10.1177/1046496404264178SMALL GROUP RESEARCH / October 2004Halverson et al. / CHARISMA UNDER CRISIS
IN CRISIS SITUATIONS
A Laboratory Investigation
of Stress and Crisis
STEFANIE K. HALVERSON
SUSAN ELAINE MURPHY
RONALD E. RIGGIO
Claremont McKenna College
Charismatic leaders are often thought to emerge in times of crisis. This study examined the
effects of evaluation stress and situational crisis on task performance and ratings of charis-
matic behavior, as assessed by outside coders on Conger and Kanungo’s C-K Scale. Fifty-
five three-member groupswere randomly assigned a leader and asked to complete a project-
planning task. Half of the groups were randomly assigned to a stress condition, and all
groups underwent a midsession crisis intervention. Results showed that leaders in the stress
condition were perceivedas significantly more charismatic than leaders in the no-stress con-
dition, although ratings converged after the crisis manipulation.
Keywords: leadership; groups; stress; charisma; crisis
Since charismatic leadership theory began, there has been a shift
in the perception of what charisma is and how it develops. The word
charisma, derived from the Greek word for gift, was used by the
Christian church to describe gifts from God, charismata, used for
AUTHORS’ NOTE: This research was supported by the Kravis Leadership Institute. We
would like to thank members of the Kravis Institute who assisted in data collection. In addi-
tion, we would like to acknowledge the three anonymous reviewers for their suggestions on
this paper. Please address correspondence to Stefanie K. Halverson, Department of Psychol-
ogy, Rice University, 6100 Main Street, Houston, Texas 77005; phone: (713) 348-3771; e-
SMALL GROUP RESEARCH, Vol. 35 No. 5, October 2004 495-514
© 2004 Sage Publications
prophecy and healing (Conger & Kanungo, 1994). As Barnes
(1978) notes, many great religious leaders, including Muhammad,
Buddha, Calvin, Confucius, and Jesus Christ, have been described
as charismatic. Weber (1947) expanded the definition to include
any leader who derives his or her power from particularly excep-
tional personal traits. Whereas an emphasis on the fantastic and
mystical was appropriate for the church, the shift to secular charis-
matic leadership revolutionized the perception of authority figures
from rational and law oriented to innovative and progressive in
social change (Conger & Kanungo, 1994). Thus began the transi-
tion of charisma to the political sphere, where the mark of a good
politician became his or her unwillingness to accept the status quo,
and promises to change the system. Schlesinger (1962) called this
the “cult of the activist presidency,” in which militant behavior was
respected in the American political leader (Wendt & Light, 1974).
Finally, the term transitioned to business leaders with the work of
Bass (1985), Bennis and Nanus (1985), Peters and Waterman
(1982), and Tichy and Devanna (1986).
Despite the interest in the topic, however, empirical research has
yielded few characteristics that consistently predict charismatic
leadership across situations. Thus, the research on charisma shifted
from trait and behavioral approaches to contingency theories, rede-
fining charismatic leadership as an attribution, and considering the
importance of situational factors in the likelihood of this attribution
(Conger & Kanungo, 1987). Most notably, research has investi-
gated the role of stress or crisis as influential factors in the attribu-
tion of charisma (Halverson, Holladay, Kazama, & Quiñones, in
press; Hamblin, 1958; Hunt, Boal, & Dodge, 1999; Pillai, 1996;
Pillai & Meindl, 1998; Roberts & Bradley, 1988). However, the
extant research has not demonstrated whether crisis changes leader
behavior or changes follower perceptions of that behavior. Further-
more, no study to the authors’ knowledge has investigated the
boundary conditions for the relationship between charismatic lead-
ership and performance under crisis. The current study tests the
extent to which crisis affects leader behavior rather than follower
perceptions. We also propose that crisis can be detrimental to
leader behavior if it occurs in an already stressful leadership situa-
496 SMALL GROUP RESEARCH / October 2004
tion. In stressful situations, crisis may push leaders beyond an opti-
mal level of stress (eustress) into distress, resulting in poor leader
behavior. We test this paradigm, using a laboratory study in which
we manipulate leader stress before introducing a crisis and then
measure the outcomes of performance and ratings of charisma. In
