a b s t r a c t
The current study examines leadership in the context of the 2008 presidential election. Longitudinal
data were collected across three regions of the United States to yield 414 responses. Perceptions of
crisis were positively related to attributed charisma but not perceptions of authentic leadership.
Value congruencemoderatedthe relationshipbetween cynicism and attributed charisma for Obama
(but not forMcCain) and between cynicism and perceptions of authentic leadership for McCain (but
not for Obama). Attributed charisma was found to have augmenting effects over authenticity in
predicting voting behavior. The contributions made to the charismatic, authentic, and crisis
leadership literatures are discussed and directions for future research presented.
The context of the 2008 presidential election was punctuated by a country in crisis. Overtly evidenced by plunging financial and
illiquid credit markets, the crisis was, at its core, a crisis of confidence in institutions and the leaders of those institutions. Public
and private institutions heretofore regarded as too stalwart, too impenetrable, or too savvy to fail, suddenly did. The 2008
Presidential election thus provides a unique opportunity to study the selection of a leader during a crisis. It was also a unique
opportunity to study a leader who not only promised change but also, at least symbolically, embodied change itself. This could be
contrasted with a leader who represented the status quo which was associated with two ongoing unpopular wars and evidence of
what is arguably the greatest financial collapse since the great depression, precipitating a national crisis.
Given the public perceptions of an increasing decline in themorality of someof today’s business and political leaders there has been
a renewed interest in positive forms of leadership and in leaders who demonstrate authenticity or the ability to be true to their own
values (Avolio & Gardner, 2005). There is also growing cynicism in the public’s belief that leaders will deliver what they promise in
terms of real change. Yorges, Weiss, and Strickland (1999) suggest that beyond situational factors, leadership perceptions are
influenced by interpretations of the personal qualities of the leader based in observations over time. For instance, a leader who is
perceived as decisive, risk-taking or achievement oriented could be the beneficiary of attributions of charisma (Shamir & Howell,
1999). Past studies have demonstrated the role of charismatic leadership in the context of a crisis. In this study,we posit that leadership
evaluations, expressed in the form of voting behavior, may be further influenced by the authenticity of a leader’s responses to
The current study focuses on an emerging area of leadership research: Authentic leadership. In the context of a decade of the
various financial excesses (e.g., subprime mortgages) culminating in the financial collapse of 2008, there has been a steady stream
of research on authentic leadership which draws from the literatures in leadership, ethics, and positive psychology, and
organizational behavior (Walumbwa, Avolio, Gardner, Wernsing, & Peterson, 2008). Walumbwa et al. (2008) conceptualize
authentic leadership as “a pattern of leader behavior that draws upon and promotes both positive psychological capacities and a
positive ethical climate, to foster greater self-awareness, an internalized moral perspective, balanced processing of information,
and relational transparency on the part of leaders working with followers, fostering positive self-development” (2008: 95). The
influence of context on leadership perceptions and attendant outcomes has received limited attention to date. Yet the role of
context is crucial as it influences both follower cognitions (that crisis exists) and affect (cynicism about change) which are
formative elements in the development of leadership perceptions (Day, 2000).
Crisis is an especially salient context. Crisis in general implies time pressured change relative to standard operating procedures
(Mumford, Friedrich, Caughron, & Byrne, 2007). In the particular context of presidential leadership, swift decisions are needed to
resolve severe domestic and international issues facing the nation (Williams, Pillai, Lowe, Jung, & Herst, 2009). Cynicism About
Organizational Change (CAOC) (Wanous, Reichers, & Austin, 2000) is an individual attitude (Ajzen, 2001) which develops from
experience with and a loss of faith in (Reichers, Wanous, & Austin, 1997) leaders who have failed previous attempts at change and
who failed to include follower participation in decisions. Kark and Shamir (2002) emphasize the importance of studying
contextual variables as a mechanismthrough which to understand how a leader’s identity and his or her resulting effectiveness are
shaped. This sentiment is echoed by Avolio, Gardner, Walumbwa, Luthans, and May (2004) who called for greater longitudinal
integration of historical, current, and future possible contexts to extend our understanding of the authentic leadership process.
Research on charisma has often identified crisis as a sufficient but not necessary condition for the emergence of a charismatic leader
(House, 1977; Willner, 1984).Williams et al. (2009) found crisis to be positively related to attributions of charisma for the challenger
to an incumbent. However, Pillai andMeindl (1998) found charismawas negatively related to perceived crisis for incumbent leaders,
possibly because the existence of a crisis implies ineffective leadership. Although the influence of context on attributions of charisma
has been studied in the past (Williams et al., 2009), there is limited or no research to examine how context influences perceptions of
leader authenticity. Despite calls for investigations of the effects of context on leadership perceptions (Avolio et al., 2004), the extant
literature on authentic leadership has not addressed its effects during times of crisis, nor has the influence of cynicism about change
been explored as a contextual variable affecting authentic leadership perceptions. Further, as previous research has demonstrated, it is
important to build an understanding of how value congruence influences leadership perceptions (Williams et al., 2009).
There have also been calls for theoretical integration between leadership theories and process variables such as value congruence
(Avolio et al., 2004; Jung & Avolio, 2000;Williams et al., 2009). Though fewstudies have heeded that call,Williams et al. (2009) found
that leadership evaluations and value congruence were related to attributions of charisma and influenced reported voting behavior;
they suggested that future research build on values that influence leadership emergence. Leader values must be aligned with those of
followers if they are to engender trust (Jung & Avolio, 2000) and mitigate feelings of cynicism. Williams et al. (2009) suggest that an
alignment of values might help followers connect more closely with the leader’s vision. The purpose of this research therefore is to
examine authentic leadership and leader charisma in the context of follower perceptions of crisis and attitudes of cynicism about the
institution of government and also the role of value congruence in mitigating the negative effects of cynicism.
