Charisma, Culture and Performance


Abstract:  Charisma Culture and Performance

The paper explores the relationship between charismatic leadership, national culture and organizational performance based on a review of relevant literature and proposes hypotheses on the nature of the relationships in the Jamaican context as a basis for further study.

Beginning with the concept of charismatic authority or leadership as first presented by Max Weber in his essay, The Three Types of Legitimate Rule, and ending with the transformational leadership constructs of Idealized influence, attributed and behavioral, as developed by Bernard M. Bass, Bruce J. Avolio in a series of books and articles, the paper synthesizes the literature on charismatic leadership to give a clear assessment of its impact on follower and ultimately organizational performance.  Importantly, the ethical dimensions of charismatic leadership and its classification as either authentic or pseudo is also presented.

The paper then considers the moderating effect of national culture on the impact of charismatic leadership on follower and organizational performance.  Possible mediating effects of national culture are examined from the theoretical framework developed by Geert Hofstede who has provided extensive data supporting four classifications of national culture; power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism and masculine-feminine.  The fact of cultural differences in how management and leadership is viewed is explained through Implicit Leadership Theory (ILT) which contends that people’s underlying beliefs and assumptions influence how followers may assess leadership style.  Developing the interplay between charismatic leadership, national culture and organizational performance, the paper includes a review of the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness research project (GLOBE) which builds on the work of Hofstede and Implicit Leadership Theory to derive a Culturally Endorsed Implicitly Leadership Theory (CLT).  Among the six leadership dimensions identified by the GLOBE study is charismatic/leadership.

A hypothesis is presented which proposes the possible impact of charismatic leadership on follower and ultimately organizational performance within the context of the Jamaican cultural disposition towards the charismatic leadership style.  A study is then proposed to test the hypothesis.




Presented by: N. Christian Stokes

PhD Candidate:  Economic Development Policy

The Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES)

University of the West Indies, Mona Campus


  • Aristotle (trans., 1954) In the Rhetoric:
    • Leader must gain the confidence of her followers by using creative rhetorical means (i.e., charismatic and transformational),
    • The Rhetorical means include:
      • Rousing follower emotions (the “pathos”),
      • Providing a moral perspective via her personal character (“ethos”), and
      • Using reasoned argument (“logos”).
    • Weber
      • Max Weber (1947) normally credited with developing the term “charisma” as used in leadership theory today
      • “The three types of legitimate rule”, Published posthumously in 1958
      • Three types of legitimate authority:
        • Traditional
        • Charismatic, and
        • Legal-rational authority
      • Charismatic leadership arises “in times of psychic, physical, economic, ethical, religious, [or] political distress” (Weber, 1968)
  • Etzioni (1964)
    • Three types of power:
      • physical power, entailing the use of threats or coercion;
      • material power, entailing the use of rewards; and
      • symbolic (charismatic) power, entailing the use of normative or social power
    • Symbolic (charismatic) power leads to greater commitment and less alienation than physical or material power
  • Downton (1973)
  • Proposed a theory of transactional, charismatic, and inspirational leadership in the context of the rebel political leader.
  • Contractual relationship between leader and follower vs charismatic leadership
  • Charismatic Leaders
    • Transcendental ideals and authority that facilitate the followers’ identification with the leader
    • Commitment and trust augmented by inspirational leadership
    • Persuasive – followers invest in and make sacrifices toward the identified ideals,
    • Gives followers a sense of purpose, and
    • Creates meaning for actions distinct from the charismatic appeal
  • Inspirational leadership independent of charismatic leadership; according to Downton (1973), inspirational leadership does not foster follower dependence on the leader. Rather, “inspirational commitment is always contingent on the leader’s continuing symbolic presentation of the follower’s world view”
  • House (1977)
  • Presented an integrated theoretical framework and testable proposition to explain the behavior of charismatic leaders:
    • Focused on the psychological impact of charismatic leaders on followers.
    • Referred to charismatic leaders as having the necessary persuasive skills to influence others
    • Described the personal characteristics of charismatic leaders
    • Suggested that individual differences of charismatic leaders might be measurable
    • Proposed that the basis for the charismatic appeal is the emotional interaction that occurs between followers and their leader
  • Charismatic leaders are those “who by force of their personal abilities are capable of having profound and extraordinary effects on followers”
  • Behaviors:
    • Display confidence in their own abilities and in their followers,
    • Set high expectations for themselves and their followers, and
    • Show confidence that these expectations can be achieved.
    • Display a high degree of self-confidence, pro-social assertiveness (dominance), and moral conviction.
    • Model what they expect their followers to do, exemplify the struggle by self-sacrifice, and
    • Engage in image-building and self-promotion actions to come across as powerful and competent.
  • Results
    • These leaders become role models and objects of identification of followers,
    • Followers emulate their leader’s ideals and values and are enthusiastically inspired and motivated to reach outstanding accomplishments
  • Burns (1978)
    • Defined leadership as “inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations—the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations—of both leaders and followers
    • The leader–follower interaction was either:
      • Transactional leadership, which entailed a relationship based on the exchange of valued items, whether political, economic, or emotional; or
      • Transforming leadership, where the motivation, morality, and ethical aspirations of both the leader and followers are raised.
    • Transforming leadership
      • Raised the consciousness of followers for what is important, especially with regard to moral and ethical implications, and make them transcend their self-interest for that of the greater good
      • Focused on transcendent and far-reaching goals and ideals—has a greater effect on followers and collectives as compared to
    • Transactional leadership
      • Focused on promoting self-interest and is thus limited in scope and impact
      • Opposing ends of a spectrum – one or the other
  • Bass’s (1985)
  • Transformational-transactional theory includes both elements of:
    • “New leadership” (i.e., charisma, vision, and the like) and
    • “Old leadership” (i.e., transactional leadership behavior focused on role and task requirements).
  • Bass theory in its current form (Avolio & Bass, 1991; Bass & Avolio, 1997). Leadership constructs:
  • Transformational:
    • idealized influence attributes, (charisma)
    • idealized influence behaviors, (charisma)
    • inspirational motivation,
    • intellectual stimulation, and
    • individualized consideration
  • Transactional
    • contingent rewards,
    • management-by-exception active, and
  • Passive Avoidant Leadership
  • Charisma and Authentic Transformational Leadership
    • Howell and Avolio (1995) Charisma itself was value neutral and that effective charismatic leaders can vary widely in their ethical standards
    • Leaders could only be truly charismatic if their leadership resulted in a positive transformation within their organization.
    • Authentic and pseudo transformational leaders may exhibit the same behaviors but the underlying values, morals and intentions may be vastly different. Noticeably lacking in the behavior of pseudo transformational leaders is their lack of individualized consideration.

