Death becomes us! Rethinking leadership charisma as a social inference
The chapter contributes a novel perspective to the contemporary discussion of charismatic leadership, which has predominantly revolved around the conceptualization of charisma as an observable set of personality traits or, alternatively, followers’ attributions of these. We depart from both conventional lines of argument via a social identity approach to leadership charisma that offers an explanation to why followers’ perceptions of leadership charisma can increase after the leader’s death (i.e., the death-charisma link). The chapter summarizes three studies by Steffens et al. (2017) and van Dick et al. (2019) that provide evidence for charisma as a social inference: We propose that leadership charisma is not bound to a leader’s existence and behavior, but may emerge from followers’ perceptions of him or her as ‘being one’ (social identity) and ‘strongly fused’ (identity fusion) with “us”, i.e. the group they led. We conclude with a number of implications that these findings impose on future research in the field of charismatic leadership.
Fink, L., Van Dick, R., Steffens, N.K., Peters, K., & Haslam, S.A. (in press). Death becomes us! Rethinking leadership charisma as a social inference. In J.P. Zúquete (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Charisma. London: Routledge.