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

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Type and Duration

Preproposal PhD-Thesis, since February 2020


Chair of Entrepreneurship and Leadership

Main Research

Growth and Complexity

Field of Research

Entrepreneurial Learning, Teamlearning


While being a popular research topic, the construct of charismatic leadership still lacks a clear behavioral definition that explains how outstanding leaders are able to construct the charismatic aura that often surrounds them. Hitherto, research mostly relied on questionnaire measures, assessing only the outcomes of charismatic leadership. This dissertation aims to overcome the current endogeneity problem of charisma by employing objective measures of leaders' charisma and experimental settings to assess leaders' charismatic potential, i.e. whether they are able to elicit the intended cognitive, psychophysiological, and behavioral responses in followers. Firstly, behavioral codings of verbal and nonverbal behaviors actual leaders employ will be gathered and related to real world outcomes via the pathway of followers' impressions. Secondly, these behaviors will then be utilized to stimulate psychophysiological reactions in followers, aiming to confirm that charismatic leader behaviors act as signals, transferring emotions like enthusiasm from leaders onto their subordinates. Thirdly, it will be assessed whether displaying such expressive signals impact followers' performance, which would lend strong evidence for the signaling approach to charisma. Defining a set of verbal and nonverbal behaviors leaders can easily employ to display charisma would be of particular significance for entrepreneurial leaders, facilitating them to gain a footing in the complex global market environment.


Communication, Charismatic Leadership, Endogeneity