Defining the Ill-defined - Exploring the Behavioural Underpinnings of Charismatic Leadership

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Type and Duration

PhD-Thesis, February 2020 until June 2024 (finished)


Chair of Entrepreneurship and Leadership

Main Research

Growth and Complexity

Field of Research

Entrepreneurial Learning, Teamlearning


This dissertation project takes up on a current approach to define charisma as a set of observable behaviours intended to communicate leadership qualities and aims to advance current research in this field in three distinct manners. Firstly, it seeks to collect further insights into the set of verbal, nonverbal and embodied behaviours that constitute a charismatic aura by employing a field study and an experimental design, including naturalistic stimuli, manual behavioural codings, objective computerized measures and observer-ratings. Secondly, to assess whether the effects of these identified behaviours would be reproducible by others and thus actually have the potential to signal charisma, an empirics-based intervention, specifically teaching charismatic communication techniques, will be conducted. Thirdly, as an ultimate test of the external validity of these findings, the impact of being exposed to leaders' charismatic behaviours on followers' performance will be assessed. Thus, this project will greatly advance our understanding of the signalling approach to charisma by identifying further behaviours that lead to inferences of charisma and leader skills, by teaching them to aspiring leaders to gain insight into whether they are indeed directly related to these ascriptions, and by quantifying their impact on followers' coordination.


Communication, Charismatic Leadership, Endogeneity