Charisma and Obedience: A Risk Cognition Approach

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Weber's account of charisma solved certain specific problems in the philosophy of law by using a concept from the history of church law. The concept Weber generalized from, originally formulated by R. Sohm, relied on the notion of divine inspiration; Weber's uses required a substitute causal force. The standard substitutes are culturalist, in which the power of the charismatic leader or the state comes from meeting cultural expectations for leaders, or contractual, in which leaders give followers something they want. Neither account squares with the fundamental use of the idea, to explain cultural innovation and internal change in followers. A new model of the character of charisma that fits these needs is proposed. In it, the leader is seen as a person who both offers a choice of a new vision of risks and opportunities and, through his or her own conduct, provides evidence of the realizability of this vision through submission. The example of Frank Lorenzo, a case of business charisma, is discussed in detail.

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The Leadership Quarterly, v. 4, issues 3-4, p. 235-256