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The aura of charisma: A review on the embodiment perspective as signaling



Charismatic leaders have consistently been shown to affect followers' performance, motivation, and satisfaction. Yet, what precisely constitutes charisma still remains somewhat enigmatic. So far, research has mainly focused on leader traits, leader behaviors, or the leader follower-relationship, and the subsequent consequences of each on followers' self-concepts. All of these approaches share the notion that leader charisma depends on an explicit interaction between leader and follower. With the present review paper, we extend extant theorizing by arguing that charisma is additionally informed by embodied signals that flow directly from either the leader or the immediate environment. We introduce the embodiment perspective on human perception and describe its utility for theoretically understanding the charismatic effect. Correspondingly, we review studies that show which concrete embodied cues can support the charismatic effect. Finally, we discuss the variety of new theoretical and practical implications that arise from this research and how they can complement existing approaches to charismatic leadership.
The Aura of Charisma:
A Review on the Embodiment Perspective as Signaling
Susan Reh
Kühne Logistics University, Germany
Niels Van Quaquebeke
Kühne Logistics University, Germany
Steffen R. Giessner
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands
In press at
The Leadership Quarterly
Author Note
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Susan Reh, Kühne Logistics
University, Großer Grasbrook 17, 20457 Hamburg, Germany.
Phone: +49 40 328707-301
Charismatic leaders have consistently been shown to affect followers’ performance, motivation,
and satisfaction. Yet, what precisely constitutes charisma still remains somewhat enigmatic. So
far, research has mainly focused on leader traits, leader behaviors, or the leader follower-
relationship, and the subsequent consequences of each on followers’ self-concepts. All of these
approaches share the notion that leader charisma depends on an explicit interaction between
leader and follower. With the present review paper, we extend extant theorizing by arguing that
charisma is additionally informed by embodied signals that flow directly from either the leader
or the immediate environment. We introduce the embodiment perspective on human perception
and describe its utility for theoretically understanding the charismatic effect. Correspondingly,
we review studies that show which concrete embodied cues can support the charismatic effect.
Finally, we discuss the variety of new theoretical and practical implications that arise from this
research and how they can complement existing approaches to charismatic leadership.
Keywords: charisma, charismatic leadership, embodiment, grounded cognition, signaling
Charismatic leaders inspire follower motivation, performance, and satisfaction (Babcock-
Roberson & Strickland, 2010; Bass, 1985; Conger, Kanungo, & Menon, 2000; DeGroot, Kiker,
& Cross, 2009; House, 1977; Howell & Frost, 1989; Jacobsen & House, 2001; Shamir, House, &
Arthur, 1993). This influence partly derives from followers’ perceptions that the charismatic
leader possesses extraordinary abilities that exceed any regular expectation for a leader (Weber,
1925). However, charisma itself remains a rather elusive phenomenon (Antonakis, Bastardoz,
Jacquart, & Shamir, 2016; van Knippenberg & Sitkin, 2013; Yukl, 1996), marked by varying
definitions and conceptualizations that sometimes border on omnipotence and the presence of
almost mystical powers (Bryman, 1992). Many of these follow from Weber (1925), who defined
charisma as “a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is considered
extraordinary and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically
exceptional powers or qualities” (p. 241).
Against this background, Antonakis and colleagues (2016) recently noted that, despite
decades of research, the concept of charisma is still not well defined. In response, they drew
from signaling theory (Spence, 2002) to define charisma as “values-based, symbolic, and
emotion-laden leader signaling” (p. 17). Corresponding research into the behavioral iterations of
such leader signals (i.e., what the leader says or does) predomininatly focused on leader rhetoric
(e.g., Awamleh & Gardner, 1999; Holladay & Coombs, 1993; Howell & Frost, 1989). Yet, while
research has pointed out that charismatic leaders are often described in terms of their physical
attributes (Bryman, 1992), for instance, their facial properties (Bryman, 1992), facial expressions
(Avamleh & Gardner, 1999), body posture (Bass, 1985), or their use of nonverbal tactics
(Antonakis, Fenley, & Liechti, 2011; Frese, Beimel, & Schoenborn, 2003), and recent research
suggests to investigate how perceived charisma relates to biological characteristics (Antonakis et
al., 2016), the symbolic signaling aspect of charisma that includes embodied cues beyond those
displayed in rhetoric is still not understood very well. A symbol is something that stands for or
suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental
resemblance” (Merriam Webster, 2016). Symbols may stem from the leader’s physicality, the
leader’s verbal and nonverbal behavior, but also from the environment. As such, irrespective of
whether symbolic signals relate to the leader’s rhetoric or messages, they may by themselves
also influence whether followers perceive the leader as charismatic.