doing so, we offer a contingency model of leadership, exploring the
relationship between situational stressors and charismatic leader
Charismatic leadership has received a great deal of attention
from researchers, possibly because of its positive association with
performance (Baum, Locke, & Kirkpatrick, 1998; Fuller, Patterson,
Hester, & Stringer, 1996; Howell & Frost, 1989; Kirkpatrick &
Locke, 1996; Masi & Cooke, 2000; Waldman, Bass, & Yammarino,
1990). Since the 1980s, the study of charismatic and transform-
ational leadership has become one of the primary areas of leader-
ship research (Chemers, 2000). Today there are three predominant
theories of charismatic leadership: those of House and colleagues,
Bass and colleagues, and Conger and Kanungo. Whereas the mod-
els of Bass (1985) and House (1977) focus on the follower out-
comes associated with charismatic/transformational leadership,
the Conger and Kanungo (1987, 1988) model focuses on the spe-
cific leader behaviors that will lead to attributions of charisma
The Conger and Kanungo (1987, 1988) model is particularly
useful for experimental research because of its focus on observable
leader behaviors. Specifically, they propose that there are eight
leader behaviors that should lead to perceptions of charisma: acts as
an agent of radical change, strives to change the status quo, makes
realistic assessments of environmental opportunities and constraints,
sensitive to followers’ needs and expectations, formulates idealized
future vision, provides strong articulation, incurs personal risk, and
engages in unconventional behavior (Conger & Kanungo, 1992).
Furthermore, they suggest that there are three stages to the charis-
Halverson et al. / CHARISMA UNDER CRISIS 497
matic leadership process. In the first stage, the leader evaluates the
situation by assessing the environment and follower needs. In the
second stage, the leader formulates and conveys appropriate goals
to the followers. In the third stage, the leader builds personal trust
and demonstrates how the goal can be achieved. Charismatic lead-
ers exhibit the behaviors mentioned above across these three
LEADERSHIP AND CRISIS
Crisis has been an inherent part of charismatic leadership since
Weber’s (1947) original conceptualization of charismatic author-
ity, and a great deal of research and theory has linked charisma to
crisis. For example, House, Spangler, and Woycke (1991) found
that the number of crises faced by American presidents was related
to ratings of their charisma. Conger (1999) said, “Context is not the
key determinant, but rather the leader and context influence one
another—the relative weight of each influence varying from situa-
tion to situation” (p. 166). As Bryman (1993) suggests, there are at
least two reasons why charismatic leadership should be associated
with crisis. The first (and the focus of this article) is that a crisis pro-
vides charismatic leaders with the opportunity to display charis-
matic behavior. Yukl (1999) suggests that the uncertainty and
ambiguity of the situation itself contributes to an increase in the
leader’s ability to be charismatic. The existence of a problem gives
the leader the opportunity to be innovative and deviate from the sta-
tus quo in creating a solution for the problem. Moreover, a tumultu-
ous situation provides the leader with a cause for which he or she
can build support from the followers. For example, Bligh, Kohles,
and Meindl (in press) found that after the crisis of 9/11, President
Bush was more charismatic in terms of his use of charismatic
The second explanation, and the focus of the majority of previ-
ous research, is that crisis changes followers’ needs and attitudes,
causing them to attribute charisma to their leader. Kets de Vries
(1988) viewed charismatic leadership in crisis from a psychoana-
498 SMALL GROUP RESEARCH / October 2004
lytic perspective, suggesting that followers become more attached
to their leader in times of crisis because the leader offers them
direction and security. Insofar as crisis situations make individuals
feel more insecure, dependent, and stressed, they become more
susceptible to the influence of charismatic leaders (Kets de Vries,
1988; Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993). Moreover, Shamir and
Howell (1999) suggest that when followers are faced with stress
and ambiguity, they are forced to look for social rather than situa-
tional cues, and therefore are more likely to turn to their leader. In
support of this notion, Seltzer and Numerof (1988) found that
working with a considerate leader was associated with lower levels
of burnout in the workplace.
