Charismatic authority is one of three forms of authority laid out by sociologist Max Weber's in his tripartite classification of authority, the other two being traditional authority and rational-legal authority.
Max Weber defined charismatic authority as "resting on devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him."
The concept has acquired wide usage among sociologists. Other terms used are "charismatic domination" and "charismatic leadership".
1.3 Routinizing charisma
2 Charismatic Succession
2.3 Designation by original leader
2.4 Designated by qualified staff
2.5 Hereditary charisma
2.6 Office charisma
3 Application of Weber's theories
3.1 New religious Movements
4 Examples of charismatic leaders
4.1 Political leaders
5 See also
9 External links
Weber applies the term charisma to
[A] certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader [...] How the quality in question would be ultimately judged from an ethical, aesthetic, or other such point of view is naturally indifferent for the purpose of definition."[a]
Charismatic authority is
[P]ower legitimized on the basis of a leader's exceptional personal qualities or the demonstration of extraordinary insight and accomplishment, which inspire loyalty and obedience from followers.
As such, it rests almost entirely on the leader. The absence of that leader for any reason can lead to the authority's power dissolving. However, due to its idiosyncratic nature and lack of formal organization, charismatic authority depends much more strongly on the perceived legitimacy of the authority than Weber’s other forms of authority. For instance, a charismatic leader in a religious context might require an unchallenged belief that the leader has been touched by God, in the sense of a guru or prophet. Should the strength of this belief fade, the power of the charismatic leader can fade quickly, which is one of the ways in which this form of authority shows itself to be unstable.
In contrast to the current popular use of the term charismatic leader, Weber saw charismatic authority not so much as character traits of the charismatic leader but as a relationship between the leader and his followers. The validity of charism is founded on its "recognition" by the leader's followers (or "adepts" - Anhänger). This recognition
[I]s not (in authentic charism) the grounds of legitimity, but a duty, for those who are chosen, in virtue of this call and of its confirmation, to recognize this quality. "Recognition" which is, psychologically, a completely personal abandon, full of faith, born either from enthusiasm or from necessity and hope. No prophet has seen his quality as depending from the crowd's opinion towards himself.
His charisma risks disappearing if he is "abandoned by God" or if "his government doesn't provide any prosperity to those whom he dominates".[b]
Charismatic authority almost always endangers the boundaries set by traditional or rational (legal) authority. It tends to challenge this authority, and is thus often seen as revolutionary. Usually this charismatic authority is incorporated into society. Hereby the challenge that it presents to society will subside. The way in which this happens is called routinization.
By routinization, the charismatic authority changes:
[C]harismatic authority is succeeded by a bureaucracy controlled by a rationally established authority or by a combination of traditional and bureaucratic authority.
A religion which evolves its own priesthood and establishes a set of laws and rules is likely to lose its charismatic character and move towards another type of authority. For example, Muhammad, who had charismatic authority as "The Prophet" among his followers, was succeeded by the traditional authority and structure of Islam, a clear example of routinization.
In politics, charismatic rule is often found in various authoritarian states, autocracies, dictatorships and theocracies. In order to help to maintain their charismatic authority, such regimes will often establish a vast personality cult. When the leader of such a state dies or leaves office, and a new charismatic leader does not appear, such a regime is likely to fall shortly thereafter, unless it has become fully routinized.
Because the authority is centralized around one leader, the death of the charismatic leader would constitute the destruction of the government unless prior arrangements were made. A society that faces the end of their charismatic leader can chose to move to another format of leadership or to have a transference of charismatic authority to another leader by means of succession.
According to Max Weber, the methods of succession are: search, revelation, designation by original leader, designation by qualified staff, hereditary charisma, and office charisma. These are the various ways in which an individual and a society can contrive to maintain the unique energy and nature of charisma in their leadership.
