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Charisma ([ çarɪsma, çarɪsma, karɪsma or karɪsma ], from Greek χάρισμα charism , gift of grace ', donated from goodwill gift') referred to in the Christian tradition ( Philo , Septuagint , the New Testament ) something from God to man-given, and by the Word emphasizes benevolence as the motivation for the gift. The term is then used mainly in Paul for spiritual abilities.

In religious studies , the term is used on the one hand for the talent or ability to receive revelations , inspiration or enlightenment , on the other hand - in connection with religious deviance and innovation - for the creation of one's own numinous authority recognized by a certain group .

In management , the concept of transformational leadership is seen as an opportunity to operationalize this term in practice and to apply it in the development of leadership skills within the framework of leadership development .

In sociology, it describes one of the three forms of domination . This meaning is also followed by the everyday use of the term, which under the “charisma” of a person denotes his winning “ charisma ”.

Word origin

The term charisma goes back to the ancient Greek root char (willing, showing favor, giving, sending) on ​​which the verb χαρίζεσθαι - charítsesthai (donate, give) is based. The nouning is done using the Greek derivative suffix ma , which was then used to form nouns to denote the result of an activity - in this case the result of giving gifts. It thus denotes "a gift, a present, 'something done to please someone', goodness, kindness, grace, grace". In the Greek literature of the time , the term charisma was used very rarely and without specific reference to the topic.

The term was only spread through the charismatic doctrine or charismatic theology of Paul . In addition to the fundamental equality and brotherhood, there is also the functional difference, through the "charisms given by the Spirit of God". Ecclesiastical resources are thus given a gift character that precedes all human achievement, which in this understanding should distinguish them significantly from other - for example market-based - resources. However, today's concept of charism has moved away from the Pauline understanding in several ways.

In the German language , the term charisma has been used since the 18th century. It did not come into German directly from Greek, but via the vulgar Latin term 'charisma' (gift). At first it was only used in the Christian context for the gift of a Christian. Only since the 20th century has it stood for the more general meaning of a “special charisma”.

Religious term

In the New Testament and in older Christianity , charisma denotes a gift of grace from the Holy Spirit ( 1 Cor 12.7  EU ). The charisms include communicating wisdom , imparting knowledge , the power of faith , prophecy , healing of the sick , miracles , discerning spirits , speaking in tongues and interpreting speaking in tongues. With a special emphasis on some of these charisms (also: Charísmata), spiritual awakening movements such as the Pentecostal movement or the charismatic movement emerged in modern times .

Social science term

In sociology , Max Weber used the term “charisma” to denote one of the three forms of rule he distinguished - in addition to “traditional” and “rational” rule, he also introduced charismatic rule . Following Weber, charisma describes a social relationship of domination that fundamentally changes the social structure, an extra-everyday “ revolutionary power”, as it is valued by the charismatically ruled, the followers (“ disciples ”).

“The validity of the charism is determined by the free, guaranteed by probation - originally always by miracles - born of devotion to revelation, hero worship, trust in the leader, recognition by the ruled. But this is (with genuine charisma) not the reason for legitimacy, but rather it is the duty of those called upon to recognize this quality by virtue of calling and proving. Psychologically, this recognition is a very personal devotion born of enthusiasm or need and hope. "

- Economy and society . Chapter III. The types of domination . § 10: Charismatic rule

The everyday life of the charism: If the charismatic relationship becomes a permanent one, it changes its extra-everyday character and becomes traditional or rationalized (legal) rule (§ 11). In addition to the “personal charisma”, where a “creator” replaces or reinterprets traditional ideas of justice, one can also speak of an “institutional charisma”, whereby new institutions are created.

The sociologist and political scientist Michael Günther pointed out in his study Masse und Charisma 2005 that charisma and charismatic power are “not a robinsonade”. The belief in charisma must already exist in the “masses” before the charismatized person appears. The “belief in charisma” in this sense, so the desperate hope of the masses that a charismatic hero might appear to free the people from misery and oppression, creates a charismatic gap that the charismatic only needs to be more or less skillfully filled. The Charisma faith is therefore an empirically tangible fact. The terms charisma and charismatic , on the other hand, are denied scientific quality: “Charisma as a factor within the calculations of social science has at most the same status as the terms god, demon or superman. The charisma belief, that is, the irrational belief in the reality of the special gift of grace and leadership ability of great personalities, exceptional people and superhumans, however, is a reality. This reality has evidently outlived the belief in God and perhaps even superseded it in some respects. ”Accordingly, the characteristic of belief in charisma is the excessive overestimation of those who are charismatized, their abilities and leadership. Also that higher powers sent the charismatized to fulfill a vital, fateful mission is often part of this belief. Collective hopes for salvation encourage the irrational part of the process of “charismatization”: Charismatic communities and allegiances that suggest security and security are formed, and new social structures and channels of advancement emerge, united in the belief in salvation. The charisma is therefore not a characteristic of a personality, but rather it arises through a social process of attribution in an extraordinary situation. If the belief in charisma is thoroughly destroyed in a group, there is no longer any chance of charismatising special “saviors”. Conversely, a mass belief in charisma creates the necessary social capital in extraordinary situations of general need and despair , to upgrade special leadership figures and - relatively voluntarily - to generate mass obedience: the more skillfully the charismatized person fills the charismatic gap , the better he satisfies the needs and longings of the masses, the more he can be more certain of mass obedience.

