Many writers (e.g., Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995;
Hollander, 1993; Jermier, 1993; Klein & House,
1995; Yukl & Van Fleet, 1992) agree that leadership
is a relationship that is jointly produced by
leaders and followers. Furthermore, these writers
and others (e.g., Meindl, 1990, 1995) criticize
extant leadership theories for being too “leader
centric,” in the sense that they focus almost exclusively
on the impact of leader traits and behaviors
on followers’ attitudes and behaviors.
However, beyond paying lip service to the importance
of followers, few scholars have attempted
to theoretically specify and empirically
assess the role of followers in the leadership
process. As Yukl and Van Fleet conclude, after
reviewing the literature, “Most of the prevailing
leadership theories have been simple, unidirectional
models of what a leader does to subordinates”
(1992: 186). And as Lord, Brown, and
Freiberg more recently have asserted, “The follower
remains an under-explored source of variance
in understanding leadership processes”
(1999: 167).
This state of affairs is especially noticeable in
the case of charismatic leadership. Theories of
charismatic leadership have been accused of
promoting a “heroic leadership” stereotype
(Beyer, 1999; Yukl, 1998), which depicts leaders
as heroic figures that are single-handedly capable
of determining the fate and fortunes of
groups and organizations. In this heroic conception
the leader is omnipotent, and followers are
submissive to the leader’s will and demands.
Although this view of charismatic leadership is
oversimplified and exaggerated, it is true that
currently prominent theories of charismatic
leadership (e.g., Conger & Kanungo, 1998;
House, 1977) are leader centered, in the sense
that they attribute both the positive and negative
consequences of charismatic leadership
mainly to the leader’s personality or behavior.
We believe this leader-centric perspective of
charismatic leadership relies too heavily on the
influence of leader characteristics and behaviors
in producing followers’ motivation, attitudes,
and behaviors. In this article we attempt
to correct the heroic image of charismatic leadership
by showing that the role of followers in
leadership processes is broader than the role
previously given them in leadership theories.
Most theories, to the extent they consider the
followers at all, have only attended to their characteristics
as potential moderators of the impact

of the leader’s behaviors. We think this role is
important but believe that followers also play a
more active role in constructing the leadership
relationship, empowering the leader and influencing
his or her behavior, and ultimately determining
the consequences of the leadership
relationship. We offer a theoretical analysis of
the ways in which followers influence the charismatic
leadership process.
Articulating the role of followers in the charismatic
leadership process is of theoretical and
practical importance with respect to the following
questions: How can followers amplify charismatic
leaders’ strengths and modulate their
weaknesses so that both serve the common purpose?
How do followers shape charismatic leaders’
behavior and contribute to leaders’ development?
How can followers counteract the pitfalls
of charismatic leadership, such as the abuse of
power? Given the accumulating evidence that
demonstrates both the positive and negative
outcomes of charismatic leadership (e.g., Conger
& Kanungo, 1998; O’Connor, Mumford,
Clifton, Gessner, & Connelly, 1995), we believe it
is important to explore how followers can foster
the charismatic relationship in an attempt to
start addressing these questions.
Following other writers (Lord et al., 1999;
Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993), we suggest that
followers’ self-concepts are powerful determinants
of their behavior and their reactions to the
leader. Specifically, we distinguish between
two types of charismatic relationships— personalized
and socialized—and argue that followers’
self-concepts play a crucial role in determining
the type of relationship they develop with the
leader. The type of charismatic relationship followers
form with the leader has many consequences:
it is reflected in the type of leader the
followers select or endorse, the attributions they
make to the leader, their susceptibility to the
leader’s influence, and their dependence on the
leader. These consequences, together with the
active role followers play in empowering the
leader, may determine the ultimate outcomes of
the charismatic relationship.
We begin with a brief examination of the role
of followers in other (noncharismatic) leadership
theories, followed by a description of the
uniqueness of the charismatic leader-follower
relationship and our definitions of charismatic
leadership and followership. We then articulate
the distinction between the two types of charismatic

relationships—personalized and socialized—
and present general propositions about
the impact of followers’ self-concepts on the type
of relationship they develop with the leader. On
the basis of these general propositions, we develop
a series of more specific propositions
about the followers’ role in various stages of the
charismatic leadership process, starting with
the susceptibility of followers to charismatic influence
and ending with its consequences. We
conclude with the implications of our propositions
regarding followers’ responsibility for the
consequences of charismatic leadership and
some suggestions for theoretical extensions.
The idea that followers’ characteristics influence
the impact of leadership is not new in the
literature (Dvir, 1998). For instance, Fiedler’s
(1967) contingency model specifies group atmosphere,
which includes followers’ loyalty, support,
and cooperation with the leader, as an
important situational determinant of the effectiveness
of people-oriented versus task-oriented
leaders. Similarly, Hersey and Blanchard (1977)
refer to follower maturity level and House (1971),
in his path-goal theory, to followers’ experience,
skills, and confidence as factors influencing the
appropriateness of various leadership styles.
Vroom and Yetton (1973) include various follower
characteristics in their model of decisionmaking
styles, and Kerr and Jermier’s (1978)
leadership substitutes theory includes follower
experience, ability, training, and professional
orientation as factors that can negate the need
for leadership or moderate its impact on various
These theories, however, focus on leader behaviors,
such as the structuring of tasks, consideration
and support of followers, and the inclusion
of followers in leader decision making.
They conceive of the role of followers from the
point of view of their susceptibility to certain
leader behaviors or styles. None of them address
the charismatic leadership processes we examine
in this article, nor do they consider the more
active role followers often play in the leadership
An important exception is the leader-member
exchange (LMX) approach developed by Graen

