Along with traditional authority and rational-legal authority, a charismatic leader is one of the three types of authority in sociologist Max Weber’s tripartite taxonomy of authority.
Weber described charismatic authority as “lying on devotion to an individual’s unique sanctity, heroism, or very high character, as well as the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him.”
The concept of charismatic authority is based on the individual’s personal attributes. The individual’s real or perceived elevation above ‘regular’ individuals’ feeds others’ acceptance of their authority. Some observers believe that charismatic leaders are prone to narcissism.
Charismatic authority is unique in that its success is not contingent on external formal structures or norms, as the other two types of authority are. As a result, power systems that rely on charismatic leaders to succeed may disintegrate if the charismatic leader dies or leaves. As a result, succession planning is critical, and a procedure to ‘transfer’ charisma perceptions from one person to another is required for the next leader’s charisma to be accepted.
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