Attribution of Influence and Charisma to the Leader: The Romance of Leadership Revisited1


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    The assistance of Hagit Rosenfeld in data collection and analysis is gratefully acknowledged. The author is also indebted to Jay A. Conger for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Boas Shamir, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel.


This study examined the impact of performance outcomes, leadership type, leader behaviors, and observers' general belief in the importance of leadership on attributions of influence and charisma to a leader. Subjects (N= 549) read 24 versions of an organizational vignette representing all possible combinations of two performance levels, two leadership roles, and six leader behavior conditions, and were asked to evaluate the leader's level of causal influence and charisma. Results supported and extended Meindl's (1990) claim that observers' tendency to romanticize the role of a specific leader is affected by the group performance outcomes and by observers' general beliefs in the importance of leadership in organizations. The results further suggested that more influence may be attributed to a prototypical leadership role than to a less prototypical role. However, information about leader behaviors did not affect the attributions of influence and charisma to the leader. These results are discussed with reference to Conger and Kanungo's (1987) attributional theory of charismatic leadership and leadership categorization theory (Lord, 1985).