(1976) and extended by Graen and Uhl-Bien
(1995). Unlike most leadership theories, this theory
acknowledges the importance of the role of
followers in leadership processes, and it emphasizes
that both leader and follower mutually determine
the quality of the relationship. Graen
and Uhl-Bien (1995) classify leadership theories
into three domains: the leader, the follower, and
the relationship. While LMX theory emphasizes
the importance of all three domains, its main
contribution has been to shift the focus from the
leadership domain to the relationship domain.
Indeed, Graen and Uhl-Bien title their article
“Relationship-Based Approach to Leadership”
and state that “the centroid concept of the theory
is that effective leadership processes occur
when leaders and followers are able to develop
mature leadership relationships (partnerships)
and thus gain access to the many benefits these
relationships bring” (1995: 225).
Our approach here is consistent with some of
the basic tenets of LMX theory but extends it in
some important ways. First, the follower domain
has remained relatively underdeveloped and
less researched in LMX theory, as explicitly acknowledged
by Graen and Uhl-Bien (1995: 239).
LMX theory suggests that followers’ motivation
and abilities contribute to the quality of the
leader-member relationship, but it does not fully
articulate the manner in which followers influence
the nature of the relationship. We believe
that elaborating on the followers’ role in the
charismatic leadership process would stimulate
more research on the follower domain as advocated
by Graen and Uhl-Bien (1995).
Second, as a dyadic approach to leadership,
LMX theory focuses on the development of different
dyadic relationships between leaders
and individual followers. While Graen and Uhl-
Bien suggest that the theory can be extended to
the group and organization levels, this extension
is based on the idea that group and system
properties evolve from different combinations of
dyadic relationships. In its present form, the
LMX model de-emphasizes the relationship between
the leader and his or her followers as a
group and does not consider the possibility that
the followers as a group may influence the
leader and the relationship. Charismatic leadership
theories, in contrast, consider the possibility
that a leader will develop a relationship
with his or her followers as a group, and they
contain the implied possibility that the followers

will react to the leader and influence the
leader and the relationship as members of a
group—not only as individuals (e.g., Klein &
House, 1995; Shamir et al., 1993).
Third, LMX is a gradual leadership-making
model that describes the development of the
leader-member relationship over time. According
to LMX theory, the exchange between leader
and member is limited at first to material transactions
and only gradually includes more and
more social and psychological benefits. Only in
the third and final stage of the model does the
leader-member relationship reach maturity. At
this stage it is characterized by some features
that also characterize a charismatic relationship,
like a high level of trust between leader
and followers and a transformation in the followers’
orientation from self-interests to collective
interests. Charismatic relationships, however,
do not always develop in such a gradual
manner and typically are not built on a foundation
of material transactions (e.g., Conger & Kanungo,
1998; Klein & House, 1995). Therefore,
there is a need to examine the role of followers
in such relationships as well. For all of these
reasons, we believe there is a need to complement
the LMX emphasis on the follower and
extend it to charismatic leadership.
Over the past twenty years, a new genre of
organizational leadership theories, variously
termed charismatic, inspirational, or transformational,
has been developed to emphasize exceptional
leadership that has profound effects
on followers, organizations, and societies. Given
the theoretical overlap and convergence of empirical
findings, following Shamir and his colleagues
(1993), we call this genre of leadership
theories “charismatic leadership.”
We view charisma as residing in the relationship
between leaders who exhibit certain charismatic
qualities and behaviors and those followers
who have certain perceptions, emotions,
and attitudes toward the leader, the group led
by the leader, and the vision advocated by the
leader (Gardner & Avolio, 1998; House, Spangler,
& Woycke, 1991; Klein & House, 1995). We view
the follower as “a person who acknowledges the
focal leader as a continuing source of guidance

and inspiration, regardless of whether there is
any formal reporting relationship” (Yukl, 1998: 6).
Many scholars have emphasized that traditional
leader-follower relationships can be distinguished
from charismatic leader-follower relationships
(e.g., Bass, 1985; Burns, 1978; Conger
& Kanungo, 1998; House et al., 1991; Kuhnert &
Lewis, 1987; Shamir et al., 1993). Followers who
share a charismatic relationship with a leader
are willing to transcend self-interests for the
sake of the collective (team or organization), to
engage in self-sacrifice in the interest of the
mission, to identify with the vision articulated
by the leader, to show strong emotional attachment
to the leader, to internalize the leader’s
values and goals, and to demonstrate strong
personal or moral (as opposed to calculative)
commitment to those values or goals (e.g., Bass,
1985; House & Shamir, 1993; House et al., 1991). A
charismatic relationship is defined by these follower
We define the charismatic leadership process
as the process through which the charismatic
relationship is created and maintained. Most
theories and studies of charismatic leadership
have focused on the leaders’ qualities and behaviors
that contribute to this process. Specifically,
the personal characteristics of charismatic
leaders that contribute to the formation of
a charismatic relationship include self-confidence,
need for influence, moral conviction, and
prosocial assertiveness (Bass, 1985; Conger &
Kanungo, 1998; House et al., 1991). Charismatic
leader behaviors that give the leader the potential
for developing a charismatic relationship
with followers include communicating an ideological
vision that is discrepant from the status
quo, intellectually stimulating followers to think
in new and different directions, communicating
high expectations and confidence in followers,
referring to followers’ worth and efficacy as individuals
and as a collective, and engaging in
exemplary and symbolic behavior and role modeling
(e.g., Bass, 1985; Conger & Kanungo, 1998;
House & Shamir, 1993; Shamir et al., 1993).
Only a few writers have noted that followers
may play a role in developing and maintaining
charismatic relationships. For instance, Burns
(1978) states that transforming leadership is a
process of mutual influence between leader and
followers, but his analysis of such leadership,
like that of Bass (1985), focuses mainly on the
leader. Klein and House (1995) use a fire metaphor

to suggest that charismatic leadership requires
three components: a spark (the leader),
flammable material (the followers), and oxygen
(a conducive environment). However, by viewing
followers as “flammable material” waiting to be
ignited by the leader, these scholars portray followers
in a limited and passive role. With few
exceptions—most notably Weierter’s (1997)
work, which we discuss below—the role of followers
in the charismatic leadership process
has not been developed much further. Thus,
there is a need to complement charismatic leadership
theories in this regard, and we do so in
the following sections.
Our basic argument is that, depending on
their self-concepts, followers may develop two
different types of charismatic relationships with
the leader—personalized or socialized—and
these relationships are likely to result in different
consequences. Our argument is based on the
theoretical foundations laid by Shamir et al.
(1993) and Howell (1988; House & Howell, 1992),
as recently extended and developed by Kark
and Shamir (2002) and Weierter (1997).
According to Shamir et al. (1993), the essence
of the charismatic relationship is strong links
between followers’ self-concepts and the leader,
the collectivity (group, organization, movement)
led by the leader, and the collective mission.
When a charismatic relationship exists, followers
identify with the leader, the group, and the
collective mission and regard them as expressing
important aspects of their self-concepts.
Kark and Shamir (2002) have recently refined
Shamir et al.’s theory by integrating it with theoretical
work on different levels of self-concept
(Brewer & Gardner, 1996; Lord et al., 1999).
Brewer and Gardner (1996) contend that the selfconcept
is multifaceted, consisting of three loci
of self: the self as an individual, as an interpersonal
being, and as a group member. These
three loci of self-definitions represent distinct
orientations of identity, each with its own social
motivation, sources of self-worth, and types of
significant self-knowledge (Brewer & Gardner,
1996: 83).
Kark and Shamir (2002) maintain that of the
three self-identity levels suggested by Brewer