Walumbwa et al. (2008) suggest a need for greater theoretical integration of authentic leadership with behavioral theories and
more longitudinal studies to explore the dynamics through which leader behavior influences follower attitudes and behaviors. In
this study, we break new ground by examining the extent to which authentic leadership provides a base for effective charismatic
leadership effects by investigating the augmenting effects of attributed charisma over authentic leadership perceptions on a
leadership outcome (selection via voting behavior). The U.S. presidential election of 2008 provided a rich contextual opportunity
to study these relationships.
The concept of authenticity may help to inform our understanding of how charismatic leaders influence followers by exploring
the processes through which followers form perceptions and select leaders. Authentic leaders are individuals who behave
ethically, are guided by a strict moral code, are impervious to external influences, engender hope and optimism in followers, help
people find meaning in themselves and their life, facilitate recovery from catastrophic events, and are honest and truthful even
when it is tough to stay the course (Walumbwa et al., 2008). Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, May, and Walumbwa (2005) posit that
authenticity is associated with higher levels of cognitive, emotional, and moral development. Avolio et al. (2004) “…propose that
authentic leadership influences followers’ attitudes and behaviors through the key psychological processes of identification, hope,
positive emotions, optimism, and trust” (p. 815).
Research by George (2003) and Bass (1985) illustrate how authentic leaders may or may not be charismatic or described as
charismatic by others even though they build enduring relationships, work hard, and lead with purpose, meaning, and values. It
follows then that the more authentic a charismatic leader is, the more potential that leader has to build trust with followers. The
‘Leader Self-Awareness’ component of authentic leadership indicates the level at which the individual trusts in their own
emotions, cognitions, and motivations. In short, to be self-aware is to ‘know one’s self’ (Kernis & Goldman, 2006). Charismatic
leaders may be able to create a ‘vision’ and lead with purpose, but followers may not develop trusting relationships because they
have not had the time to develop a more personal relationship with the leader. In other words, the relationship may be ‘at arm’s
length’. When we add authenticity, it allows for followers to see that the motivations and emotions a charismatic leader presents
to the public are ‘authentic’ in that the leader truly values what he/she says they value and is not saying ‘what people want to hear’.
This leads to an increase in trust. Trust must be established early in developmental relationships through multiple interactions
wherein leaders do what they say and act in accordance with their values. Interpersonal relationships characterized by trust are
more effective, have an emotional component, and enjoy high levels of cooperation between individuals (Dirks & Ferrin, 2001),
essential elements of both charismatic and authentic leadership. Followers are able to assess authenticity based on the leader’s
consistency between their values and behaviors. Authenticity engenders trust by permitting partners to evaluate future behavior
through the interpretation of both past and present behaviors (Dirks & Ferrin, 2001). Development of trust is critical for leaders
because followers assume the vision of the leader will provide a more optimal or preferable situation than the current one. As we
integrate the literatures that are relevant to the development of our hypotheses, three forms of trust are considered: affective,
behavioral, and cognitive.
Charismatic leaders empower followers by setting lofty goals and expectations (House & Shamir, 1993) and often make
personal sacrifices in the pursuit of group goals. Followers are often enamored with individuals who possess charismatic qualities
and form deep emotional connections, particularly in charisma-conducive environments such as crisis (Klein & House, 1995). In
fact, charismatic leaders are often selected because they are perceived by followers as being able to lead during times of crisis.
A review of the literature reveals some conceptual complementarities between the constructs of authenticity and attributed
charisma but also some distinctions. Perceptions of charismatic and authentic leadership have been shown to be positively related
to job satisfaction, organizational commitment, rated job performance, and venture performance (Hofmann & Jones, 2005;
Walumbwa et al., 2008). Consistent in both theories is the concept of ‘role modeling’, indicating that such leaders prefer to lead by
example (Avolio et al., 2004; Kark & Shamir, 2002) and pass on positive values, emotions, motives, goals, and behaviors to
followers (Gardner et al., 2005). Both authentic and charismatic leaders emphasize identification with the collective, a focus on
common overarching goals, and they foster the development of high-quality connections (Gardner et al., 2005).
Authentic leaders, however, will influence follower self-awareness of values/moral perspective based more on their individual
character, personal example, and dedication, than on inspirational appeals, dramatic presentations, or other forms of impression
management (Gardner & Avolio, 1998). With the focus of the authentic leader on living their values rather than communicating
their vision (the emphasis in charisma) it is likely that authenticity is less situational and more evolutional than charisma.
However, it is possible that followers will look for both charismatic (e.g. inspirational, visionary) and authentic (e.g. dedication,
trustworthiness) leaders in the context of a crisis.
