The Dialogue of Disciplines
New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Edited by Michael Harvey and Ronald E. Riggio
Chapter 7: Classic Sociology: Weber as an Analyst of Charisma
Stephen P. Turner Despite the fact that Max Weber is the original and sole source of the social science concept of charisma (as distinct from the religious concept), and the fact that his discussion of charisma is highly precise, detailed and widely applicable (Adair-Toteff, 2005; Turner, 1993, 2003; Baehr, 2008, for discussions), the literature on charisma rarely uses the details of his ideal-type of charismatic authority, and is largely limited to ritual citation. In what follows I will briefly explain the core ideas that figure in his account of charismatic leadership, and illustrate them with a few well-known public figures. Examples are so plentiful in recent world politics that any of a long list could be chosen. Understanding charisma in the corporate world takes a bit more effort, but Weber himself discussed business charisma, and the examples he gave shed some light on business charisma today. THE CORE MODEL: BEATING EXPECTATIONS Weber gives a short list of model charismatic leaders: religious leaders, such as Bhagwans, who must perform miracles, the Herzog, or elected military leader, who must succeed on the field of battle, and a secondary variety, law prophets, who arise in a crisis to lay down law. The key to the two main types is that they must prove themselves – publicly, continuously, and through extraordinary acts or successes (1922 : 1114). In these model cases, the results are hard to manipulate or fake. Winning a battle is objective, as are miracles. What are the modern variants of these types...
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