Furthermore, the majority of experimental research has focused
on the effects of crisis on follower perceptions. Halverson et al. (in
press) demonstrated that the existence of an organizational crisis
led to greater attributions of charisma, legitimacy, and followers’
intentions to reciprocate self-sacrificial behavior, even when leader
behavior was held constant. Similarly, Hunt et al. (1999) found that
crisis-responsive leaders were rated better than leaders who were
not in a crisis situation, but that ratings of this leader deteriorated
after the crisis had abated. Other research suggests that followers in
crisis are more easily influenced by their leader (Hamblin, 1958),
attribute greater levelsof charisma to their leader (Pillai, 1996), and
are more likely to choose a leader based on his or her charisma
(Pillai & Meindl, 1998). Followers are also more likely to acqui-
esce to their leader under stress (Foushee & Helmreich, 1988) and
are more receptive to information provided by others under stress
(Driskell & Salas, 1991).
DIFFERING LEVELS OF STRESS
Although previous work has demonstrated an overall positive
relationship between crisis and charismatic leadership, no research
to the authors’ knowledge has explored the boundary condition for
this relationship. That is, can too much stress have negative effects
on leadership outcomes? Driskell, Salas, and Johnston (1999), for
example, found that high levels of stress hurt team performance by
Halverson et al. / CHARISMA UNDER CRISIS 499
leading to a decrease in team perspective. Furthermore, if we con-
sider leader behavior in response to stress or crisis rather than fol-
lower perceptions, there is reason to believe that extremely high
levels of stress would result in a decreasein charisma. Social facili-
tation theory (Zajonc, 1965), suggests that as stress (arousal)
increases, the ability to concentrate on a task, especially a novel
task, decreases and simple or well-learned responses tend to be
elicited. Thus, whereas low levels of stress may provide just
enough arousal to encourage good performance, the occurrence of
a crisis in an already stressful situation might create a level of
arousal that would interfere with the leader’s ability. Conversely, if
a leader were not already under stress, then he or she would be
better equipped to deal with the stress elicited by a crisis situation,
and the crisis would provide enough arousal to motivate the leader
THE CURRENT STUDY
The current study tests the effect of stress and crisis on leader
behavior, as measured by outside coders. The use of coders offers a
context-free understanding of leader behavior under stress and cri-
sis. That is, because the coders are not a part of the leadership simu-
lation, their ratings should not be influenced by the crisis itself.
Furthermore, by using outside coders, we are able to take ratings of
leader behavior at Time 1 and Time 2, without interrupting the flow
of the session.
Hypothesis 1: Precrisis, leaders in the stress condition will exhibit a
greater level of charismatic behavior (as measured by outside cod-
ers) and have higher performance than will leaders in the no-stress
Hypothesis 2: Postcrisis, leaders in the stress condition will experience
a decline in charismatic behavior (as measured by outside coders)
and a decline in performance.
Hypothesis 3: Postcrisis, leaders in the no-stress condition will experi-
ence an increase in charismatic behavior (as measured by outside
coders) and an increase in performance.
500 SMALL GROUP RESEARCH / October 2004
PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING
The sample was drawn from the entering freshmen class at a
small private liberal arts college. Slightly more than 65% or 168
students, consisting of 84 men and 84 women, participated out of
the 253 students in the freshman class.
PROCEDURE: STRESS MANIPULATION,
TASK, AND CRISIS INTERVENTION
Participants were assembled in groups of three in a large waiting
room where they received consent forms and filled out premeasures.
A leader was randomly assigned to each group, and each group was
randomly assigned to either the control or experimental condition.
The leader received task instructions in a separate experimental
Stress manipulation. Stress was induced by telling the leader
that he or she would have to give an oral report to faculty in the psy-
chology department about the group processes used and their strat-
egy for completing the task. Also, the leaders in the stress condition
were told that they were being videotaped and that experts in the
career services center at the college would be viewing the tape to
rate their leadership ability. Leaders in the control condition were
told that they were being taped for data collection purposes only
and may or may not be used. They were not told that they would
have to give a report. This stress manipulation was shown to be
effective in previous studies (Hoyt, Watson, & Murphy, 1997; Hoyt,
Murphy, Halverson, & Watson, 2003).