and Gardner, the relational and collective levels,
which link the individual to the leader and
the organization, may be central to understanding
the charismatic leadership process. The relational
self is derived from interpersonal connections
and role relationships with specific
others (e.g., follower-leader). At this level, individuals
conceive of themselves predominantly
in terms of their roles in relation to significant
others, and their self-worth is derived from appropriate
role behavior, as conveyed through
reflected appraisals of the other person involved
in the relationship. Their primary motivation is
to enhance the relationship partner’s well-being
and derive mutual benefits (Brewer & Gardner,
The collective self, however, is based on membership
in larger, more impersonal collectives or
social categories (e.g., work team or organization).
At this level of self-identity, individuals
use the group prototype as a basis for intergroup
comparisons and self-definition and evaluate
their self-worth by comparing their group to an
outgroup (Brewer & Gardner, 1996). Therefore,
their primary motivation is to enhance their
group’s status and achievements.
Drawing on Brewer and Gardner’s work and
its extension to the domain of leadership by
Lord et al. (1999), Kark and Shamir (2002) propose
that there are two types of charismatic relationships:
one in which the relational self is activated
and the primary mechanism of influence
is followers’ personal identification with the
charismatic leader, and one in which the collective
self is activated and the primary mechanism
of influence is followers’ social identification
with the group or the organization. Personal
identification is characterized by the attribution
of desirable qualities to the leader, a definition
of self in terms of the relationship with the
leader, and a desire to become like the leader.
Social identification is characterized by selfdefinition
in terms of group membership and a
perception of group successes and failures as
personal successes and failures (Ashforth &
Mael, 1989). The two types of identification are
not unrelated, and followers often identify with
both the leader and the group. However, following
Shamir et al. (1993), Kark and Shamir (2002)
suggest that when the collective self is activated,
the followers identify with the leader not
on the basis of the personal qualities they attribute
to the leader but, rather, because they

see the leader as a representative character or a
prototypical member (Hogg, 2001) who embodies
a unit’s identity and values.
Weierter (1997, 1998) also suggests that there
are two types of charismatic relationships, following
Howell’s (1988; House & Howell, 1992) distinction
between two types of charismatic leadership:
personalized and socialized. Weierter’s
distinction, which is supported by some empirical
evidence, is based on the nature of the needs
that the relationship fulfills for followers.
In the personalized relationship, followers are
confused and disoriented before joining the relationship,
and the relationship provides them
with a clearer sense of self and greater selfconfidence.
This type of relationship is based
mainly on followers’ personal identification
with the leader, rather than on their identification
with or acceptance of the leader’s message.
Lacking a strong internal reference point from
which to judge the leader’s messages and influence
attempts, followers in this type of relationship
are dependent on and vulnerable to the
In the socialized relationship, followers have
a clear sense of self and a clear set of values,
and the charismatic relationship provides them
with a means for expressing their important values
within the framework of a collective action.
Followers in this type of relationship derive
their sense of direction and self-expression not
from personal identification with the leader but
from the leader’s message. In this relationship
followers place constraints on the leader’s influence,
play an active role in determining the values
expressed by the leader, are less dependent
on the leader, and are less open to manipulation
by the leader.
To conclude, following the authors whose
work we discuss in this section, we define the
personalized charismatic relationship as a relationship
between followers and a charismatic
leader in which followers’ relational level of self
is activated. This relationship is based primarily
on followers’ personal identification with the
leader. We define the socialized charismatic relationship
as a relationship between followers
and a charismatic leader in which followers’
collective level of self is activated. This relationship
is based primarily on followers’ social
identification with the group or organization.


The work discussed in the previous section
suggests that two characteristics of followers’
self-concepts may determine the nature of the
charismatic relationship followers form with the
leader: their self-concept clarity and their core
level of self-identity, relational or collective. In
this section we first offer general propositions
about the relationships between these selfconcept
characteristics and the nature of the
charismatic relationship. In the following sections
we derive from these propositions more
specific propositions concerning various stages
of the charismatic leadership process: followers’
susceptibility to the influence of the leader, followers’
responses to the leader, followers’ empowerment
of the leader, and the consequences
of the leadership process.
Campbell (1990) defines the construct of selfconcept
clarity as the extent to which the contents
of the individual’s self-concept are clearly
and confidently defined, internally consistent,
and temporally stable. This construct is related
to, but not identical with, self-esteem, which is
the evaluative component of the self-concept or
the degree to which people perceive their identities
and characteristics as good or desirable
(Gecas, 1982). Both self-concept clarity and selfesteem
are at least partially stable characteristics
of individuals. People with high self-esteem
are also characterized by high self-concept clarity.
People with low self-esteem, however, are
typically not characterized by a well-defined
negative view of themselves but, rather, by a
high level of uncertainty, instability, and inconsistency
of their self-concept (Campbell et al.,
Traditionally, the charismatic leadership literature
has implied that followers with low selfesteem
and low self-concept clarity are more
susceptible to the influence of charismatic political
and religious leaders (e.g., Freemesser &
Kaplan, 1976; Galanter, 1982). For instance,
Freemesser and Kaplan (1976) have observed, on
the basis of interviews, that those who join a
charismatic religious cult have lower selfesteem
than a comparable set of others. Similarly,
Erikson (1980) has suggested that individuals
with identity diffusion (a notion very
similar to low self-concept clarity) are particularly