Kurt E. Becker sums up the interdependence of the charismatic leader and the charismatically led as follows: "Crucial here: the feeling of certainty with which the recognition of the goal that can only be achieved - only with the help of the charismatic medium - is connected." The political scientist Franz In his Behemoth, Neumann traced the idea of ​​legitimation through charisma back to Calvin's theology . According to his analysis, the ideology of National Socialism traced the charismatic power of the Fuehrer back to “Volkstum”. In Democracy in Germany , M. Rainer Lepsius checked the applicability of such an attempted explanation to Adolf Hitler's leadership state . In his work Revolution und Veralltestagung (1977), Dirk Kaesler examined the applicability of this theory for answering the question: “What becomes of revolutions?”; he came to the conclusion that Weber's theory of the "everyday occurrence" of the charism provides a useful analytical concept for understanding and explaining post-revolutionary processes.

Business psychology and management theory

In business psychology there is an approach that places charisma affinity and the perception of charisma in the vicinity of narcissism (see Dammann, 2007). What is important is how “ stigma ” and “charisma” relate to each other (see Wolfgang Lipp ), and the possibility of social reversion or dramatization of prototypical attributes.

According to Richard Wiseman , a charismatic person has three qualities:

  1. Emotions are felt very strongly by her.
  2. She is able to let other people experience such strong feelings.
  3. She is resistant to the influences of other charismatic people.

In management science, the charisma phenomenon was considered an obscure phenomenon for a long time until JA Conger and RN Kanungo, among others, operationalized this term in an empirical study based on concrete behavioral descriptions and made it measurable in 1987. Accordingly, managers are perceived as charismatic when, for example

  1. convey an attractive and at the same time convincing vision,
  2. exercise their role model function,
  3. challenge their employees and inspire them to perform well,
  4. develop their personal strengths and skills and they
  5. encourage independent, creative problem-solving.

Another operationalization is the concept of transformational leadership by Bernard M. Bass and Bruce Avolio . with concrete behavioral descriptions of (charismatic) leadership skills .

The charismatic leadership lives from the identification of the employees with the leader. According to Neubauer, this type of tour has several advantages.

  1. The leadership has a positive effect on the objective group performance and on the subjective perception of this performance.
  2. It creates an intellectual stimulation through the positive feelings of those being led.
  3. The group togetherness is strengthened. The group holds together better in crisis situations. The basis for cooperation is mutual appreciation.

The higher degree of identification has further psychological consequences, which can, however, have both positive and negative effects on the organization. The high level of identification automatically creates the psychological effect of conformity . The self-categorization of the group creates a distinction between members and non-members. Outsiders and non-conformist employees who think differently are excluded. Normative influences and influences of information can be identified that drive conformity. These social group norms can take on a life of their own. For the company, this harbors the risk that external information is no longer recorded and the group no longer thinks across departments, i.e. thinking outside the box. Therefore, the responsibility of the charismatic leader also lies in keeping the extent of the [conformity] under deliberate control and at times interspersing external influences.

The thinking circle can also refer to Lewin et al. (1939) and his investigations on group dynamics. The charismatic democratic leadership harbors less the danger of isolation than a charismatic authoritarian leadership, since the subordinates they lead do not concentrate exclusively on the leader, but also on independent thinking.

