Revisiting Weber's charismatic leadership: Learning from the past and looking to the future

Ivana Milosevec, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
A. Erin Bass, University of Nebraska at Omaha

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– Weber emphasized the informal structure, followers' power, and time in charismatic leadership; yet the extant literature either overlooks or underplays the significance of each of these facets. The aim of this paper is to revisit Weber's conceptualizations of charisma and illuminate these facets, thus creating new avenues for the contemporary charismatic leadership research.


– The focus of this research is on analysis of Weber's conceptualization of charisma. The analysis of selected quotes is grounded within contemporary discourse in order to illustrate how three overlooked facets may propel future research on charismatic leadership.


– By revisiting Weber's seminal work, the paper illustrates several historical findings and identifies research opportunities that are yet to be addressed by contemporary study in charismatic leadership. In doing so, the paper generates a set of propositions as an impetus for future exploration.

Research limitations/implications

– To address the three proposed questions, researchers should focus their attention on the exploration of charisma outside of the formal bureaucracy, the dynamic power relations between leaders and followers, and the temporally bound nature of charisma. Given the nature of these questions, researchers may also consider alternative research methods such as in-depth case studies and narratives in order to more fully capture the dynamic and unpredictable nature of charisma in complex contexts.


– Contemporary research largely overlooks or underplays the issues of time, the informal structure, and followers in the study of charisma. Through analysis of Weber's writings, this paper brings to the forefront these issues, and thus provide rich opportunities for future research on charismatic leadership.