- Context influencing leadership perceptions
3.1. Crisis, charisma, and authentic leadership
The 2008 presidential elections represented a unique moment in U.S. history. Not since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first
campaign for president had the stakes been higher for the country to select an able leader who could face the enormous challenges
precipitated by the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the near collapse of the financial system, rising unemployment, and two major wars
that dragged on seemingly for the foreseeable future. The incumbent president, George W. Bush, was at the end of a two term
presidency with various media outlets chronicling the long period of low popularity in the latter half of his second term. With
every passing day, Bush and his staff seemed disconnected from the overwhelming dissatisfaction of the public with their policies
(Bligh & Kohles, 2009). Partisan politics crippled the legislative branches of the government and stalled any real progress towards
passage of new laws (CBS, 2009). In short, public perceptions of the situation and the need for effective leadership had reached
crisis status. When the reality of a leader’s efforts conflict with the vision they have presented to followers, trust in the leader’s
ability is decreased, particularly if the leaders themselves are viewed as having caused the crisis. A loss of trust in leadership often
precedes, or is the impetus to, a desire for change in the type of current leadership to alternative and more effective styles. The
crisis of confidence in leadership prior to the 2008 election resulted in calls for a new type of leadership that would overcome the
crisis, perhaps through more positive forms of leadership, possibly by moral authentic leaders (Walumbwa et al., 2008) and
through displays of charismatic qualities (House, Spangler, & Woycke, 1991).
Organizational crisis has been defined as “…a low probability, high-impact event that threatens the viability of the organization
and is characterized by ambiguity of cause, effect, and means of resolution, as well as by a belief that decisions must be made
swiftly” (Pearson & Clair, 1998: 60). Empirical research has evidenced that leadership makes a difference under conditions of crisis
(Bligh, Kohles, & Meindl, 2004) as follower perceptions of the leaders and the leader’s influence on group performance are higher
under crisis than no crisis conditions (Mumford et al., 2007; Tushman & O’Reilly, 1996. Williams et al. (2009) showed that
perceptions of crisis were positively related to attributions of charisma and leader selection in the 2004 U.S. presidential election
for the challenger (John Kerry) and negatively for the incumbent (George W. Bush). Thus, the research on crisis and charisma has
yielded both positive and negative relationships depending on whether followers believe that the leader is likely to have a solution
for the crisis or is actually responsible for the crisis.
Followers feel a loss of control and accompanying levels of psychological stress during crisis and are more likely to accept a
charismatic leader’s interpretation of that crisis and believe in his or her ability to provide novel solutions (Bligh & Kohles, 2009;
Mumford et al., 2007; Waldman & Yammarino, 1999). Post-crisis followers “…will readily, even eagerly, accept the influence of a
leader who seems to have high self-confidence and a vision that provides both meaning to the current situation and promise of
salvation from the currently acute distress” (Shamir & Howell, 1999, p. 260) which leads to attributions of charisma.
Bass (1990) argues that during crises and conditions of uncertainty: (1) followers’ need for direction increases the likelihood
that the charismatic leader’s personality will emerge and (2) individuals feel the need for greater direction and guidance. Given
the presence of crisis during the election, the conditions were favorable for the emergence of a leader perceived as charismatic,
whose vision of the future was seen as challenging the status quo and guiding the nation in a more positive direction. Shamir and
Howell (1999) note that when an incumbent leader has lost charismatic appeal (as was the case during election 2008),
attributions of charisma to alternate leaders in times of crisis are likely to be greater.
H1a. Perceptions of crisis will be positively related to attributions of charisma.
“American presidents are sometimes described as the nation’s “First Optimist”. They are expected to affirm our better instincts,
our hope and optimism. Candidate Obama celebrated the audacity of hope almost as much as he promoted his policy initiatives” in
the run up to the presidential elections (Cronin, 2008: 465). Avolio and Gardner (2005) posit that authentic leaders are individuals
who possess a great deal of hope and optimism, are able to self regulate, communicate their most accurate assessment of current
and future environments, whose self-perception is one of a leader, and have an enormous amount of person-role fusion. These
leaders are perceived as truthful and willing to communicate painful unpopular facts while avoiding external influences (Cronin,
2008). Because an authentic leader’s messages are perceived as truthful regardless of contextual considerations or external
influences, follower trust is enhanced. By providing accurate information followers recognize the leader’s authenticity.
Authentic leaders are acutely aware of the context in which they enact leadership and display appropriate emotional intensity
that befits the situation (Ladkin & Taylor, 2010; Michie & Gooty, 2005). By objectively considering and accepting their own
strengths and weaknesses, being direct and open, acting with a high level of integrity, and demonstrating a true commitment to
the success of followers, authentic leaders articulate very real and accurate assessments of crisis and their own ability to
successfully find a resolution (Avolio & Gardner, 2005). If leaders are not in touch with their own values and unwilling to hear the
truth from trusted followers, they will be unable to deal with a crisis. This is the essence of authentic leadership. According to
George (2007), a crisis tests a leader’s True North or authentic leadership ability and followers look to leaders to lead with their
values. Authentic leaders possess an internalized moral perspective which enables them to act in ways that are consistent with
their values and in turn may elicit trust in their actions during a crisis. An authentic leader’s hope, optimism, and positive attitude
may also contribute to the perception that the leader is confident and can successfully navigate the challenges of overcoming a
crisis situation. Authentic leaders have a deep self-confidence (Avolio et al., 2004) that followers may perceive as a prerequisite for
the accomplishment of articulated goals.
H1b. Perceptions of crisis will be positively related to perceptions of authentic leadership.
