Charisma, Status, and Gender in Groups With and Without Gurus


John Levi Martin, University of Chicago, Department of Sociology, 1126 E 59th St, Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail:


A number of studies have noted that small religious groups with charismatic leaders seem to have different gender dynamics than do groups without. We argue that the presence of such a leader changes what charisma “means” in such a group. Without such a leader, strong personalities may appear charismatic and lead to positions of high status—and such dynamics historically have tended to be associated with a positional advantage to males. With such a leader, however, charisma is more likely to be compatible with receptivity and decoupled from gender characteristics that tend to disadvantage women, leading charismatic women to have greater status than they would otherwise have.