Task. The Project Planning Task (Human Synergistics, 1985)
has been used in other, similar experiments involving group inter-
actions (Murphy, 1992). The task was modified for the current
study in three ways. Normally, all participants are asked to rank the
items individually and then collaborate with the group to determine
Halverson et al. / CHARISMA UNDER CRISIS 501
a final ranking. We eliminated the individual portion of the task.
Second, the items were printed out on note cards rather than pre-
sented in a list format, so that they could be physically manipulated
on the table. Both of these changes were made to increase the extent
to which the group interacted with one another. Finally, 5 of the 20
items were removed so they could be added in later for the crisis
intervention. Activities on the cards included “Find qualified peo-
ple to fill the positions” and “Measure progress toward and/or
deviation from the project’s goals.”
The project-planning task was chosen because of its unstruc-
tured nature and because it allows for disagreement on answers. A
task with a more easily defined “correct” answer would not have
provided the leader with the same ambiguity, a situational trait
often associated with charismatic leadership. Moreover, the task
itself was designed with ambiguity, such that the specific nature of
the project they were planning was left ambiguous. The task also
offered an opportunity for all group members to contribute equally,
as there was little room for one to be an expert on the process of
Crisis intervention. The groups were given 15 minutes to rank
order 15 activities in a project-planning task. The original answers
were recorded as Time 1 performance, and each group was asked to
complete the project-planning task a second time, incorporating 5
additional cards. The groups were given 5 minutes to complete this
task. These 5 cards were carefully separated out from the original
list of 20 tasks to ensure that they did not interrupt one’s ability to
configure the original 15 tasks. A similar crisis intervention, in
which the experimenter reenters the room and asks the group to
reconfigure the list of tasks, was used by Hunt et al. (1999) and fits
the definition of crisis provided by Jick and Murray (1982).
All groups were subjected to the crisis intervention, which was
intended to increase the levels of stress in the control group to a
moderate stress, or eustress, and increase levels of stress in the
experimental group to a high stress, or distress. All group members
completed posttask questionnaires once they had finished the sec-
ond phase of the task.
502 SMALL GROUP RESEARCH / October 2004
Task performance scoring Time 1 and Time 2. Task performance
was measured both pre- (15 activities) and postcrisis (20 activities).
Scores were calculated by subtracting the ranking for each activity
from the correct ranking and summing the resulting absolute differ-
ence scores. This sum was the group’s performance, where a lower
score indicates a better score because it is closer to the expert rank
ordering of activities. The pre- and postcrisis performance scores
were standardized by converting them to zscores, and the scores
were reversed so a higher score indicates a better score.
State Anxiety: Pre- and posttask. The State Anxiety Inventory
(Speilberger, Gorsuch, & Lushene, 1968, 1970) was used to evalu-
ate the leader’s feelings of apprehension, tension, nervousness, and
worry both before and after working on the task. Each question is
scored on a 4-point Likert-type scale ranging from not at all to very
much so. For this sample, the Cronbach’s alpha for the entire scale
both pretask and posttask was .91.
CODING CHARISMA: TRAINING PROCEDURES AND MEASURE
All of the group interactions were videotaped using a small wall-
mounted video camera. These videotapes were used for the cha-
risma coding procedures. Six research assistants were employed to
code the leaders’ level of charisma using Conger and Kanungo’s
(1994) (C-K) scale. The 25-item scale was modified to eliminate
questions that were not applicable to a laboratory study, resulting in
13 items, assessing the four dimensions of “vision and articula-
tion”; “environmental sensitivity”; “unconventional behavior”;
and “sensitivity to member needs.” In addition, the wording was
modified slightly to make it applicable to the third-party outside
coders. The C-K Scale has shown adequate validity in measuring
charisma and is highly correlated with other such measures
(Anderson & Wanberg, 1991; Conger & Kanungo, 1994). Answers
are recorded on a 6-point Likert-type scale ranging from very
uncharacteristic (1) to very characteristic (6). Sample items
Halverson et al. / CHARISMA UNDER CRISIS 503
included “The leader shows concern for the group members’ needs
and feelings” and “The leader used a somewhat ‘nontraditional’
method for completing the task.”