- Cynicism, charisma, and authentic leadership
4.1. Cynicism and charisma
The erosion of public confidence in social institutions including Congress, the presidency, the news media, and the federal
government has been tending towards all time lows for several years (Bligh & Kohles, 2009; Cappella & Jamieson, 1996) and has
caused cynicism and mistrust to become commonplace. For example, Kanter and Mirvis (1989) found forty-three percent of
American workers exhibit highly cynical attitudes about work and human nature. The various corporate scandals beginning with
Enron have had far reaching effects on the livelihood and future savings of employees at all levels in these organizations prompting
employees to become much more cynical about the promises delivered by charismatic leaders. Albrecht (2003) showed that trust
in senior management was a significant determinant of employees’ cynicism towards change. Andersson (1996) defines cynicism
as both a general and specific attitude, characterized by frustration, hopelessness, and disillusionment, as well as contempt toward
and distrust of a person, group, ideology, social convention, or institution. Cynicism is an attitude characterized by the attribution
and assumption that institutional processes operate based on self-interested behavior and a management that will not change
In the 2008 election it appears that an attitude of cynicismwas driven beyond failed attempts, by the absence of attempts at system
wide change. The commitment to the status quo undermined public faith and trust in leaders. Even the most sincere and skillful
attempts at organizational changewill be impeded by the prevailing cynicism (Wanous et al., 2000) unless there is trust in the change
leader and followers buy in to his or her vision. Cynical attitudes stemfromexpectancy that the individuals responsible for changewill
beunable to achieve it successfully. Individualswho are cynical attribute the cause of their problems to the behavior of others (Wanous
et al., 2000); in this case, the U.S. government andits leaders.At the timeof election 2008, the voting public perceived President Bush as
unwilling and unable to change and our system as gridlocked by partisan politics (Langer, 2007). In extraordinary situations such as
those present at the time of the 2008 election, leaders and the systems and institutions inwhich they are a part are largely blamed for
creating crises. Within the context of the 2008 election ‘previously failed change attempts’ are regarded as leadership attempts to
change the direction of our economy and the overall welfare of the government. As such, our conceptualization of cynicism for
purposes of the present study, is more focused on the future (i.e. will the leader charged with making the change be successful in
accomplishing change) thanwe are on the past (i.e. cynicism about the past actions of leaderswho precipitated the current crisis). It is
possible that followers’ trust is so eroded that they become cynical about the potential for change.
Emrich (1999) observed that when leaders are viewed as ‘part of the problem’ not ‘part of the solution’, this has negative
associations with charisma. Followers may have, and express, doubts about the ability of their leaders to successfully extricate the
country out of the crisis they (i.e., leaders) created. When followers operate under conditions of decreased faith in leaders and the
systems in which they participate, an attitude of cynicism could potentially develop. Previous research has shown a negative
relationship between followers’ cynicism about change and leaders’ transformational leadership (Wu, Neubert, & Yi, 2007). The
communication of the vision of a leader will be undermined where there is cynicism about change. This could cause a waning of
perceptions of the leader’s charisma and could be exacerbated by the fact that in the context of a presidential election, the leader
and followers share a distant relationship and most information about the leader is filtered through several levels.
H2a. Cynicism about change will be negatively related to attributions of charisma.
4.2. Cynicism and authentic leadership
Cynicism is shaped by experiences (Johnson & O’Leary-Kelly, 2003), may be influenced by external factors (Wanous et al., 2000) and
has been shown to develop out of the feeling that one’s organization lacks integrity (Dean, Brandes, & Dharwadkar, 1998). This is then
generalized to and directed at multiple objects (Andersson, 1996). In the context of this research, we argue that individuals developed a
cynical attitude towards the institution of government and its elected leaders. Emotions play a pivotal role in enhancing an individual’s
perception and understanding of people, phenomenon, and the world in which we live (Michie&Gooty, 2005;Oakley, 1992). Cynicism
about organizational change represents one process through which affective reactions to the negative political environment influence
perceptions of leadership. Furthermore, in the context of a presidential election, the potential leaders are distant fromthe followers and
follower perceptions of leadership are more likely to be influenced by attitudes such as cynicism (Davis & Gardner, 2004).
One outcome of cynicism is generalized lack of trust (Wanous et al., 2000). Since cynicism about organizational change
contains an element of affective reactions to leaders, it is likely that affective-based trust will decrease in its presence. Noe, Tews,
and McConnell Dachner (2010) suggest that positive social exchanges facilitate affective-based trust results. Affective-based trust
is created through leader-followers identification process, wherein a close emotional bond is formed (Lewicki & Bunker, 1996),
such as in authentic leader-follower relationships. When affective-based trust is present individuals are likely to participate in
activities that facilitate social benefits (Noe et al., 2010), which in turn helps facilitate change. The absence of affective-based trust
may lead to withdrawal from productive activities and a decreased perception of authenticity.
While authentic leaders inspire hope for a better future, their message must also be credible and plausible according to follower
perceptions of potential realization. Establishing a base of trust in followers enables a leader’s messages to be more freely accepted.
If leaders are unable to convince their followers that they are not self-serving but actually very sincere in their motives (Davis &
Gardner, 2004), a difficult task in an erawhen cynicism pervades the thinking of most followers, such leadersmay be viewed in a negative
light. Such negative perceptionsmay be formed because followers may not trust that the leader’s actions are authentic. While authentic
leaders gain and sustain credibility by showing that they possess knowledge and expertise they have to consistently deliver tangible
results (Luthans & Avolio, 2003), this will be undermined where there is a negative attitude about the leader’s ability to enact change.
H2b. Cynicism about change will be negatively related to authentic leadership.
