’s ideas and writings from German to English in a dissertation, Max Webster’s Methodology, where only a hundred copies were published in 1933. Bennion’s dissertation was written 13 years after Weber’s death and was influenced by scholars who were Weber’s contemporaries. (DiPadova, 1996)
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According to DiPadova, Weber introduced the concept of charisma when viewing authority in regards to religion. In this he describes three types of power:
- charismatic authority (“the external or internal rule over man made possible by the faith of the ruled in this supernatural power of the leader”)
- traditional authority (“the traditionalistic rule of man is based on the faith in that which has always been”); and
- rational-legal authority (based on impersonal rules and norms. Its typical representative is the bureaucratic rule made possible by the victory of the formal juridic rationalism of the Occident”) From these three types of power sociologist began to research Weber’s authoritative leadership ideas. Charismatic leadership was not researched strongly until the 1970’s where sociologists began to survey and experiment with charismatic leadership ideas. (DiPadova, 1996)
Since Weber introduced the idea of charismatic leadership into society, many charismatic leaders have been identified. Leaders that are considered charismatic leaders tend to have similar basic characteristics.
These characteristics are:
- Self-confidence and self assurance
- Need for power and low authoritarianism
- Expert power
- Referent power
- Communications and rhetorical skills
- Assertive, dynamic, outgoing, and forceful
Leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Charles Manson, and Adolph Hitler were considered charismatic leaders. All four leaders possessed self-confidence and self assurance along with other charismatic characteristics. They believed in their “vision” whether good or bad. As leaders they were able to persuade others to follow and fight for the vision they essentially believed in. Many followers believed so whole-heartily in the vision that they committed murder and even suicide.
People that follow the charismatic leader possess many of the same characteristics as their leaders. Characteristics of followers:
- Identify with the leader and the leader’s beliefs
- Heightened emotional levels
- Willing subordination to the leader
- Feelings of empowerment
Followers of charismatic leaders often follow there leaders blindly because the leader is so confident in his beliefs that whatever the leader says or does is accepted by all without comment or thought. Leaders of religious cults and sects often attract followers that are lonely and insecure; these followers are looking for someone that will take control of their “pathetic” lives and many are looking for a place to belong.
Some sociologist believes that a person becomes a charismatic leader if the situation arises. These situational charismatic leaders form characteristics similar to the following:
- Task interdependence
- More receptive to change
- Organizational downsizing
Lee Iacocca became a charismatic leader because of the situation at hand. He was able to pull the Chrysler Corporation back into being because of his charismatic leadership abilities. Cultural charismatic leaders often arise when cultures and their cultural values are threatened. These situational leaders promote unlearning and the search for new actions. Many arise when traditional authority cannot meet an organization’s need for leadership. Charismatic leaders often appear because the culture is expecting or prophesizing the leader’s arrival. When this happens certain characteristics contribute to charismatic leadership.
- Social crises
- Carries or spreads a “message”
- Stimulates guilt or shame
- Supernatural stature is assimilated
Charismatic leaders that evolve because of cultural unrest tend to be religious leaders that followers think of as “prophets” or “saints”, these leaders become the route to salvation.
Charismatic leadership can have both a negative and a positive impact on society and organizations. In the United States alone charismatic leaders such as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King used there leadership abilities to make society a better place for all individuals and races to live and work. While on the other hand Charles Manson used his charismatic leadership abilities to persuade his followers to commit horrendous murders on random individuals. Hitler convinced millions that his beliefs were the only true beliefs; in turn his followers committed murders because they believed in Hitler’s vision. Few studies have been made on the impact of charismatic leadership on society and organizations. Charismatic leaders that impact society can be distinguished as ethical or unethical charismatic. The ethical charismatic wants what is good for society or the organization and its members, while the unethical charismatic is motivated by personal power and achievement and pursues anything which makes him or her look better and stronger.
Transformational leadership is the leadership defined by a work-based exchange relationship. In this relationship the leader promotes alignment by providing fair extrinsic rewards and appealing to the intrinsic motivation of the collaborators. Transactional leadership is the leadership defined by an economically-based exchange relationship. In this relationship the leader promotes uniformity by providing extrinsic (positive or negative) rewards to the collaborators. Transformational leadership is the opposite of transactional leadership. Transformational leaders tend to be concerned with values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals, while transactional leaders focus on exchanges between leader and follower. Many politicians are elected to office because they are transactional leaders; they promise the voters to change laws and policies in exchange for their vote. A person can be both transformational and transactional depending upon the situation. Evangelists for instance are transformational leaders when they are trying to convert followers to their religion and at the same instance they are transactional leaders when they entice their followers to contribute money in exchange for a new worship area or prayer book. Transactional leadership tends to be transitory; the leader is effective as long as the relationship between leader and follower is mutually beneficial. Transformational leadership tends to have a strong bond or hold on its followers, there is no need to “dangle” promises and gifts. Transformational leaders have followers because the followers believe in the same vision as the leader. The transformational leader places the follower on a pedestal almost as high as the one he or she is preaching from. The leader makes the follower feel important and that the follower is making a great contribution to the vision.
In transformational leadership, charisma plays a major role. Charisma is defined as a special personality trait that gives an individual superhuman or exceptional power. Leaders that possess charisma appear to be competent and have high expectations for themselves and their followers. They also articulate ideological goals to their followers. These characteristics that define a charismatic individual is the same characteristics or traits that a transformational leader possess. Some sociologist interchanges transformational leadership with charismatic leadership because the two are closely related. Charismatic and transformational leadership provide the followers with a vision and a sense of mission, they instill pride among their followers. Charismatic leadership, intellectual stimulation, and inspirational leadership are components of transformational leadership.
Charismatic leadership throughout this century has development into a strong, forceful leadership style. The charismatic leader must possess characteristics that make him or her almost superhuman and mystical. Leaders and followers must share the same visions and goals for the charismatic leader to survive. Charismatic leadership qualities are mutually shared by other leadership styles such as transformational and transactional leadership. Charisma is a trait that a successful leader should have to become an effective leader. As spoken by Bass in 1985 he states that, “Charisma is in the eye of the beholder and, therefore, is relative to the beholder. Nevertheless, the charismatic leader actively shapes and enlarges his or her audience through energy, self-confidence, assertiveness, ambition, and opportunities seized.”
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