Academic journal article Administrative Science Quarterly

Personality and Charisma in the U.S. Presidency: A Psychological Theory of Leader Effectiveness

Academic journal article Administrative Science Quarterly

Personality and Charisma in the U.S. Presidency: A Psychological Theory of Leader Effectiveness

Article excerpt

We argue in this paper that in an age of complexity, change, large enterprises, and nation states, leaders are more important than ever. However, their effectiveness depends on their personality and charisma and not solely on their control over bureaucratic structures. We used a study of U.S. presidents to test a general model of leader effectiveness that includes leader personality characteristics, charisma, crises, age of the institution headed by the leader, and leader effectiveness. Age of the presidency accounted for approximately 20 percent of the variance in presidential needs for power, achievement, and affiliation. Presidential needs and a measure of leader self-restraint in using power, the age of the presidency, and crises accounted for 24 percent of the variance in presidential charisma. Age of the presidency, crises, needs, and charisma together predicted from 25 percent to 66 percent of the variance in five measures of presidential performance. Our study demonstrates that personality and charisma do make a difference. *

* The authors are indebted to Bruce J. Avolio, Martin G. Evans, Steward Friedman, Jane Howell, Bruce Kogut, Marshall MEyer, Jitendra V. Singh, Gordon Walker, and Glenn Whyte for their constructive comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We particularly thank the Associate Editor, Gerald Salancik, for his assistance in strengthening this paper. The authors are also indebted to Nan Weiner for assistance in developing the biographical coding techniques used in this paper and to Jay Anand for his assistance in the statistical analyses. The research reported in this paper was partially supported by Grant 410-85-009-R2 from the social Sciences Council of Canada and by the Huntsman Center for Global Management and Leadership at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Traditional leadership theories and research have focused almost exclusively on the effects of leaders on followers' cognition (Evans, 1970; House, 1971; Wofford and Srinivasan, 1983), leader reinforcement behaviors (Ashour, 1982; Podsakoff, Todor, and Skov, 1982), leader and follower exchange relationships (Graen and Cashman, 1975), and the processes by which leaders accumulate "idiosyncratic credit" that can be used subsequently as "units of exchange" to influence followers (Hollander, 1964). Traditional leadership theory thus focuses on leader control over such aspects of the followers' environment as rewards and punishmnets, job characteristics, authority relations, resources, training, and followers' perceptions of their environment.

Since the mid 1970s, however, a new genre of leadership theory has emerged (e.g., House, 1977; Burns, 1978; Bass, 1985; Bennis and Nanus, 1985; Tichy and Devanna, 1986' Kuhnert and Lewis, 1987; Conger and Kanungo, 1988; Sashkin, 1988). All of these new theories invoke inspirational, visionary, and symbolic behavior--behavior described by Weber (1947)as charismatic. In this new genre of theory, which we refer to as charismatic leadership theory, attention has been shifted to exceptional leaders who have extraordinary effects on their followers and eventually on social systems. It is the argument of this new genre of leadership theorythat such charismatic leaders affect followers in ways that are quantitatively greater and qualitatively different than the effects specified by past leadership theories. Charismatic leaders transform the needs, values, preferences, and aspirations of followers. These leaders motivate followers to make significant personal sacrifices in the interest of some mission and to perform above and beyond the call of duty. Followers become less motivated by self-interest and more motivated to serve the interests of the larger collective. The new theories that describe charismatic leadership focus on the emotional attachment of followers to the leader; the emotional and motivational arousal of followers; identification with the mission articulated by the leader; followers' self-esteem, trust, and confidence in the leader, values that are of major importance to followers; and followers' intrinsic motivation. …

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