- Cynicism, value congruence, and leader perceptions
According to Lord and Maher (1991) individuals form prototypes of what they expect particular leaders to behave and look like
in specific roles. Cronin (2008) posits that people expect leaders to be able to lead effectively during crisis, be honest, exercise good
judgment, remind us of our natural obligations, shared beliefs, ties, traditions, and trust that bind us together. Value congruence
refers to the similarity that exists between two individuals, evaluations of the environment (Bretz & Judge, 1994). Values are
enduring beliefs that certain modes of conduct or end states are more desirable than others (Rokeach, 1979) upon which a person
is prepared to act (Michie & Gooty, 2005). Value congruence plays an especially important role for charismatic leaders who seek to
develop shared and internalized values as a key mechanism for motivating followers (Bass, 1985; Dirks & Ferrin, 2002).
Value congruence may be an antecedent to cognitive based trust. Cognitive-based trust is based on the belief that authentic
leaders have technical competence (Novicevic, Davis, Dorn, Buckley, & Brown, 2005), that their communications can be relied
upon as having truth (Dirks & Ferrin, 2001), and have integrity (Walumbwa et al., 2008). In trusting relationships the level of
psychological safety is high and individuals are able to express themselves without fear of negative consequences, an essential
element to relational transparency (Walumbwa et al., 2008). When leaders are transparent and authentic in their expression of
values, followers have greater access to the leader’s ‘true self’ and are better equipped to evaluate congruence.
Pulakos and Wexley (1983) found that managers and subordinates who perceived greater similarity between each other
evaluated each other more favorably and Foti (1998) suggests that this occurs less often when differences are perceived. In today’s
environment of ubiquitous exposure to political messages from leaders, followers have unparalleled access to hear leaders speak
for themselves. Messages are laden with explicit articulation of plans but also with the implicit values that help to inform the moral
positions behind their motivations for action and as such, perceptions of leadership can form at a distance (Pillai, Williams, Lowe, &
Jung, 2003). Weierter (1997) demonstrated how value congruence among leaders and followers positively influences follower
responses to charismatic messages and leader charisma, and helps in the development of the charismatic relationship.
Lord and Emrich (2000) propose that charismatic leaders link their visions to those of followers values and self structures
through an assortment of communication based techniques – e.g., frame breaking, frame moving, and frame re-aligning (Fiol,
Harris, & House, 1999; Lord & Emrich, 2000) – as well as invocation of symbols and icons (Cronin, 2008). In presidential elections
this point is particularly salient because voters are effectively selecting leaders based on perceptions of value congruence and a
preconceived notion of how the leader will respond to environmental contingencies such as crisis. “Political leaders engage their
audiences in a kind of identification, an organic connection: “I feel your pain”, “I understand your situation, and “I really care about
you”. They, or their handlers, present them as representing ‘us’, as well as representing hope for the future — something new
different, and honest” (Cronin, 2008: 461).
Followers are motivated by the vision of the charismatic leader when there is value congruence between the leader and
follower (Bass, 1985; Conger & Kanungo, 1988); to the point where followers are more likely to consider the goals of the collective
as more important than their personal goals (Avolio & Bass, 1998). In the 2008 election both candidates echoed that sentiment to
various degrees among the numerous topics debated. With less of a focus on the details of “what” and “how” change would occur
followers may have focused more on the overarching vision of change communicated by the candidates and attributed charismatic
qualities to them based on value congruence.
Charismatic leaders engender high levels of trust (House et al., 1991) by establishing a sense of similarity with followers by
stressing value congruence (Conger, Kanungo, & Menon, 2000; Kark, Shamir, & Chen, 2003). Exposure to leaders through messages
and social information processing enables followers to gain an appreciation for, and grasp of, the leader’s values. It is possible that
value congruence between leader and follower helps to attenuate a cynical attitude when the follower perceives the leader to be
more like them. Kavanagh and Ashkanasy (2006) suggest one of the strongest motivations for leadership is internalization, with
the acceptance of the leader’s influence based on congruence with followers’ behavioral motives. Thus, we hypothesize that:
H3. The relationship between cynicismabout change and attributed charismawill bemoderated by value congruencewith the leader
such that the negative effect of cynicismon perceptions of attributed charismawill beweakenedwhen there is high value congruence.
Authentic leaders are individuals whose image and identity embody trustworthiness (Kernis, 2003), credibility (i.e., when the
leader’s claims are subsequently confirmed [Gardner & Avolio, 1998]), adherence to morals (May, Chan, Hodges, & Avolio, 2003),
an ethical approach, realistically and resiliently optimistic attitude during turbulent times (Gardner et al., 2005), and integrity.
Authentic leaders create relationships based on high levels of implied trust in the leader. Behaviorally based trust is formed when
individuals see consistency in the actions and behaviors of another. Consistent with the construct of authentic leadership,
authenticity exists when an individual’s inner experience is consistent with their behaviors (e.g., expression of emotions and
values) (Avolio et al., 2004). Thus, when leaders are authentic they are likely to gain behavioral-based trust from their followers.
Trust is a central component of an authentic leaders effectiveness because trust is a belief (or expectancy) that the word,
promise, or oral or written statement of another individual or group can be relied on (Stack, 1978), which often results in followers
being willing to give the leader the benefit of the doubt (Gardner et al., 2005). This benefit of the doubt provision may be especially
important in times of crisis where the path forward is not easily discerned and the follower needs more than a compelling vision
alone to stay the course. Effectively, leaders who generate high hopes among their followers see opportunities instead of threats
and these hopes are developed by individual level identification with the authentic leader (Avolio et al., 2004).
