Gemmill and Oakley (1992) argue that leadership itself can be seen as “an alienating social myth”6 In that case leadership stands for the wish to return to the foetal status and give up all responsibilities. Leadership is seen as the substitute of the womb, where one is protected from the outside environment, freed from all tasks, no risks have to be taken, the conscious is free and the mind is empty. In this context leadership stands for nothing else, but the repressed wish to stay infantile. Leaders are therefore created through the none-fulfilment of repressed wishes; hence in this context leadership is a significant development.
Another aspect, that would limit the significance of charismatic leadership, lies in the development of the leadership theory and the research in the trait approach. If charismatic leadership is incorporated into the trait approach, then the result would be that there was no development in the field. Charisma would simply be seen as another trait, just like intelligence, height or social class. Hence this would imply that there was no new theory at all, and that nothing can be done in order to train or learn these abilities
A further argument against the newness of the ideas in the charismatic leadership theory is, that the charismatic leadership theory was nothing else but the “capturing the mood” of the time and writing it down on paper. This can be seen in relationship of the above mentioned argument of Bryman, that a lot on new leadership theory contains charisma, but it is not mentioned explicitly Also in relation to Tolstoy , who introduced the theory of cause and effect, the significance of the theory is reduced. Tolstoy basically says, that the world is far to complex to be fully grasped by the human mind. Therefore people pinpoint certain events in order to make the world understandable. This would imply that the charismatic leadership theory is highly overvalued, since it is very simplistic.
On the other hand if the charismatic leadership theory is seen in the context of the behavioural approach, then it clearly is a significant development in the field. In the light of globalisation, increased international competitiveness and ever changing business conditions it is essential for most companies to have a charismatic leader, as only a firm who can excel and work at its best will survive in the long run. Without constant innovation, creativity and hard work, a firm will find it extremely hard to find any place in the market. This however, does not apply to all sectors and is specifically aimed at the new economy. Moreover, charismatic leadership, seen in the context of the behavioural approach, will imply that charismatic leadership is something on can learn and apply.
A further point, which emphasis the significance of charismatic leadership to the field, is the fascination it created and the size of the response to it. It changed the context in which leadership is talked about. It also was put in place as the major theory in the leadership study. Therefore, if the charismatic leadership would not have been introduced then people like Gemmill and Oakley might have never challenged the idea of leadership.
Another strength of the theory is pointed out by Grint (2000) 7arguing it does not introduce quantifiable factors, hence it cannot been treated as a rigid science, such as Mathematics. Grint says that leadership “..is essential an interpretative affair, it casts doubt upon those claiming scientific legitimations for their claims and buttresses an approach to leadership that firmly within the arts not the sciences.
In effect, I am suggesting here that one of the reasons that we have so much difficulty in explaining leadership and trying to enhance the leadership qualities and skills of those who are leaders, is that we have to adopt a philosophical perspective that obscures rather than illuminates the phenomenon. In other words, the more “scientific” our methods of analysis become, the less likely we are to understand leadership because it is not accessible to scientific approaches”.7 Taking this statement into considerations, it is clear that the charismatic leadership approach is a significant development, since it does not try to quantify.
To conclude, it is not my belief that it was a significant development in understanding the topic, although it was certainly a step in the right direction. By this I mean that it “broke down” the walls which were built by the other models and therefore facilitated us to do a “broader thinking” by introducing a new factor, and also taking the subordinates or followers into account . But since the world is not simple to understand and cannot be fully explained via looking at a few variables, there is a need for a more complex approach.
A. Bryman, 1992, Charisma and Leadership in Organisations, Sage
K. Grint , 2000, The Art of Leadeship, Oxford University Press, p2
E. Schein, 1992, Organizational Psychology, Sage, p124
R. Steers, 1996, Motivation and Leadership at work, McGraw-Hill, p693
A. Bryman, 1992, Charisma and Leadership in Organisations, Newbury Park. C.A. Sage Publication
R. Steers, 1996, Motivation and Leadership at work, McGraw Hill, p260