All coders were asked to familiarize themselves with the ques-
tions before viewing any of the tapes so they would know what
behaviors to look for while watching the groups. The coders were
also given a list of viewing procedures, such as only monitoring the
leader’s behavior and avoiding watching the way in which the fol-
lowers reacted to the leader. The coders were instructed not to
watch any of the interactions that occurred before or after the task.
In addition, before viewing the taped group interactions, the coders
were trained as to what constitutes a high or low score on each of
the leader behaviors on the C-K Scale. To do this, a more in-depth
description of each question was given, and an anchor segment of
low- and high-scoring leaders was viewed to gain consistency
across raters. Additional in-depth descriptions of the questions
were also provided.
Three coders completed the C-K Scale twice for each group:
once after the first 15 minutes of the group’s interaction (before cri-
sis intervention) and once after the final 5 minutes of the group’s
interaction (after crisis intervention). All coders were blind to the
condition (stress, no-stress). Ratings on the C-K Scale were stan-
dardized, using zscores, to compare the ratings from Time 1 and
Time 2. The scale reliability across the three ranged from α= .89 to
α= .92 with an average reliability of α= .91, suggesting that the 13-
item scale had an adequate level of reliability. The interrater reli-
ability between the three individual raters was Cronbach’s α= .84.
PRELIMINARY DATA SCREENING AND MANIPULATION CHECK
All scales underwent reliability analysis, and all data were
examined for outliers. No outliers were found. Intercorrelations of
all of the variables are presented in Table 1. To assess the effects of
the stress intervention, a repeated measures MANOVA was con-
504 SMALL GROUP RESEARCH / October 2004
ducted with pre- and postcrisis state anxiety as the within-groups
variable and stress condition as the between-subjects variable.
There was only a main effect for time across stress conditions, with
leaders reporting more state anxiety post-crisis, Wilks’s λ= .51,
F(1, 51) = 48.32, p< .05. Because there were no differences
between conditions, these analyses raised concerns that the stress
manipulation was not as strong as it was intended it to be. We exam-
ined the effects of the stress manipulation at Time 1 (when the
manipulation took place) and focused on the negative
subcomponent, as suggested by Kendall, Finch, Auerbach, Hooke,
and Mikulka (1976). This stronger test of the manipulation
revealed that at Time 1, people in the stress condition reported
higher anxiety than did people in the no-stress condition, t(52) =
1.66, p= .05.
As a second test of the stress manipulation, three undergraduate
students, not previously affiliated with the study, were paid to rate
all of the participants on nonverbal behavior. The coders were blind
to the condition and they rated all leaders on nonverbal behaviors
that should be associated with calmness (maintaining eye contact,
object-focused gestures, parallel gestures, positive facial expres-
sions, confidence, and appearance of boredom) and behaviors that
should be associated with nervousness (verbal disfluencies in
terms of “ahs” and “uhs,” laughs, head touching, hand-to-hand
touching, body touching, posture shifts, and head nods). The indi-
vidual behaviors were standardized, using zscores, and a total
score was created by subtracting all of the nervous nonverbal
behaviors from the calm ones. A univariate ANOVA demonstrated
that persons in the control condition demonstrated more calm non-
verbal behavior than did those in the experimental condition, F(1,
52) = 4.83, p<.05. Therefore, we feel confident that the stress
manipulation was successful, despite the weak findings on the state
VALIDITY OF THE CODER RATINGS
Furthermore, a test of the validity of the outside coders’ ratings
was conducted. Although we felt that followers’ ratings of their
Halverson et al. / CHARISMA UNDER CRISIS 505
leader were confounded with the manipulation, it is important to
establish that the outside coders’ ratings were somewhat related to
the followers’ ratings of their leader behavior. To test this relation-
ship, hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) was used to test the rela-
tionship between the outside coders’ ratings and the follower rat-
ings. Recent reviews have demonstrated the value of HLM in both
leadership (Castro, 2002) and small group (Pollack, 1998)
research. In short, HLM allows us to investigate followers’ percep-
tions of their leader, while accounting for the fact that the followers
are nested within one group with only one leader. The HLM analy-
sis demonstrated that follower ratings were related to the outside
coders’ ratings at both Time 1, γ= .09, t(108) = 3.09, p< .01, and
Time 2, γ= .11, t(108) = 3.42, p< .001. The relationship between
the follower ratings and the outside coder ratings was greater at
Time 2, which is consistent with the fact that follower ratings were
only taken at Time 2 (the end of the experiment). Based on these
analyses, we were confident that the outside coders’ ratings were a
valid measure of leader behavior.