An important element of cynicism about organizational change is that individuals have experienced failed change attempts in
the past, most likely under the leadership of individuals who have claimed to be able to bring about change. The challenge
followers face is differentiating between leaders who are authentic in their delivery of messages and aware of their strengths and
weaknesses versus leaders who over state their own abilities to bring about the change that they have promised.
In order to achieve authentic leadership, leadersmust be authentic in their interactionswith others aswell as align their espoused
values with manifest actions (Gardner et al., 2005). Authentic leaders’ actions are based on their personal values and convictions
(Shamir & Eilam, 2005). Through self-regulation, authentic leaders align their values with their intentions and actions (Avolio &
Gardner, 2005). Followers observe the leaders over a period of timetaking repeated actions, and this enables themto identifywith and
expect some level of consistency from their leaders. Perceptions of authenticity are formed when followers see manifestations of the
leader’s integrity. The follower begins to see the leader as someone that they might aspire to be like andmay begin to incorporate some
of the leader’s values over and above those already shared. As the level of value congruence increases, so too does implied trust and
goal alignment (Avolio et al., 2004). Thus, value congruence may help followers overcome attitudes of cynicism.
H4. The relationship between cynicism about change and authentic leadership will be moderated by value congruence with the
leader such that the negative effect of cynicism on perceptions of authentic leadership will be weakened when there is high value
- Augmenting effects of charisma over authentic leadership
Authentic leadership is conceptually distinct from, but may incorporate, other forms of positive leadership such as charisma
(Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Ilies, Morgeson, & Nahrgang, 2005). It helps inform our understanding of charisma by providing a base
from which charisma may be attributed to a leader. Gardner and Avolio (1998) expect that the source of influence of authentic
leaders may be based more on their individual character and personal example than on inspirational appeals. Avolio and Gardner
(2005) suggest that charismatic influence is based on rhetoric to persuade followers while followers are energized by an authentic
leader who creates meaning “…positively socially constructing reality for themselves and followers” (p. 330).
Avolio et al. (2004) state that authentic leadership, as a root construct, “…is necessary but not sufficient to explain how some
leaders are able to inspire masses of people to achieve extraordinary accomplishments” (p. 818). Even though both authentic and
charismatic leaders cause an emotional contagion, authentic leaders may not be inspiring. Ilies et al. (2005) posit charismatic
contagion is more likely for authentic leaders higher in charisma. They go on to state that “given authentic leadership, charismatic
leaders are more likely to transfer their positive emotions to their followers” (p. 384).
Kernis (2003) proposes that authentic leaders facilitate optimal self-esteem through self-awareness and relational transparency.
WhileWillner (1984) notes that “It is notwhat the leader is butwhat people see the leader as that counts in generating the charismatic
relationship” (p. 14). To the extent that the leader is genuinely representative of the group and aligns behaviors with espoused
personal and group values, he or she will be seen as authentic and then might be attributed charisma (Bass, 1990). If an authentic
leader is perceived as charismatic by his or her followers the vision of an idealized future that is communicated by the leader may
appear to be that of someone who is genuinely hopeful and optimistic about the potential for its realization.
U.S. presidents who use more image-based rhetoric and master the art of succinctly articulating a palpable vision to followers,
in their inaugural addresses and at pivotal points in their administration, are attributed charisma to a greater extent than those
presidents who used lesser amounts of rhetoric (Emrich et al., submitted for publication). Authentic leaders’ distinctive
capabilities are that they lead with hope, positive attitude, resiliency, display moral convictions, and stay the course through crisis.
This is the base from which they display their moral perspective and self regulation as evidence of their values and ethics (Ilies
et al., 2005). By choosing roles that are consistent with their self-concepts and goals, authentic leaders possess a high person-role
fusion and align core beliefs with the actions taken in their roles (Walumbwa et al., 2008).
Charisma may have augmenting effects over authenticity in predicting voting behavior when the values and beliefs that a
leader espouses are not only visionary, but also consistent with their internal moral compass. Broder (2008) notes that
interactions among followers that result in perceptions of the leader may be as important as the leader’s actual behaviors; and goes
on to describe Obama’s “eye-popping” and “pulsating” early rallies and caucuses. Sommer (2008) characterizes these events as
filled with energy and excitement, and enthusiastic supporters, suggesting that in these interactions perceptions of Obama’s
leadership were likely augmented through processes of social contagion. This example suggests that it may be the charismatic
attributes of leaders such as the ability to excite followers with a theatrical delivery of their message, physical appearance (Bligh &
Kohles, 2009), and overall exuberance for changing the status quo that augments over the effects of authenticity.
H5. Attributed charisma has augmenting effects over authentic leadership in predicting voting behavior.
Eight hundred and sixty-eight undergraduate and graduate business students from four universities participated in a preelection
survey. Seventeen percent of respondents were from the Southwest, thirty percent were from the Northeast, and fiftythree
percent were from the Southern United States. The final sample was based on a matched sampling approach with a postelection
survey administered to respondents 2 weeks after voting in the presidential election to capture voting behavior and the
issues that influenced the vote. The post election survey also served to help eliminate some response bias by asking respondents to
report voting behavior in a separate survey after the election (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). Temporal separation
generally reduces demands for cognitive consistency either because the rater does not recall exactly what was stated at time 1 or is
less certain about indications at time 1 (Diener & Larsen, 1984). Five hundred and fifty-three respondents participated in both the
pre and post election surveys. Because our study is about participant reactions to the major party candidates with respect to their
leadership in the context of a presidential election and participant voting behavior, we restricted our sample to those who were
registered to vote. These individuals represented those who might be most likely to take an interest in the leadership of the
candidates even though they did not typically have first-hand knowledge concerning how immediate subordinates would view
them. After removing those who were not registered to vote the final sample included four hundred and forty-one registered
voters (50.8% of the original sample of 868). After accounting for missing data the final analyses were conducted with four
hundred and fourteen responses. We compared the combined College of Business characteristics (provided by an administrator in
the dean’s offices of the Colleges of Business) from the four participating universities with the samples (868, 553, and 414). The
demographic statistics were generally comparable on the main areas of interest, and especially as they pertain to our analyses
including age, dummy coded race (majority white vs. all others), and party affiliation (not available from college sources).