susceptible to the influence of ideologies
and charismatic leaders. It has also been argued
that, in times of stress, anxiety, or ambiguity,
followers are more susceptible to domination
attempts and persuasive communications
by charismatic leaders (e.g., Fromm, 1971). These
theories have focused only on “weak” followers’
susceptiblity to charismatic leadership. The
possibility that charismatic leadership may also
appeal to “strong” followers and the possibility
that followers play an active role in the charismatic
relationship have not been considered in
these theories.
In contrast with traditional theories, our dual
conceptualization of the charismatic relationship
does not imply that charismatic leadership
appeals only to individuals with chronically low
self-concept clarity but, rather, that the level of
self-concept clarity will determine the nature of
the relationship formed with the leader. People
with low self-concept clarity do not have a clear
and consistent self-concept that can guide their
behavior. Such people are characterized by high
self-plasticity, which means they are highly susceptible
to self-relevant social cues, especially
when such cues come from attractive or powerful
others (Brockner, 1988). Since they need selfdirection,
these people are likely to look for
charismatic leaders, identify strongly with such
leaders, and gain a sense of self-direction from
this identification. The charismatic relationship
they form with the leader is likely to be personalized.
In contrast, individuals with high self-concept
clarity are likely to have a high motivation for
self-expression and to attach a high importance
to self-consistency. They are also likely to be
motivated to protect and enhance their already
high self-esteem. Therefore, they may respond
to leaders who link goals and required behaviors
to valued components of their self-concepts,
particularly their values and social identities.
These individuals’ relationships with the leader
will be based on the extent to which the leader
embodies and advocates their salient identities
and values and shows how the mission reflects
these identities and values. Therefore, such relationships
are likely to be socialized.
These arguments suggest that charismatic
leadership may be applicable both to weak and
vulnerable potential followers and to strong and
confident followers, but there will be differences
in the nature of the relationship formed between

leader and follower and in the primary mechanism
of influence: personal or social identification.
The conclusions from this discussion are
captured in the following propositions.
Proposition 1a: Followers with low
self-concept clarity will form a personalized
charismatic relationship with
the leader.
Proposition 1b: Followers with high
self-concept clarity will form a socialized
charismatic relationship with the
Another aspect of followers’ self-concept that
is likely to affect the type of charismatic relationship
they form with the leader is their selfidentity
orientation: relational or collective. Lord
et al. (1999) and Kark and Shamir (2002) have
focused on the leader’s influence on followers’
self-identity level, and therefore on the malleable
aspects of the self-concept. However, implied
in their work is that followers’ more stable
identity orientations also affect the leadership
process. Thus, Lord et al. propose that leaders
will be effective to the extent that their actions
match the identity level of followers, and they
further assert that “followers’ self-concepts are
powerful determinants of follower behavior and
reactions to leaders” (1999: 167).
There are reasons to believe that the selfidentity
levels identified by Brewer and Gardner
(1996) exist as stable properties of the selfconcept
and not only as transient cognitive
states. Brewer and Gardner’s categorization is
an extension of the individualism-collectivism
dimension. This dimension has several meanings
and has come under criticism on these
grounds (Earley & Gibson, 1998). Brewer and
Gardner’s work refers to a specific meaning of
this dimension—namely, differences in selfconstrual.
According to Markus and Kitayama
(1991), individualists define themselves in terms
of their personal characteristics, whereas collectivists
define themselves in terms of the groups
to which they belong. Individualists view the
self as autonomous and independent from
groups, whereas collectivists view the self as
interdependent with others. While this dimension
was initially suggested as a variable that
distinguishes among cultures, subsequent findings
have revealed considerable within-culture
variation on this factor (Earley & Gibson, 1998).

Both cross-cultural and within-culture approaches
to this dimension view independent
and interdependent self-construal as relatively
stable orientations.
Brewer and Gardner (1996) added a third identity
level orientation to this basic distinction.
Their work suggests that, in addition to individualists,
who define themselves primarily in
terms of their individual characteristics and attainments,
and collectivists, who define themselves
primarily in terms of the groups to which
they belong and with which they identify, there
are people who define themselves primarily in
terms of interpersonal relationships with significant
others. Research following Brewer and
Gardner’s framework reflects the belief that
these self-definitions are, at least to some extent,
stable (Gabriel & Gardner, 1999).
Based on this differentiation of self-identity
levels, we can expect individualists to be less
likely to form a charismatic relationship with a
leader than people having either a relational or
a collectivistic identity orientation. Because individualists
focus on personal interests (Erez &
Earley, 1993) and are typically motivated by calculative
self-centered considerations, they are
more likely to be motivated by the creation of
strong links between rewards and performance,
which characterize noncharismatic exchangebased
leadership. Charismatic relationships offer
rewards that stem either from the relationship
with the leader or from the relationship
with the group. Therefore, such relationships
are likely to appeal primarily to people with a
relational or a collective identity orientation.
People with a relational identity orientation
define themselves in terms of their relationships
with significant others. They seek direction, selfvalidation,
and satisfaction from personal relationships.
Therefore, they are likely to be drawn
to attractive or powerful individuals and to form
charismatic relationships that will be based on
personal identification with the leader. In contrast,
the collective identity and values of the
group are salient in the self-concept of people
with a collective identity orientation, whose
self-esteem and satisfaction are based on group
achievements and comparisons with other
groups. Therefore, collectivists are likely to form
a charismatic relationship with a leader who
advocates, embodies, and represents the identity
and values of the group. This relationship

will be based primarily on social identification
with the group.
These considerations lead to the following
Proposition 2a: Followers with a relational
identity orientation will form a
personalized charismatic relationship
with the leader.
Proposition 2b: Followers with a collective
identity orientation will form a
socialized charismatic relationship
with the leader.
Leader-centered theories of charismatic leadership
(e.g., Bass, 1985; Conger & Kanungo, 1998;
House, 1977) attribute the emergence of such
leadership mainly to the traits and/or behaviors
of the leader. In contrast, Meindl (1990, 1995)
presents a follower-oriented view, according to
which charismatic leadership emerges as a result
of social psychological forces operating
among followers, subordinates, and observers,
rather than arising from the traits or behaviors
of leaders or out of the interactions between
followers and leaders. Meindl advances two explanations:
the romance of leadership and social
contagion, according to which the source of
charismatic leadership is in the followers, not in
the leaders. According to this rather radical perspective,
it does not matter who occupies the
leadership position. Leaders are irrelevant and
interchangeable, and their behavior and traits
should be removed from the explanation of charismatic
In contrast with both the dominant leadercentric
view and Meindl’s follower-centric view,
we maintain that the charismatic relationship
emerges as a result of the interaction between
leaders who display certain traits and behaviors
and followers who have different levels of
self-concept clarity and identity level orientations.
We agree with Meindl that followers play
a crucial role in the emergence of charismatic
leadership, but we submit that this role centers
on the type of leader they are likely to form a
charismatic relationship with and on the type of
relationship that develops.
The arguments presented in the previous section
imply that followers with low self-concept