TEST OF HYPOTHESES
To test Hypotheses 1 through 3, a 2 ×2×2 repeated measures
MANOVA was conducted with time (precrisis, postcrisis) and out-
come (charisma ratings, performance) as the within-subjects vari-
ables, and condition (stress, no stress) as the between-subjects vari-
able. The ANOVA revealed only one significant effect, which was
the expected time by condition interaction, Wilks’s λ= .92, F(1,
53) = 4.56, p= .04, η2= .08. An examination of the means showed
506 SMALL GROUP RESEARCH / October 2004
TABLE 1: Intercorrelations Between Dependent Variables
Time 1 Time 2 Time 1 Time 2
Charisma Time 1 1
Charisma Time 2 .84*** 1
Performance Time 1 .06 .14 1
Performance Time 2 .07 .08 .85*** 1
*** p< .001.
that at Time 1, leaders in the experimental condition performed
better across the behavioral ratings and task performance (M= .09,
SE = .13) than did those in the control condition (M=–.13,SE = .15).
At Time 2, performance among leaders in the experimental condi-
tion decreased (M= .01, SE = .13), whereas performance among
leaders in the control condition increased (M= –.01, SE = .16).
Hypotheses 1 through 3 were all supported (see Table 2 and Figure
The primary objective of this study was to investigate the effects
of crisis on leaders’ behavior under differential levels of stress.
There were two main contributions of the current study. First, we
demonstrated that there are some boundaries to the well-estab-
lished relationship between crisis and charismatic leadership. In
doing so, we answer a call in the leadership literature for more
research that incorporates situational factors to enhance the under-
standing of charismatic leadership (Chemers, 2002; Conger, 1999;
Gardner & Avolio, 1998). As expected, leaders exposed to stress
before the crisis intervention exhibited greater levels of charismatic
behavior and better task performance than did leaders in the no-
stress condition. When the crisis was introduced, leaders in the
stress condition experienced a decrease in charismatic behavior
and task performance, whereas those in the no-stress condition
experienced an increase in these outcomes.
These findings are consistent with the Yerkes Dodson model of
arousal, which suggests that low levelsof arousal can be beneficial,
and high levels detrimental. Furthermore, past research has found
that stress may affect leaders’ performance because of ineffective
decision making or the use of inappropriate leader behavior (Bass,
1998). Fiedler’s cognitive resource theory of leadership (Fiedler,
1994; Fiedler & Garcia, 1987) suggests that stress interferes with
the ability to use particular cognitive resources, such as intelli-
gence, while enhancing the ability to use knowledge gained
through leadership experience. This interference can lead to poor
Halverson et al. / CHARISMA UNDER CRISIS 507
leader behavior, such as a decrease in the leader’s ability to articu-
late his or her thoughts effectively (Gibson, Fiedler, & Barrett,
1993), which is an important component of charismatic leadership.
The current study suggests that charismatic leader behavior may
become more difficult to exhibit in very demanding situations.
Only through increased experience in different crisis situations
might a leader be able to counteract the debilitating effects of stress.
Increased experience is a way to secure specific skills that are
required during stressful situations and a way to learn specific
coping methods for handling one’s behavior.