"The search for a new charismatic leader (takes place) on the basis of the qualities which will fit him for the position of authority." An example of this search method is the search for a new Dalai Lama. "It consists in a search for a child with characteristics which are interpreted to mean that he is a reincarnation of the Buddha." This search is an example of the way in which an original charismatic leader can be made to "live on" through a replacement.
"In this case the legitimacy of the new leader is dependent on the legitimacy of the technique of selection." The technique of selection is the modus operandi of the selection process. In ancient times, oracles were believed to have special access to "divine judgment" and thus their technique in selection was perceived to be legitimate. Their choice was imbued with the charismatic authority that came with the oracle's endorsement.
Designation by original leader
In this form, the original holder of charismatic authority is perceived to have passed their authority to another. An excellent example is Joseph Stalin's claim that Vladmir Lenin had designated him to be his successor as leader of the USSR. Insofar as people believed in this claim, Stalin gained Lenin's charismatic authority.
Designated by qualified staff
"A successor (may be designated) by the charismatically qualified administrative staff... (T)his process should not be interpreted as 'election' or 'nomination'... It is not determined by merely a majority vote...Unanimity (is) often required." A case example of this form of succession is the papal conclave of cardinals to choose a new pope. The cardinals taking part in the papal conclave are viewed to be charismatically qualified by their Roman Catholic congregations and thus their choice is imbued with charismatic authority.
Charisma can be perceived as "a quality transmitted by heredity." This method of succession is present Kim il Sung's charisma being passed on to his son, Kim Jong Il. This type of succession is a difficult undertaking and often results in a movement toward traditionalization and legalization in authority.
"The concept of charisma may be transmitted by ritual means from one bearer to another...It involves a dissociation of charisma from a particular individual, making it an objective, transferable entity." Priestly consecration is believed to be a modus through which priestly charisma to teach and perform other priestly duties is transferred to a person. In this way, priests inherit priestly charisma and are subsequently perceived by their congregations as having the charismatic authority that comes with the priesthood.
Application of Weber's theories
Weber’s model of charismatic leadership giving way to institutionalization is endorsed by several academic sociologists.
New religious Movements
Eileen Barker discusses the tendency for new religious movements to have founders or leaders who wield considerable charismatic authority and are believed to have special powers or knowledge. Charismatic leaders are unpredictable, Barker says, for they are not bound by tradition or rules and they may be accorded by their followers the right to pronounce on all aspects of their lives. Barker warns that in these cases the leader may lack any accountability, require unquestioning obedience, and encourage a dependency upon the movement for material, spiritual and social resources.
George D. Chryssides asserts that not all new religious movements have charismatic leaders, and that there are differences in the hegemonic styles among those movements that do.
Len Oakes, an Australian psychologist who wrote a dissertation about charisma, had eleven charismatic leaders fill in a psychometric test, which he called the adjective checklist, and found them as a group quite ordinary. Following the psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, Oakes argues that charismatic leaders exhibit traits of narcissism and also argues that they display an extraordinary amount of energy, accompanied by an inner clarity unhindered by the anxieties and guilt that afflict more ordinary people. He did however not fully follow Weber's framework of charismatic authority.
Examples of charismatic leaders
Muhammad and Jesus are considered by scholars, such as Weber, to be examples of charismatic religious leaders.
Some examples of American charismatic leaders from the 18th through 20th centuries include Founding Fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, and generals Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall and George S. Patton.
Examples of American cult leaders (the dark side of charismatic authority) include Jim Jones (leader of the Peoples Temple), David Koresh (leader of the Branch Davidians), and Charles Manson (leader of the Manson Family). The late Apple founder, Steve Jobs, was well known for his charismatic personality, which many people claim as a large factor in Apple's success. Not only would Steve personally release many of the new Apple products to the public (often causing a firestorm of consumer hype), but his unique managing style in which he pushed people past their limits and refused anything but perfection, which was dubbed the reality distortion field, made him arguably one of the most effective CEOs of all time.