clarity or a relational orientation will be susceptible
to a different type of charismatic leader
than followers with high self-concept clarity or a
collective orientation. Followers with low selfconcept
clarity or a relational orientation will be
more susceptible to the type of leader Howell
(1988) calls “personalized”—namely, a leader
who is motivated by a need to accumulate personal
power and who employs tactics designed
to increase followers’ identification with him or
her. Such a leader is likely to be rejected by
followers with high self-concept clarity or a collective
orientation. These followers are likely to
be susceptible to a socialized leader who seeks
power for social purposes and emphasizes collective
identity and collective values. In this section
we refine and further articulate the rationale
behind this expectation.
Followers with low self-concept clarity or a
relational identity orientation seek direction
and self-validation from their relationship with
the leader. Such individuals are likely to be
drawn to leaders who appear to be powerful or
attractive, because a relationship with such
leaders promises to provide them with a higher
sense of clarity and self-esteem. Lord’s leader
categorization theory is potentially relevant to
the explanation of the emergence of charismatic
leadership in the case of such individuals. According
to this theory (Lord, 1985; Lord, Foti, & De
Vader, 1984), most people from the same culture
have a common set of categories that fit the
image of what the typical leader is like. These
categories describe the “prototypical” leader. Individuals
store leadership prototypes inside
their heads and use them to select and evaluate
information about a particular leader. When
they observe acts of a salient individual, they
note particular salient characteristics and compare
them against their own leadership prototypes.
If there is a match between a small number
of observed acts or perceived traits of the
salient person and the prototype, the entire prototype
is activated, and the person is more likely
to be seen as “a leader.” It has further been
suggested that leaders who match individuals’
leadership prototypes are perceived as more
powerful and are given more credit for work
outcomes (Lord et al., 1984).
It can be assumed that, in order to find clarity
and direction in a relationship with a leader,
individuals with low self-concept clarity or a
relational identity orientation do not just project

“a charismatic personality” on any leader.
Rather, they seek a relationship with a salient
person who displays some traits and behaviors
that match their prototype of “a charismatic
leader.” One implication of this assumption is
that such individuals are likely to be drawn to a
leader who actively displays prototypical charismatic
attributes, such as self-confidence or a
high level of energy. In other words, they are
likely to be susceptible to image-building efforts
that emphasize the personal qualities of the
leader and to “fall” for a leader who appears to
be charismatic in the prototypical sense of the
Another implication is that once such individuals
notice several traits or behaviors that
match their prototype, they will activate the entire
prototype and construct an entire “charismatic
personality” for that leader. In other
words, they will attribute to that person other
traits and behaviors that are included in their
prototype of a charismatic leader. This process
is likely to lead to an idealized or “romanticized”
view of the leader—namely, to the overattribution
of positive qualities and a high level of
influence to the leader.
Susceptibility to charismatic leadership is
likely to be different in the case of followers with
high self-concept clarity or with a collective
identity orientation. In the case of followers with
high self-concept clarity, in order for a charismatic
relationship to emerge, the leader needs
to appeal to existing elements of the followers’
self-concepts—namely, their values and identities.
Such followers may actively choose a
leader and decide to follow him or her, based on
the extent to which the leader is perceived to
represent their values and identities. Because
values and identities have a social basis, these
followers’ attraction to the leader is likely to be
more social than personal (Hogg, 2001).
Social attraction as the basis for susceptibility
to charismatic leadership is likely to be particularly
relevant in the case of followers with a
collective orientation, especially followers who
are already strongly identified with the group,
unit, or organization to which they belong.
While charismatic leaders engage in verbal and
symbolic behaviors in the attempt to raise the
collective identity in followers’ self-concepts
and to link it to the organizational mission and
followers’ tasks (Shamir et al., 1993), identification
with the group may exist prior to the emergence

of charismatic leadership and may affect
its emergence. According to Hogg’s (2001) social
identity theory of leadership, which is supported
by a series of empirical studies, when group
membership is salient in members’ self-concepts,
members are likely to be attracted to the
most prototypical member of the group—the one
who embodies the aspirations, attitudes, and
identity of the group. This individual will be
endorsed by the group and imbued with prestige
and status, eventually leading to the construction
of a charismatic relationship.
To summarize the arguments presented in this
section, we offer the following propositions.
Proposition 3: Followers with low selfconcept
clarity or a relational identity
orientation will form a charismatic relationship
with a leader on the basis
of the personal attributes of the leader
and the match between these attributes
and the followers’ prototype of
a charismatic leader.
Proposition 4: Followers with low selfconcept
clarity or a relational identity
orientation will be more susceptible
than followers with high self-concept
clarity or a collective identity orientation
to image-building efforts, on the
part of the leader, that emphasize the
leader’s power and desirable personal
Proposition 5: Followers with low selfconcept
clarity or a relational identity
orientation will have a higher tendency
than followers with high selfconcept
clarity or a collective identity
orientation to idealize or romanticize
the leader, in the sense of overattributing
to the leader desirable qualities
and a high level of influence.
Proposition 6: Followers with high
self-concept clarity or a high collective
identity orientation will form a
charismatic relationship with the
leader on the basis of social attraction.
Proposition 6a: Followers with high
self-concept clarity will form a charismatic
relationship with a leader on
the basis of the extent to which the

