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Personality and Charismatic Leadership in Context: The Moderating Role of Situational Stress


  • This research was partially funded by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 916/07). We thank Colin DeYoung for his very helpful insights about an earlier version of our work, Alex Zibenberg and Irena Nutenko for their help in running the experiment in Study 1, Daisy Chang and Russell Johnson for their advice in the revision process, and Amir Erez, Nir Halevy and the journal's review team for their helpful comments on a previous version of this manuscript. [Correction added on 10 March 2014, after first online publication: Edits made to acknowledgement].


We adopt an interactionist perspective and extend previous work on personality and charismatic leadership by considering the relationship between them across contexts. Based on Gray's reinforcement sensitivity theory, we expected the relationships between approach-oriented dispositions and charisma to diminish under conditions of high workload-induced stress. In a large-scale lab study with 201 groups (Study 1, N = 721 participants), we manipulated conditions of stress and tested the interaction of stress with leaders’ extraversion and openness to experience in predicting their charismatic behaviors. We then tested, in a field study of 71 executives (Study 2, N = 256 participants), the interaction of employees’ reported stress with leaders’ stimulation values in predicting their charismatic behavior. In support of our hypotheses, the relationships between approach-oriented dispositions and charisma were significantly weaker when stress was high. We discuss theoretical and practical implications of this finding, in particular given that it is in stressful conditions under which charismatic leadership is said to be most important.

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