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The double-edged sword of leader charisma: Understanding the curvilinear relationship between charismatic personality and leader effectiveness. (2017)

“…charismatic tendencies become maladaptive, particularly in relation to leader effectiveness, when taken too far.”

Jasmine Vergauwe, Ghent University, Belgium; Bart Wille, University of Antwerp, Belgium; Joeri Hofmans, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium; Robert B. Kaiser, Kaiser Leadership Solutions, USA; Filip De Fruyt, Ghent University, Belgium.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 29 May 2017

“Is charisma something that can be measured independently from those perceiving a person as charismatic? If it is, can we identify a cluster of personality characteristics that meaningfully predicts others’ ratings of charisma? And finally, is it always beneficial for leaders in organizational contexts to demonstrate high levels of charisma?

“… a key question … is whether the association between people’s charismatic personality and their levels of effectiveness, particularly in a leadership context, is best represented by a curvilinear (cf. too-much-of-a-good-thing) instead of a linear relationship (cf. more is better).

…“Charismatic leaders are believed to engage in behaviors such as referring to collective history, emphasizing collective identity, communicating a collective vision or mission, and pursuing collective goals and interests.

“On the other hand, the realization of this vision requires leadership that fosters goal setting, planning, and task execution. It is at this operational level that highly charismatic leaders may underachieve compared with those with lower charismatic tendencies. … charismatic leaders can become so excited by their ideas that they can lose touch with reality and get stuck in the process of implementing these visions.

“Operational behavior involves the short-term handling and monitoring of daily tasks, and this may appear less appealing to highly charismatic leaders, who are mainly interested in the bigger picture and long-term objectives. Taken together, we expect highly charismatic leaders to be more strategic and less operational compared with less charismatic leaders.

…“The central idea in our work was that charismatic tendencies become maladaptive, particularly in relation to leader effectiveness, when taken too far. … a core tenet is that the inflection point – or the point after which further increases in the “desirable” trait are no longer beneficial – is context-specific

Access the full paper here: The double-edged sword of leader charisma

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