Existing models of transformational change often highlight the charismatic attributes of leaders. Few approaches focus on the social preconditions which allow charismatic leadership processes to unfold. This research explores the notion that crisis is important to the emergence of charismatic leadership. The findings of a laboratory study indicate that crises foster the emergence of charismatic leaders who are then rated as more effective than group leaders who emerge in noncrisis situations. The implications for current conceptualizations of charismatic leadership processes and their role in frame-breaking organizational changes are discussed.