See also


  • Kurt E. Becker : The Charisma Factor. Be happy with Sisyphus . Info3-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2016, ISBN 978-3-95779-025-5 .
  • Kurt E. Becker : The Roman Caesar with Christ's soul. Max Weber's concept of charisma . Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1988, ISBN 3-8204-8667-4 .
  • Kurt E. Becker : Charisma. The way out of the crisis . Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1996, ISBN 3-7857-0840-8 .
  • Jörg Felfe: Transformational and charismatic leadership. State of research and current developments. In: Zeitschrift für Personalpsychologie. Vol. 5, (2006), Issue 4, pp. 163-176.
  • Walter Neubauer, Bernhard Rosemann: Leadership, Power and Trust in Organizations. Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 2006.
  • Michael Günther: Mass and Charisma. Social causes of political and religious fanaticism. Lang , Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2005, ISBN 3-631-53536-8 (also dissertation at the University of Kiel 2003).
  • Götz Hartmann: Self-stigmatization and charisma of Christian saints of late antiquity, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2006, ISBN 3-16-149114-9 .
  • Dirk Kaesler : Revolution and everyday occurrence. A theory of post-revolutionary processes. Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-485-01844-9 .
  • Karola Kleinschmidt: Charisma is the secret of success. Why can some people mobilize the masses better than others? Can this skill even be learned? In: PM world of knowledge. No. 4, 2010, ISSN  1863-9313 , pp. 26-31.
  • Eva Brigitta Müller: Charismania. Charisma as “doping” for personality and career? A study by seven charisma advisors , dissertation 2009, University of Koblenz-Landau.
  • Carl Heinz Ratschow, Ludwig Schmidt, Nico Oswald, John H. Schütz, Rudolf Landau: Charisma / Charisms I. On the term in religious studies II. Old Testament III. Judaism IV. New Testament V. Practical-theological . In: Theological Real Encyclopedia . 7, pp. 681-698 (1981). (Overview for religious understanding)
  • Bernhard Schäfers , Justin Stagl (ed.): Culture and religion, institutions and charisma in the process of civilization . Festschrift for Wolfgang Lipp. Hartung-Gorre, Konstanz 2005.
  • Franz Walter : Charismatics and Efficiencies: Portraits from 60 Years of the Federal Republic . edition suhrkamp, ​​2009, ISBN 978-3-518-12577-9 .
  • Philip Zimbardo, Richard Gerrig: Psychology. 7th edition. Springer Verlag, New York 1999.
  • Jennifer Withelm: Charisma Competence: 25 charismatic men. Impulses for managers. Tredition, Hamburg 2016, ISBN 3-73-452230-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Charisma  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Jörg Gerber: Inequalities in the People of God: The Filling of the Ordained Office as a Phenomenon of “Social Closure” . Freiburg / Switzerland 1998, p. 175. ISBN 3-7278-1171-4
  2. Jörg Gerber: Inequalities in the People of God: The Filling of the Ordained Office as a Phenomenon of “Social Closure” . Freiburg / Switzerland 1998, pp. 174–177. ISBN 3-7278-1171-4
  3. Duden: The dictionary of origin: Etymology of the German language . 5th edition. Berlin 2014, p. 200. ISBN 978-3-411-04075-9
  4. Wolfgang Schluchter : The emergence of modern rationalism. An analysis of Max Weber's history of the development of the Occident . 1st edition. Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-518-28947-0 , pp. 107, 109, 134.
  5. Michael Günther: Masse und Charisma , 2005, p. 19.
  6. Michael Günther: Mass and Charisma. 2005, pp. 177 ff., 230-265.
  7. Kurt E. Becker : The Roman Caesar with Christ's soul. Max Weber's concept of charisma. Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1988, p. 47.
  8. ^ Franz Neumann: Behemoth. Structure and Practice of National Socialism 1933–1944 . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1984 (first: Oxford University Press 1942, 1944), ISBN 3-596-24306-8 , p. 122.
  9. The charismatic leader in the Führer state . In: Franz Neumann: Behemoth. Structure and Practice of National Socialism 1933–1944 . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1984 (first: Oxford University Press 1942, 1944), ISBN 3-596-24306-8 , pp. 114ff.
  10. See also M. Rainer Lepsius: Max Weber, Charisma and Hitler. FAZ v. August 24, 2011, p. N 3.
  11. Wolfgang Lipp: Stigma and Charisma. About social border behavior (= religion in society. Vol. 26). 2nd Edition. Ergon, Würzburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-89913-710-1 .
  12. Christina Steinlein: Charisma: Innate or Learnable? on: Focus online.
  13. Tom Geoghegan: A step-by-step guide to charisma. on: BBC news. May 26, 2005.
  14. JA Conger u. a .: Charismatic leadership and follower effects. In: Journal of Organizational Behavior. Vol. 21 (2000) and the literature cited there
  15. BM Bass, BJ Avolio (Ed.): Improving Organizational Effectiveness Through Transformational Leadership. Thousand Oaks, 1994.
  16. See Walter Neubauer, Bernhard Rosemann, 2005, p. 34.
  17. See Walter Neubauer, Bernhard Rosemann, 2005, p. 104
  18. Cf. Zimbardo, Gerrig. 1999, p. 412.