The sample was 49.3% female with a mean age of 24 years. Program enrollment varied according to the following percentages:
64.4% completing a bachelor’s degree, and 35.6% completing a master’s degree and 83.8% business majors. With regards to
educational level 24.3% had a Bachelor’s degree, 4.5% a Masters, and .8% had Doctoral degrees. Racial demographics were 64.2%
Caucasian, 11.1% Hispanic, 8.1% African American, 7.7% Asian, and 4.8% other; with 73.6% of participants employed. Republicans
represented 23.7% of the sample, Democrats 41.4%, Independents 25.1%, while “other” accounted for 5%. Of those who responded
34.5% indicated they voted for John McCain, 57.2% for Barack Obama, 1.4% for “other”, and 6.8% did not vote. The U.S. Census report
indicated that 64.9% of individuals over 18 years of age were registered to vote while 58.2% of those eligible actually voted (U.S.
Census Bureau, 2008a). Of note, the age group of 18–24 years was the only group to show a statistically significant increase in
turnout (49% versus 47% in 2004) (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008b). The Census bureau reports show 52.9% of the votes going to Barack
Obama while 45.6% went to John McCain (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010).
Two waves of questionnaires were administered to business students in a variety of states in the classroom setting. The preelection
survey was administered two weeks before the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Respondents were asked to describe how
they viewed John McCain and Barack Obama as leaders. Participants were instructed to judge the degree to which each statement
fit the candidates’ leadership style. The current approach allows for assessment of leadership attributes based on observations of
leader behavior. The most extensive media coverage in the history of U.S. presidential elections and the heightened attention paid
by the nation given the sense of crisis and desire for action expressed across the country gave respondents ample opportunities to
form impressions and even form a personal connection to the values espoused by the leader (Bligh et al., 2004). We captured the
extent to which voters were involved in the election to gain some insight on the extent to which they followed the process on
various media outlets: The average response was “agree” that they were actively involved in the election process by keeping up
with information provided in the media.
Two weeks after the election, students completed a post-election survey where they indicated which candidate they voted for
and identified what issues were most important in influencing their vote.
7.3.1. Perceptions of crisis
A four item of measure of crisis (Williams et al., 2009) was employed. Williams et al. (2009) provided evidence of construct
validity. The items represented a general perception of crisis with “issues you think are important in selecting the next president”.
A five-point response scale ranging from 1 “strongly disagree” to 5 “strongly agree” was employed. The reliability of the scale, as
measured by coefficient alpha, was .75 in this study.
7.3.2. Cynicism about change
An eight-item measure of cynicism about change was adapted fromWanous et al. (2000). The referent for two of the items was
changed to national problems instead of organizational problems. A high score on this scale reflects a pessimistic opinion about the
possibility of successful change. A five-point response scale ranging from1 “strongly disagree” to 5 “strongly agree”was employed. A
sample item is “Plans for future improvement will not amount to much”.Wanous et al. (2000) confirmed the single factor structure
supporting the eight items representing pessimism about change. The coefficient alpha of reliability for the scale in this studywas .81.
7.3.3. Value congruence
A three-item measure of value congruence was taken from the work of Jung and Avolio (2000) to capture shared values
between leader and follower (Meglino, Ravlin, & Adkins, 1989). A sample item is “There is a great deal of agreement between my
personal values and his core values”. A seven-point response scale ranging from 1 “strongly disagree” to 5 “strongly agree” was
employed. The coefficient alphas of reliability were .83 for McCain and .86 for Obama.
7.3.4. Authentic leadership
The sixteen item measure of authentic leadership developed by Walumbwa et al. (2008) was employed as the measure of
authentic leadership. These sixteen items were developed to represent the authentic leader’s self-awareness, relational
transparency, internalized moral perspective, and balanced processing. In developing and validating the scale Walumbwa et al.
(2008) reported that the single factor best represents the measurement of authentic leadership. The coefficient alpha of reliability
for the authentic leadership scale in the study was .92 for McCain and .94 for Obama.
7.3.5. Attributed charisma
The eight-item scale from the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire was employed to measure attributed charisma (Bass &
Avolio, 1991). The measurement of attributed charisma using this approach captures the leader’s influence on followers through
emotional attachment and identification with the vision A sample item is, “Provides reassurance that he and his followers will
overcome obstacles”. A seven-point scale ranging from 1 “strongly disagree” to 7 “strongly agree” was employed. The reliability
coefficients were .90 for McCain and .92 for Obama.
On the post-election questionnaire respondents indicated who they voted for in the 2008 presidential election. The response
choices provided were: McCain, Obama, Other, or Did not vote. The variable was coded into 2 separate vote variables for each
candidate: (1) 1 for “McCain” and 0 for “all others” and (2) 1 for “Obama” and 0 for “all others”.