leader and his/her messages match
the followers’ values and identities.
Proposition 6b: Followers with a high
collective identity orientation will
form a charismatic relationship with a
leader on the basis of the match between
the leader’s traits and behaviors
and the group identity.
Once personalized or socialized charismatic
relationships are formed, they have different
consequences, in terms of followers’ responses
to the leader’s influence attempts. Since a personalized
relationship is formed by followers
with low self-concept clarity, and because such
a relationship includes idealization and romanticization
of the leader, followers who form this
type of relationship are likely to be prone to
“blind” faith in the leader and to “hypercompliance”
(Zablocki, 1999) and unquestioning obedience
to the leader. Furthermore, because a personalized
relationship is based on personal
identification with the leader, it is likely to lead
to dependency on the leader, in the sense that
the absence or departure of the leader will seriously
decrease followers’ motivation and commitment
to the leader’s mission (Kark & Shamir,
In contrast, because a socialized charismatic
relationship is formed by people with high selfconcept
clarity and does not include overattribution
of positive qualities and influence of the
leader, such a relationship will not lead to blind
faith and unquestioning obedience to the
leader. Followers in this type of relationship are
not susceptible to the leader’s influence because
he or she is perceived to possess unusual
qualities. Rather, they are responsive to the values
and identities emphasized by the leader’s
vision and other forms of behavior. Such followers
are likely to be more discriminating in their
responses to the leader and to exercise greater
independent judgment and critical thinking.
They will follow a leader to the extent that he or
she appeals to substantive aspects of their selfconcepts—
namely, their identities and values.
For such individuals, obedience to the leader is
not automatic but depends on the extent to
which the leader embodies the followers’ salient

identities and values and shows how the mission
reflects these identities and values. Furthermore,
because their relationship with the
leader is based on social rather than personal
identification, these followers are less likely to
become dependent on the leader. Rather, they
are more likely to manifest self-reliance and
autonomy. Their commitment to the mission and
ability to work toward its achievement are less
likely to be affected by the leader’s absence or
departure than in the case of personalized relationships.
Proposition 7: Followers who form a
personalized charismatic relationship
with a leader are more prone to blind
faith and unquestioning obedience to
the leader than followers who form a
socialized charismatic relationship
with the leader.
Proposition 8: Followers who form a
personalized charismatic relationship
with a leader are more likely to become
dependent on the leader than
followers who form a socialized charismatic
relationship with the leader.
Followers’ impact on the charismatic leadership
process is not only limited to their role in
the emergence of the charismatic relationship
and to their selective and differential responses
to the leader’s influence attempts. A third way in
which followers play a role in the charismatic
leadership process is through their impact on
the leader. Some writers have described charismatic
leaders as puppets who are controlled by
their followers. For instance, Hodgkinson quotes
the Comte de Mirabeau, who said, “There goes
the mob, and I must follow them, for I am their
leader” (according to one story, he said so while
sitting in a cafe and suddenly hearing a disturbance
outside; 1983: 163). Hodgkinson then
quotes Speer, who wrote about Goebbels and
Hitler being
molded by the mob itself, guided by its yearning
and daydreams. Of course, Goebbels and Hitler
knew how to penetrate through to the instincts of
their audience; but in a deeper sense they derived
their whole existence from the audience.
Certainly the masses roared to the beat set by

Hitler and Goebbels’ baton; yet they were not the
true conductors. The mob determined the theme
(Speer, 1970: 19–20; cited in Hodgkinson, 1983;
We do not accept this extreme view as applied
to the entire phenomenon of charismatic leadership.
It may not even apply to the leaders discussed
by Speer, who overlooked the fact that
Hitler developed his ambitions and vision long
before he was popular or had an audience he
could follow. Charismatic leadership requires
that the leader display a strong sense of commitment
to the mission, a high level of selfconfidence,
and a willingness to take risks for
the achievement of the collective mission. Charismatic
leaders do not just wish to identify
group preferences and represent or reflect them.
They have their own agenda and are often willing
to enter into conflicts in order to promote it.
Their actions do not necessarily depend on wide
consensus and wide approval, at least not initially.
Their self-confidence is often higher than
the confidence of most group or organizational
members. Indeed, it is the ability to transcend
currently popular views and the current level of
confidence among potential followers that often
makes a leader charismatic.
This does not mean, however, that even charismatic
leaders can maintain their sense of mission
and self-confidence without followers’ support.
Followers may endorse leaders, vote for
leaders, and give them the power necessary to
carry out their role. Thus, followers’ responses
are necessary in order to sustain charismatic
leaders. Their support may increase leaders’
self-confidence and their willingness to continue
to self-sacrifice and invest energy in the
collectivity and mission. In short, followers’ actions
may empower leaders.
In recent years, scholars have paid much attention
to the concept of empowerment. However,
this attention has focused only on the empowerment
of followers or subordinates by their
leaders or managers. Empowerment by the
leader has been regarded as one way in which
followers can be given a more proactive role in
the leadership process (Hollander, 1992). We
suggest that followers can empower their leaders
no less than leaders can empower their followers
and that the development of charismatic
leadership may depend on such empowerment.
Conger and Kanungo (1988) defined empowerment
in terms of increasing the self-efficacy of

others. Thomas and Velthouse (1990) then broadened
this definition, arguing that empowerment
means increasing both the capacity of an individual
to perform his or her role and the energy
the individual devotes to the role. These authors
define empowerment as intrinsic motivation
manifested in four cognitions reflecting an individual’s
orientation to his or her work role:
meaning, competence, self-determination, and
impact. Meaning involves a fit between the requirements
of the role and an individual’s beliefs,
values, and behaviors. Competence refers
to self-efficacy specific to the role and is analogous
to agency beliefs, personal mastery, and
effort-performance expectancy. Self-determination
is a sense of choice in initiating and regulating
actions. Impact is the degree to which an
individual can influence strategic, administrative,
and operating outcomes at work.
Thus, empowered individuals (1) find meaning
in their role involvement, (2) feel efficacious
with respect to their ability and capacity to perform,
(3) have a sense of determination regarding
specific means to achieve a desired outcome
within their role, and (4) believe that they have
control over desired outcomes and can have an
impact on the environment. These states or characteristics
can be seen as necessary conditions
for the exercise of charismatic leadership. Individuals
have to find meaning in their role, feel
self-efficacious, have a sense of self-determination,
and feel they have an impact in order to be
charismatic leaders (Gardner & Avolio, 1998;
House, 1977).
The leader’s self-concept is also relevant to
the charismatic process (Sosik & Dworakivsky,
1998). In the majority of cases, for a leader to be
able to lead in a charismatic manner, he or she
must have a high sense of self-worth, selfesteem,
self-consistency, and self-efficacy.
Since self-concepts are determined in part by
the reflected appraisals of others (Cooley, 1902;
Marsh, Barnes, & Hocevar, 1985; Miyamoto &
Dornbusch, 1956), followers’ approval and support,
together with their attribution of special
qualities to the leader, are likely to increase
these self-perceptions.
According to Spreitzer (1995), one of the factors
contributing to empowerment is sociopolitical
support: endorsement and support from or legitimacy
granted by organizational constituencies.
An important constituency, and therefore an important
source of empowerment, is the individual’s subordinates or followers. Spreitzer also
argues that access to resources increases the
level of empowerment of an individual. Followers
may be viewed as the main resource needed
for the leader to promote his or her mission
(Conger & Kanungo, 1988). They often control
many resources needed by the leader: information,
expertise, cooperation, and legitimacy. Followers’
acceptance and approval of the leader,
support for the leader, and cooperation with the
leader increase the availability of these resources
for the leader and, thus, empower him or
Followers also serve as a main source of feedback
for the leader. Their agreement with the
leader and their respect and admiration for the
leader affirm the correctness of his or her beliefs
and validate the direction in which he or she
tries to lead. Followers also provide legitimacy
for that person’s leadership and affirm his or her
Furthermore, many studies of the Pygmalion
effect (Eden, 1990) have shown that significant
others’ positive expectations increase the selfefficacy
of people and, ultimately, their performance.
All Pygmalion studies, however, have
focused on superiors’ expectations of their subordinates.
We hypothesize that similar Pygmalion
effects will be found in the other direction
as well. Followers’ positive expectations of their
leader may increase the leader’s self-efficacy
and confidence and, thus, his or her ability to
display charismatic behaviors, such as developing
an even more challenging vision of the future.
Such positive expectations may exist prior
to followers’ exposure to leader behaviors and
stem from followers’ need for orientation or from
the leader’s reputation, may develop out of first
impressions of the leader and the degree to
which these impressions fit followers’ prototype
of a charismatic leader, or may develop later as
responses to the leader’s behaviors. Dvir and
Shamir (2002) recently found that direct followers’
relatedness to the leader, as measured by
satisfaction with the leader, perceived leader
effectiveness, similarity to the leader, and willingness
to exert extra effort, predicted charismatic