Cultural Considerations

  • Geert Hofstede (1980) – Geert Hofstede, widely regarded as the foremost expert on national cultures, produced Cultures’ Consequencies (1980)
    • Four classifications of national culture;
      • power distance,
      • uncertainty avoidance,
      • individualism-collectivism and
      • masculine-feminine
  • Hofstede (1991) added a fifth dimension – long term orientation.
  • Jamaica
  • Power distance
    • This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us.
    • Jamaica scores low on this dimension (score of 45). Features:
      • Independent, hierarchy for convenience only, equal rights, superiors accessible, coaching leader, management facilitates and empowers, Power is decentralized and managers count on the experience of their team members, Employees expect to be consulted, Control is disliked and attitude towards managers are informal and on first name basis. Communication is direct and participative
  • Individualism
    • The fundamental issue addressed by this dimension is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”.
    • Jamaica, with a score of 39. Features:
      • Considered a collectivistic society, Close long-term commitment to the member ‘group’ paramount over-rides most other societal rules and regulations, Strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group, Offence leads to shame and loss of face, Employer/employee relationships are perceived in moral terms, Hiring and promotion decisions take account of the employee’s in-group, Management is the management of groups.
  • Masculinity / Femininity
    • A high score (masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner / best in field – a value system that starts in school and continues to impact organisational behaviour.
    • A low score (feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable.
    • Jamaica scores 68. Features:
      • A masculine society, People “live in order to work”, Managers are expected to be decisive and assertive, Emphasis is on equity, competition and performance Conflicts are resolved by fighting them out.
  • Uncertainty avoidance
    • The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the UAI score.
    • Jamaica scores 13. Features:
      • Low preference for avoiding uncertainty, Maintain a relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principlesDeviance from the norm is more easily tolerated
      • People believe there should be no more rules than are necessary and if they are ambiguous or do not work they should be abandoned or changed
      • Schedules are flexible,
      • Hard work is undertaken when necessary but not for its own sake, precision and punctuality do not come naturally, innovation is not seen as threatening.
  • Long term orientation
    • The long term orientation dimension is closely related to the teachings of Confucius and can be interpreted as dealing with society’s search for virtue, the extent to which a society shows a pragmatic future-oriented perspective rather than a conventional historical short-term point of view.
    • So far there are no scores for Jamaica on this dimension.

