Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The Leadership of Joseph R. Walker: Towards a Model of Socialized Charisma through Expert Power

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The Leadership of Joseph R. Walker: Towards a Model of Socialized Charisma through Expert Power

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Although numerous studies have reported beneficial outcomes associated with charismatic leadership, much of this research is inordinately focused on the personal attributes of these captivating leaders. Regrettably, depictions of how typical organizational leaders, many without the gifts of magnetic personality and dynamic oratorical skill, might achieve some degree of charismatic influence with their followers are lacking. Further, while management historians believe it is valuable to illuminate contemporary paradigms from the insights of olden leaders, we also recognize that conceptual advances are critical to leadership as a discipline. Moreover, we think the historical record can be fertile ground for such conceptual developments. Accordingly, we examine the life of Joseph Walker, an often overlooked American frontiersman, to reveal a model by which expert power can serve as a precursor to manufacture socialized charisma even for those whose personal attributes might not be realistically described as "spellbinding."

Introduction

Although numerous articles have reported a plethora of beneficial outcomes associated with charismatic leadership (Cha & Edmondson, 2006; Conger, Kanungo, & Menon, 2000), the offerings in the literature depicting the processes of charismatic influence are relatively few. In particular, the lack of discernment as to how and when such a powerful form of leadership might emerge in contemporary organizations has left leadership scholars still searching for more applicable interpretation of this complex system. By focusing so intensely on the personal characteristics of charismatic leaders, we have in effect excluded the majority of organizational leaders who do not possess the attributes of charisma thought to be common in such outstanding leaders. Instead, would it not be more beneficial if we took our accumulated knowledge and attempted to discover a means by which more typical leaders might enhance their capacity for appealing influence in pursuit of group goals? We think so.

While such conceptual development is clearly vital to the future of leadership as a discrete discipline, management historians contend it is also worthwhile to explore the conceptualizations that appear from experiences of olden leaders as well. We must look forward but also learn from the past, especially if our theoretical contributions are to be practical for real organizations and leaders. In fact, historical examinations often allow us to move beyond minimal explanation to richer means of authentic understanding (Booth, 2003) and provide an opportunity to ". . . absorb the past in order to understand the present and inform the future ..." (Lamond, 2005: 1279).

With respect to this idea of informing the future, we think the historical record, besides providing appropriate foundation and context (van Fleet, 2008); can also be immensely fertile ground for conceptual development and model construction. Accordingly, we examine the life of Joseph Rutherford Walker, an often overlooked American frontiersman and leader of mountain men, to reveal a method of potential charismatic influence emerging from pragmatic, functional expertise. We find this concept particularly salient when considering how conventional organizational leaders, many without the extraordinary gifts of captivating personality and rhetoric, might realize some measure of charismatic influence with their followers.

We begin with a brief review of the relevant literature and debate surrounding charisma and charismatic leadership, including situational influences and the related sources of power. Next, from the recorded historical accounts, we investigate the leadership experiences and typical behaviors exhibited by Joseph Walker during his trailblazing exploits. Finally, based upon this examination in relation to the literature, we construct and explicate a process model by which expert power may serve as a precursor to manufacture socialized charismatic leadership to a degree that is sufficiently robust to accommodate the current organizational environment. …

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