Proposition 9: The more followers accept
the leader, approve of the leader,
show the leader respect and admiration,
cooperate with the leader, and

provide the leader with resources, the
more the leader will feel empowered,
in the sense of having greater role involvement
and meaningfulness, higher
self-efficacy, and a greater sense of
determination and control over means
and outcomes.
Proposition 10: The more the leader
feels empowered, the more he or she
will engage in charismatic behaviors,
such as displaying self-confidence
and presenting a challenging vision.
This, in turn, will increase the charismatic
leader’s influence on followers.


The empowerment of the charismatic leader
by followers may have positive or negative consequences,
depending on both leader and followers.
In the case of personalized charismatic
leaders (Howell, 1988), followers’ support and
admiration may feed both the leader’s desire for
absolute personal power and his or her delusions
of omnipotence. But even if the leader initially
does not seek self-aggrandizement or personal
power, personalized charismatic relationships
may “overempower” the leader, because such
relationships include adoration, idolization, and
unquestioning obedience to the leader. The
leader may internalize the exaggerated reflected
appraisals of followers and eventually
develop an illusion of omnipotence. This, in
turn, may lead to the abandonment of ethical
and other restraints on the use of power.
Socialized charismatic relationships may also
empower the leader. However, since such relationships
do not include idolization and unquestioning
obedience to the leader, they are not
likely to reinforce or create a delusion of omnipotence
on the part of the leader. In such relationships,
followers’ acceptance, support, and approval
of the leader are accompanied by their
exercise of independent judgment and their ethical
standards. Therefore, the leader will be empowered
only as long as he or she exercises
restraints on the use of power, conforms to ethical
standards, and pursues the collective goal.
A major implication of this discussion is that
followers may be no less responsible than the
leader for the consequences of charismatic leadership. Previous writings about the “dark side”
of charisma (Conger, 1990; House & Howell, 1992;
Howell & Avolio, 1992; Sankowsky, 1995) have
tended to attribute the negative consequences
mainly to the traits and behaviors of the leader.
Here we suggest that the “blame” for such consequences
may be with followers as well. Blind
adoration and unquestioning obedience to the
leader not only remove potential obstacles from
the leader’s path but also may empower the
leader with a personalized power motivation to
pursue his or her misguided and potentially
harmful goals. Acceptance, support, and approval
of the leader, when they are accompanied
by the exercise of independent judgment
and ethical standards by followers, may disempower
the leader with a personalized power motive
and empower the leader with a socialized
need for power.
Proposition 11: Personalized charismatic
relationships are more likely
than socialized charismatic relationships
to lead to harmful consequences
for the organization and its members.
Leaders and followers both play an active role
in shaping their mutual relationships, and therefore
in shaping organizational outcomes (Dvir,
1998; Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). In our theoretical
analysis we have attempted to correct the heroic
bias in current charismatic leadership theories
by focusing on the followers’ role in the charismatic
leadership process. We integrated selfidentity
theory with two types of charismatic
relationships—socialized and personalized—
and derived propositions about how followers’
self-concepts influence the type of relationship
they form with the leader. We then examined
how followers may affect various stages of the
charismatic relationship process, including susceptibility
to charismatic leadership, responses
to charismatic influence, empowerment of the
leader, and consequences of the charismatic relationship
for individuals and organizations.
The research propositions advanced in this paper
need to be tested empirically.
We have rejected a unidirectional explanation
of charismatic leadership. We do not believe
that charisma is either totally leader produced
or totally follower produced. Rather, we
have defined charisma as a relationship that is
jointly produced by leaders and followers. At the
same time, our theoretical analysis gives followers
a much more central role than they have had
traditionally in theory and research on organizational
leadership in general and charismatic
leadership in particular. Previous writings have
placed the responsibility for the development
and outcomes of personalized and socialized
charismatic relationships squarely on the shoulders
of the leader. We have argued that the
nature of these relationships and their impact
rest on the follower as well.
Our analysis explicitly acknowledges that the
formation of different types of charismatic relationships
operates within the constraints and
opportunities presented by followers. These constraints
and opportunities include followers’
self-concept clarity, self-identity orientation, attribution
tendencies, leadership prototypes, and
social attraction. Furthermore, our theoretical
analysis acknowledges that the nature of the
charismatic relationship produces selective and
differential follower responses to leaders’ influence
attempts. Our discussion of follower empowerment
of a leader distinguishes between
“personalized empowerment,” in which followers’
submissive behaviors and unquestioning
obedience reinforce the self-aggrandizing views
of the leader, and “socialized empowerment,” in
which followers accept the leader conditionally,
reinforce some of his or her behaviors, and challenge
him or her intellectually and ideologically.
The latter type of empowerment may create
changes in the leader, which, according to
Burns (1978), is part of the transformational leadership
Both the academic and management literature
are replete with compelling examples of the
abuse of power by leaders, especially charismatic
leaders, in business, education, and politics
(e.g., Bedeian, 2002; Gardner, 1990; Khurana,
2002; Maccoby, 2000). A fundamental question is
how can the pitfalls of charismatic leadership,
such as the abuse of power, be counteracted?
While some scholars have claimed that charismatic
leaders need to engage in self-reflection,
self-monitoring, and feedback seeking in order
to recognize the deleterious impact of their actions
and change their behavior accordingly
(e.g., Sankowsky, 1995), we believe this recommendation
may be naive. It is unlikely that leaders involved in personalized charismatic relationships
will engage in the necessary selfmonitoring
and correction to stem their abuse
of power. Rather, our model suggests that followers
may play a powerful role in shaping
charismatic leader behaviors by virtue of their
differential responses to the leader. Follower