How effective would charismatic leadership be in this culture?.

Culture and Organizational Performance

  • The impact of culture on organizational operations and leadership may be analyzed at three different levels (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1997)
    • National culture,
    • Organizational culture and
    • Professional culture.
  • We will concern ourselves here with national and organizational culture.
    • National culture has been defined by Geert Hofstede (1991) as “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others”
    • Hofstede (1998) defined organizational culture as ‘the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one organisation from another’. While many organizational cultures may exist within a single national culture, it is generally accepted that national culture has a higher degree of influence at the individual level than does organizational culture.

Impact of Culture on Leadership

  • In reviewing the existing literature on leadership it is important to acknowledge that the practice of leadership is influenced by the culture in which leadership is practiced (Dorfman and Howell, 1997)
  • .Yokochi (1989) found that contingent reward is more implicit in Japan than in the US.
  • The GLOBE project (Den Hartog and House, 1999) investigated transformational leadership in 64 nations and identified attributes associated with charismatic/transformational leadership that are universally applicable.
    • The most important of these attributes were:
    • Motive arouser, foresight, encouraging, communicative, trustworthy, dynamic, positive, confidence builder and motivational
  • Shahin and Wright (2004) tested Bass and Avolio’s (1994) assertions in the context of Egypt. Studying employees of 10 different banks, the researchers found that only 3 of the 7 US ideal leadership factors corresponded with those in Egypt.  The other four factors appeared unique to Egypt though they could be extended to the greater Middle East.
    • The findings suggest that transactional and transformational leadership as currently configured may not be applicable in non-western cultures. These findings were supported by Casimir, Waldman, Bartam and Yang (2006) in their study of transactional and transformational leadership in China and Australia.
    • Their results indicated that transformational leadership significantly predicted performance and trust in the Australian population, while only predicting trust, and not performance in the Chinese population. Transactional leadership did not predict trust or performance in either population. This is another indication that these theories may not be as universal as proposed.
  • Contrary to Casimir et al’s findings, Walumbwa, Lawler, and Avolio (2007) compared data from China, India, Kenya, and the U.S. and found that as long as the appropriate style of leadership (either transactional or transformational) is used in the correct country, followers will respond positively.
  • Bass and Avolio (2004) therefore found location to be a contingent issue in the leader follower relationship. The researchers looked specifically at individualism versus collectivism as a cultural contingency.  They concluded that collectivist cultures provide a responsive environment for transformational leaders and found that this leadership style was positively related to efficacy beliefs, job satisfaction, and commitment.
  • Corporate culture can also have an impact on leadership style. Bass and Avolio (1993) observe that while leaders play a role in fashioning corporate culture, corporate culture can itself influence leadership style and efficacy.  A new leader, for example, in an environment that favors strict adherence to policies, procedures, and processes, may in order to be effective, adapt a transactional approach and over time move towards a transformational style in order to effect change in the culture.
  • Hofstede (1980 and 1983) studied the interaction of culture, leadership, motivation and organization with leadership style and effectiveness. Individualism and power distance were shown to have the greatest impact on leadership.
  • Cultures with high power distance are more tolerant of centralization and autocratic leadership while those with low power distance are more inclined to decentralization and participative leadership.
  • Yeung and Ready (1995) global leadership study found that that less than 40 percent of leadership practices valued in the United States business culture were also valued in Korea.
  • Cultural differences could have a significant impact on the efficacy of one transformational or transactional leadership. Transformational leadership relies on participation, open communication and loyalty (Avolio and Bass, 2004) and as such may meet resistance in high power distance cultures, and high individualism cultures where a more directive style is expected and accepted (Hofstede, 1983).  Similarly, a transactional leadership style may not be well accepted in low power distance, participative cultures (Hofstede).
  • Leader effectiveness relies substantially on the ability to motivate followers to perform. Cultural dimensions impacting motivation are:
    • individualism-collectivism,
    • uncertainty avoidance, and
    • masculinity-femininity (Hofstede, 1980).

Suggested Research – Charisma, Culture and Performance in Jamaica

  • Examine:
  • National culture response to Charismatic leadership
    • Which dimensions of culture enhance or reduce the efficacy of charismatic leadership
  • Organizational culture response to charismatic leadership
    • Which dimensions of culture enhance or reduce the efficacy of charismatic leadership
    • Impact of normative or chaotic conditions
    • Charisma vs Inspirational leadership
    • Impact of dissolution of charismatic power
    • Efficacy of bureaucratic vs charismatic power and leadership


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