508 SMALL GROUP RESEARCH / October 2004
TABLE 2: MANOVA Results for the Effects of Time, Condition, and Outcome (Per-
formance or Ratings of Charisma)
Time 1.00 .12 .00
Time ×Condition .92 4.56* .08
Outcome 1.00 .07 .00
Outcome ×Condition .96 2.46 .04
Time ×Outcome 1.00 .00 .00
Time ×Outcome ×Condition 1.00 .01 .00
Condition — .39 .01
Time 1 Time 2
Figure 1: Leadership Performance Pre- and Postcrisis for the Stress and No-Stress
The second contribution is related to our focus on leader behav-
ior, rather than follower perceptions. Previous theory suggests cri-
sis may be associated with charismatic leadership by causing an
increase in leader charismatic behavior and/or causing an increase
in followers’needs (Bryman, 1993). Yet the majority of research
has tested the effects of crisis on followers (Halverson et al., in
press; Hamblin, 1958; Hunt et al., 1999; Pillai, 1996; Pillai &
Meindl, 1998). These studies suggest that the mere existence of a
crisis causes followers to attribute greater levels of charisma to
their leader, regardless of leader behavior. Our research provides a
rigorous test of the hypothesis that stress and crisis also influence
However, using outside coders provided the benefit of a rational
description of charismatic behavior, at the cost of the emotional rat-
ings of charismatic leader–follower relationships. Particularly in
light of follower-centered theories of charismatic leadership (cf.
Meindl, 1995), there is a question as to whether leader behavior can
be determined without considering followers’perspectives. As this
study was limited in time and used ad hoc groups, the formation of
a relationship between the leader and followers is unlikely. Yet, the
coding and description of charismatic leader behavior is quite fea-
sible in such groups, and our findings fill a gap in extant literature
by demonstrating the effects of crisis on leaders’behavior. Further-
more, the results of our validity check demonstrated that the out-
side coders’ratings were highly related to the followers’ratings,
and this was particularly true of the outside coders’ratings at Time
2, which is when the followers completed the rating form.
As is the case with any study, the current study had some limita-
tions. The first concern is that the stress manipulation may not have
been as strong as intended, as evidenced by the weak findings of the
manipulation check. Considering the findings on cognitive resources
theory (Fiedler & Garcia, 1987) and self-efficacy for leadership
(Murphy, Chemers, Macaulay, & Kohles, 2004), it is evident that
leaders cannot always assess their own levels of stress. In one study,
McLeod, Hoehn-Saric, and Stefan (1986) found that patients’
responses on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory were uncorrelated
with physiological measures of stress, suggesting that patients
Halverson et al. / CHARISMA UNDER CRISIS 509
were unable to assess their level of anxiety. Furthermore, there is
evidence that the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory is susceptible to
socially desirable responding (Johnson, Dabbs, & Leventhal, 1970).
It is possible that the participants in our sample felt pressure to
report no adverse effects in the stress condition because they knew
they were being evaluated for leadership potential. Yet, the findings
and the results of the second manipulation check clearly show that
the stress manipulation affected the leaders in this study.
As with most research that uses college students, the applicabil-
ity of the current study to a wider population is of concern. Along
with the normal concerns related to using a homogeneous popula-
tion, Fuller et al. (1996) suggest that student populations may have
a greater preference for powerful leaders than does the general pub-
lic. This is of particular relevance to research dealing with leader-
ship, and specifically charismatic leadership. We suggest that
future studies employ more varied populations. In his research,
however, Locke (1986) found high levels of similarity between lab-
oratory and field research, across a wide variety of organizational
However, as noted by Mook (1983), laboratory experiments pro-
vide insight on what can happen in various situations, rather than
what does happen. Commentaries by Wofford (1999) and Brown
and Lord (1999) recognize the positive benefits of laboratory
research on leadership. Wofford (1999) said that laboratory studies
are “free from nuisance variables such as performance, organiza-
tional culture, and other styles of leadership,”(p. 525). Considering
the complex nature of the experiment, we believe that the benefits
this laboratory study provided, in terms of experimental control,
outweigh the costs in external validity.
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Stefanie K. Halverson, M.A., is a doctoral student in industrial/organizational psy-
chology at Rice University. Her research interests include leadership, teams, and
emotions in organizations.
Susan Elaine Murphy, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology at Claremont
McKenna College and associate director of the Kravis Leadership Institute. Among
her research interests are investigating the contribution of personality characteris-
tics and early leadership experiences in effective leadership, and the role of
mentoring in career and leadership development.
Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professorof Leadership and Organi-
zational Psychology and director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont
McKenna College. He has served on the faculties of several colleges and universities
and has published over 100 books, book chapters, and research articles in the areas
of leadership, organizational psychology, and social psychology.
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