obedience and loyal submission, as well as uncritical
acceptance and endorsement of a misguided
course of action, may reinforce the
personalized leader’s belief in his or her invincibility
and the belief that follower behavior
is not self-controlled but controlled by the
leader (Kipnis, 1976). In contrast, follower initiative
and independent thinking may encourage
the socialized leader to govern in an egalitarian
way, to recognize followers’ needs, and
to encourage followers’ divergent views.
To amplify charismatic leaders’ strengths and
to modulate their weaknesses, our analysis suggests
that actions need to be taken at the organizational
level. Senior managers need to monitor
the type of leader-follower relationships
that develop in their units and to intervene in
order to prevent the formation of personalized
relationships in various ways. Howell and
House (1995) recommend several stategies to
support followers in their efforts to curb the
abuse of power by leaders, including giving followers
periodic opportunities to provide anonymous
feedback concerning their superiors to
higher-level managers and providing the means
by which followers can report flagrantly unethical
behaviors to higher-level managers without
fear of reprisal from their leaders, such as the
use of “hotlines.” Another strategy is for organizations
to have a well-developed organizational
ideology and a socialization process that emphasizes
the values underlying the ideology. In
order to minimize the occurrence of personalized
charismatic relationships, organizations need to
attend constantly to the development, maintenance,
and enforcement of norms of trust, collaboration,
openness, integrity, and respect for
expertise. Organizational policies and actions
that increase social identification might reduce
the risk of leader-follower relationships that are
based primarily on personal identification.
Our theoretical analysis can be extended in
several ways. First, here we have focused
mainly on the individual level of analysis—that
followers influence the charismatic leadership
process as a collection of individuals with certain attributes. Our model could also be extended
to the group level of analysis by outlining
the group processes and the characteristics
and actions of followers as a group that influence
the charismatic leadership process. Specifically,
there are two ways in which followers’
collective characteristics may influence the
charismatic leadership process: (1) certain
group or collective characteristics, such as
group culture, norms, and cohesiveness, may
make the group, as a group, more or less receptive
to charismatic leadership; (2) different members
of the same group or organization may
have different relationships with the same
leader. Thus, there may be considerable intragroup
variance in both the strength of the charismatic
relationship with the leader and the
type of charismatic relationship (Weierter, 1997).
This is the issue of the homogeneity of charismatic
relationships within a group or organization
that was first raised by Klein and House
Second, the present analysis distinguishes
between two types of charismatic relationships—
personalized and socialized—which
may represent an oversimplification of the complexities
and dynamics of the leader-follower
relationship. It is possible that the charismatic
relationship may involve a mix of personalized
and socialized elements, and further elaboration
of the individual and group characteristics
and processes and contextual factors that influence
the nature of this “mixed” relationship is
Third, our model of the follower’s role in the
charismatic leadership process could be further
extended to include contextual variables. For
instance, times of instability, crisis, and turmoil
increase the likelihood that people will feel
helpless, threatened, and anxious and will
therefore be more susceptible to the influence of
a personalized charismatic leader who appears
uniquely qualified to lead them out of their distress.
Under conditions of acute follower distress,
the personalized charismatic leader’s influence
is more likely to induce suspension of
independent assessment of reality on the part of
followers and blind obedience to the leader. It is
also possible that potential followers’ need for
orientation, and therefore their susceptibility to
frame-alignment influence by the leader, may
exist in other unique or ambiguous situations
that are not necessarily characterized by psychological distress—for instance, when followers
face particularly difficult and challenging
tasks (Shamir & Howell, 1999).
Fourth, our analysis can be further refined by
including other follower characteristics that influence
followers’ receptivity to personalized or
socialized charismatic relationships, such as
their level of moral development or their values.
For instance, Kelman and Hamilton (1989) studied
the individual differences involved in people’s
readiness to challenge the legitimacy of
authoritative demands and to disobey leaders’
orders that appeared unlawful or immoral. They
reported that role-oriented individuals were motivated
by the obligation to obey, arising from
identification with the leader that fostered a tendency
to obey without question and to deny personal
responsibility for actions taken under the
leader’s orders. In contrast, value-oriented individuals
were motivated by an internalized commitment
to societal rules necessary to fulfill collective,
shared values, which encouraged a
questioning attitude toward leaders and the assertion
of personal responsibility for actions
taken under the leaders’ orders.
We have attempted to show that it is not necessary
to dismiss the leader in order to make
more room for followers in the explanation of
charismatic leadership (Meindl, 1990). Our analysis
does not reduce the leader’s responsibility
for the consequences of charismatic relationships.
However, the emphasis on followers enlightens
us about the active role followers assume
in determining the deleterious and
beneficial consequences of charismatic leadership.
We hope that scholars and practitioners
alike will focus the spotlight on the development
of effective followers, as well as effective
leaders. In our view, understanding followers is
as important as understanding leaders.

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Jane M. Howell holds the Taylor/Mingay Chair in Management and is a professor of
organizational behavior at the Ivey Business School, The University of Western Ontario.
She received her Ph.D. in business administration from The University of British
Columbia. Her current research interests include champions of innovation and crisis
Boas Shamir is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, The
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. He obtained his Ph.D. in social psychology
from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences. His current research
interests include the role of leaders’ life stories in the leadership process and relationships
between threats and leadership.