The charismatic relationship: A dramaturgical perspective

William L. Gardner, Bruce J. Avolio

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

599 Scopus citations


In this article we present a model of the processes whereby social actors use impression management behaviors to create and maintain identities as charismatic leaders. Using a dramaturgical and interactive perspective, we examine the roles that the environment, actor (leader), and audience (followers) play in defining the situation and in jointly constructing a "charismatic relationship." We assert that charismatic leaders' self-systems and situational assessments guide their efforts to manage follower impressions of them, their vision, and their organization. Framing, scripting, staging, and performing constitute the basic phases in this dramaturgical process. Exemplification and promotion are identified as the primary strategies invoked by leaders during the performing phase to construct a charismatic image; facework is employed to protect this image when it is threatened. We also consider how and why followers come to attribute charisma to, identify strongly with, and direct high levels of positive affect toward the leader. We advance research propositions along with methodological recommendations for testing them, and we conclude by considering the model's practical implications for developing charismatic relationships that empower followers and facilitate the attainment of socially beneficial goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-58
Number of pages27
JournalAcademy of Management Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998


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