Wemeasured social desirability in responding using a 5 itemscale employed in previous research (Hays, Hayashi, & Stewart, 1989;
Williams et al., 2009). Because the original SDRS measures tend to be lengthy (ranging from33 to 128 items), the five itemscalewas
employed to reduce the timeburden on respondents. Prior research has shown that reduced versions of the SDRS can have comparable
properties and are preferred to the full 33 itemset (Fischer & Fick, 1993). The reliability coefficient for the 5 itemmeasure employed in
this study was 0.62 which is similar to reliabilities estimates of 0.66 to 0.68 found in previous research utilizing this measure. This
reliability coefficient is not too dissimilar fromlevels reported (low.7 range) for ten items versions of theMarlowe–Crowne (Crowne&
Marlowe, 1960) Social Desirability Index (Verardi et al., 2010.). By capturing the extent towhich individuals claimfavorable attributes
we can determine the presence of authenticity in responses (Ellingson, Smith, & Sackett, 2001). A sample item is, “I am always
courteous even to people who are disagreeable”. A five-point scale ranging from 1 “definitely true” to 5 “definitely false” was
employed. The variable was reverse scored for data analysis with low scores indicating indifference to others’ evaluations.
7.4. Background variables
The background characteristics of party affiliation and involvement in following the election process were included in all our
analyses. Age and racewere also included as covariates in all our analyses because thesewere considered to be pertinent in the context
of an election with unprecedented turnout by younger and minority voters. Initial regression analyses revealed no significant
differences between groups of voters fromthe various states on the background variables. For party affiliation “Democrat”was coded 1
for “democrat” and 0 for “all others” and “Republican” was coded 1 for “republican” and 0 for “all others”. Race was coded as 1 for
“white” and 0 for “all other races”. The dummy codingwas consistentwith the rationale presented in Nunnally and Bernstein (1994)
when presenting categories in each variable that are mutually exclusive (we consider additional dummy variables for the other
categories to be redundant since our main interest is in the main category of interest coded “1” compared to the other categories
together e.g., democrat compared to non democrats andwhite compared to minority). Involvementwas measured using three items
developed by Driskell, Embry, and Lyon (2008) to represent a political participation index that capture “visitinginternet sites related to
the election; reading stories related to the election; and watching the presidential election debates”.
7.5. Data analysis
Hypotheses 1 through 4, with continuous independent variables and a continuous dependent variable, were tested using
regression analysis. For Hypothesis H5, the dichotomous variable “vote” was employed as the dependent variable using logistic
regression since this is appropriate for research designs with dichotomous dependent variables and both continuous and
categorical independent variables (Hair, Anderson, Tatham, & Black, 1992).
The means, standard deviations intercorrelations and coefficient alphas of reliability for our study variables are presented in
Table 1. The first few rows of the table for “MCCAIN” and “OBAMA” provide statistics for the covariates (age, race, involvement, and
party affiliation). The second set of rows reports ratings by all respondents for McCain and Obama on the study variables of
attributed charisma, authentic leadership, crisis, cynicism about change, and value congruence. The vote variable reflects the
Means, standard deviations, and intercorrelation matrix for McCain and Obama.
Measures Mean SD 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
- Age 23.80 6.33 –
- Race .73 .44 −.08 –
- Involvement 3.91 1.01 .03 −.04 .72
- Party: Republican .30 .46 −.02 .29⁎⁎ −.05 –
- Crisis 4.23 .65 .15⁎⁎ −.02 .18⁎⁎ −.06 .75
- Cynicism 2.74 .70 .07 .05 −.09 −.04 −.09 .81
- Value congruence 3.98 1.64 −.03 .18⁎⁎ −.11⁎ .45⁎⁎ −.04 −.12⁎ .83
- Authentic leadership 2.29 .73 −.04 .13⁎⁎ −.10 .32⁎⁎ .01 −.19⁎⁎ .61⁎⁎ .92
- Attributed charisma 4.51 1.36 .03 .19⁎⁎ −.10⁎ .35⁎⁎ .07 −.13⁎⁎ .69⁎⁎ .69⁎⁎ .90
- Vote: McCain .35 .48 −.03 .28⁎⁎ −.06 .63⁎⁎ −.08 .02 .29⁎⁎ .38⁎⁎ .43⁎⁎ –
- Age 23.80 6.33 –
- Race .73 .44 −.08 –
- Involvement 3.91 1.01 .03 −.04 .72
- Party: Democrat .41 .49 .01 −.32⁎⁎ .02 –
- Crisis 4.23 .65 .15⁎⁎ −.02 .18⁎⁎ .10⁎ .75
- Cynicism 2.74 .70 .07 .05 −.09 −.10⁎ −.09 .81
- Value congruence 4.54 1.78 .04 −.28⁎⁎ .13⁎ .51⁎⁎ .16⁎⁎ −.18⁎⁎ .86
- Authentic leadership 2.65 .81 −.05 −.26*⁎ .13⁎ .45⁎⁎ .10 −.21⁎⁎ .73⁎⁎ .94
- Attributed charisma 5.14 1.33 .05 −.20⁎⁎ .17⁎⁎ .36⁎⁎ .24⁎⁎ −.23⁎⁎ .72⁎⁎ .66⁎⁎ .92
- Vote: Obama .57 .49 .06 −.29⁎⁎ .13⁎ .52⁎⁎ .09 −.03 .63⁎⁎ .52⁎⁎ .45⁎⁎ –