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Charisma and Leadership in Organizations Book Report


In his book “Charisma and Leadership in Organizations” Alan Bryman, a reader in social research in the Department of Social Sciences at Loughborough University, United Kingdom, presents an investigation of modern leadership research. He traces the development of different leadership theories starting from the emergence of leadership theory up to present moment. Seven chapters of the book present a fundamental research on the leadership and charisma and their function in modern organizations.

Deep investigation of relationships between the leadership and charisma is presented in several stages starting from the emergence of early leadership theories and finishing with the meaning of these notions at present moment. Bryman puts these two notions in business context and explores the meaning of the new leadership and charisma for contemporary business structures and organizations. This book is a deep and fundamental research on the theme of leadership, which does not only give a description of different leadership theories, but also links them to present moment and puts then in business context. Critical evaluation of different leadership and charisma theories present the author’s position concerning this subject. Describing leadership theories and giving different definitions Bryman presents his vision of their appliance in modern context. Descriptions of different leadership theories in the first chapters serve as a foundation for further research of modern theories used in present time.

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The first chapter is a study of leadership in its historical perspective. Bryman gives a description of different approaches to the leadership. He makes a division based on traits, style, contingency and so called “New Leadership”. Than follows a detailed study and analyses of each approach. He points out major problems, associated with each of the approaches. In this way he distinguishes fallacies of Ohio State studies, such as “inconsistent findings, an absence of situational analysis, the problem of causality, the problem of the group, informal leadership, and measurement problems” (Bryman, p. 6). He gives a critical evaluation of House’s path-goal theory and New Leadership. In this way this chapter contains major part of leadership theories, created till present moment.

The second chapter of the book is dedicated to the problem of charisma. Bryman studies correlations between leadership and charisma. He regards charisma in relation to leadership. Bryman presents Weber and Shil’s theories of charisma. He also describes the vision of charisma applied in psychoanalytic school. Bryman expresses his concerns that early theories of charisma can not be applied in modern context. He expands this thesis in the next chapter where he gives ideas about such a notion of charisma, which can be applied for modern leadership theories.

The third chapter also contains reflection on the theme of charisma. In this chapter Bryman presents his view on charisma as a type of relationships between leaders and their followers. He studies different components which constitute charisma. He gives such components as physical characteristics, personal attributes, social relationships and power. Special attention is paid to the study of crisis as one of factors, which form a charismatic personality. Bryman believes that good leaders can emerge while they go through crisis situations, which help future leaders to understand social, psychical, economic needs of their followers. In his book Bryman analyzes qualities, which are necessary for the person to become a successful leader of any organization. Counting on his past experience, and basing his research on the great leaders of the past, he proposes his own vision of the qualities which make a good leader. The list provided by the author describes different spheres of life of the potential leader. He also pays special attention to social factors which influence the formation of charisma. He distinguishes “oratory ability, creating myth and legend, and innovation and success” (Bryman, p.60), Bryman turns to the examples of famous leaders from different fields to illustrate his conclusions.

In chapter 4 Bryman gives his views on the relationship between charismen and organizations. While exploring correlations between charisma and routinization he points out that these two notions do not always exclude each others. He illustrates this thesis by examples of charismatic leaders, such as Bhagavan Shri Rajneesh (Osho), Ellen White and many others. Study of famous historical personalities helps to see different types of leaders and shows different qualities, which helped them to obtain social recognition.

First four chapters are dedicated to the historical background of leadership and charisma. In these chapters Bryman gives historical data and defines notions connected with leadership and charisma. In the fifth chapter he passes to the present situation in this sphere. Using modern historical, political social and cultural context Bryman describes modern charismatic leadership. In these chapters he gives his vision of New Leadership and Charisma, which should be applied in modern context. New Leadership he defines as the one which “refers to a number of different labels concerning leadership which share certain themes” (Bryman, p. 114). He goes further giving summary of different positions of different scholars concerning these issues. He describes views of House, Burngs, Etzioni, Peters. He also presents Bass’s theory of transformational leadership and Conger and Kanugo’s ideas about charismatic leadership in organizations. Byrman contrasts old leadership theories to new ones. He also sheds light to modern debates concerning leadership. These debates are founded in distinguishing differences between leadership and management and paradigm between charismatic and transformational leadership.

In the next chapter Bryman explores leadership in business organizations. The author puts modern theories of charismatic leadership and business leadership in business context. Despite charismatic and transformational leadership are not identical notions, they share a lot of common features. Bryman provides a detailed study of charismatic leadership in business. Study presents both, theoretical material and practical data obtained from observation of the work of respected authority figures. In this chapter Bryman pays much attention to Bass’s theory of transformational leadership and other theories of business leadership. Exploring the concept of New Leadership he gives a description of methods, applied for training leaders. Detailed description of an old and new leadership helps to differentiate these two notions. Giving common basis of old and new leadership theory, he also illuminates differences, which exists in their methodological base.

In chapter 7 Bryman gives his evaluation of the concepts of New Leadership and charisma. He describes these two notions as closely connected. He also gives suggestion for those, who wish to continue the research on the theme of leadership. Bryman makes an attempt to systematize extensive literature, which exists on the theme of leadership and charisma.
Brief summaries at the end of each chapter contain the most important ideas of each chapter.

The relationship between leadership and charisma is a controversial issue which provokes loud disputes recently. Bryman sheds light to these relationships and describes them as a complex phenomenon. Bryman analyzes New Leadership as comparatively new trend in leadership, describing its strong and weak points. There is a big need in strong leaders in business organizations. Bryman describes characteristics of these new leaders and their role in organizations. Effective functioning of organizations depends on effective leadership. New Leadership is a new approach to leadership applied during recent time. Bryman studies this phenomenon carefully. Charisma becomes an important component of leadership qualities and Bryman presents detailed study of charisma and the way it is related to leadership. Bryman gives multiple examples of strong leaders starting from ancient times till the present moment. All these examples serve to illustrate the ideas of charisma and leadership. Bryman applies ideas of charisma to New Leadership school of thought.

Detailed explanations help to see the development of modern leadership theories and trace the correlation between leadership and charisma.

Bryman, Alan, (1992). Charisma and Leadership in
Organizations. London: Sage Publications.
Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (1993). Transformational leadership: A response to critiques. In M. M. Chemers & R. Ayman (Eds.), Leadership theory and research: Perspectives and directions (pp. 49-80). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Burns, M. J. (1978). Leadership New York: Harper & Row.
Fred Smith, Leadership Journal; Fall 1996, Vol. XVII, No. 4, Page 30)
Robert Brow, Ten Characteristics of Great Leaders
(http://www.brow.on.ca/), January 2006

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