In order to extend our understanding of charisma signals, we draw on embodiment
theory, a recent development in social and cognitive psychology, that suggests that some bodily
cues can lead to inferences about individuals (Barsalou, 2008). By embodied cues, we refer to all
potential cues that are grounded in bodily experiencein other words, bodily states can cause
cognitive states and vice versa (Barsalou, 2008). Obvious examples include the difference
between up and down, hot and cold, or light and dark. This perspective has been referred to as
the embodiment perspective or grounded cognition perspective (Lakens, 2014; Niedenthal,
2007). As such, this theoretical fundament can help explain why some ostensibly insignificant
leader signals (e.g., physical height) can have surprisingly strong effects on peoples inferences
of leaders. The purpose of our paper, then, is to review this literature and show how this
perspective can extend our understanding of charisma. As such, we also advance the perspective
on charisma beyond mere person-effects by adding that such signals do not need to stem from a
person (i.e., the leader), but can also flow from the environment (e.g., temperature). In the
following, we review how embodied cueswhether related to the leader (e.g., body height,
posture, facial expression) or the environment (e.g., temperature, light, physical placement of the
leader)constitute important elements of leader charisma.
Our approach diverges from extant approaches, which often try to explain charisma in
terms of how leaders and followers interact, whether that involves leaders’ traits (Weber, 1925),
specific behaviors (Bass, 1985; Fanelli & Misangyi, 2006; Gardner & Avolio, 1998; House,
Spangler, & Woycke, 1991; Waldman & Yammarino, 1999), relation to followers (Bass, 1990;
Howell & Shamir, 2005), or how they inspire changes in followers’ self-image (Howell &
Shamir, 2005; Shamir et al., 1993). Instead, our perspective overlaps with more recent insights,
which reveal that perceptions of others occur very quickly and often unconsciously. Such
perceptions are informed by people’s external features as well as a variety of sensory, motor, and
perceptual cues in the environment (Barsalou, 1999, 2008; Lakens, 2014). For example, people
infer others’ traits based on facial appearance in as little as 100ms (Willis & Todorov, 2006).
Importantly, because judgments about people are deeply rooted in these seemingly superficial
perceptions, they have a remarkable predictive value for later interactions (cf. parliamentary
candidates, Antonakis & Dalgas, 2009), irrespective of whether they are always accurate (cf.
Todorov, Olivola, Dotsch, & Mende-Siedlecki, 2015).
To support our embodied perspective, we first briefly review existing approaches to
charisma and charismatic leadership. Next, we describe how an embodiment perspective can
generally help explain the symbolic signaling of charisma. Subsequently, we review specific
findings on the embodiment effects of physical cues in both the person and the environment.
Finally, we discuss the implications for the literature on charismatic leadership, the possible
ways that embodied signals can be processed, some recent criticism on empirical findings in this
field of research, and potential boundary conditions for their effects.
In doing so, we offer several contributions to the literature. First, we complement the
existing literature on leader charisma with an embodiment perspective that can explain how
perceptions of a charismatic aura arise even in the absence of a behavioral leader-follower
interaction. Second, in contrast to previous reviews (Bonaccio, O’Reilly, O’Sullivan, &
Chiocchio, 2016; Hall, Coats, & Smith LeBeau, 2005), our review is based on a coherent
theoretical fundament that considers embodied cues in general (i.e., they can flow from the
leader as a person and from the environment). Third, our approach of focusing primarily on
objective embodied cues to explain leader charisma may fruitfully enrich future leadership
research by addressing recent discussions on causality issues (Antonakis, Bendahan, Jacquart, &
Lalive, 2010, 2014). Finally, our embodiment focus can explain why aspirational leaders may do
everything right in terms of textbook knowledge on charismatic behaviors, but may find it hard
to be perceived as charismatic. Indeed, building on models of categorization (Gilbert, Pelham, &
Krull, 1988), we discuss how early impressions resulting from physical cues may relegate these
leaders to a non-charismatic category (cf. Gray & Densten, 2007; Lord & Maher, 1991) that is
difficult to escape. Or, as Antonakis and Jacquart (2012) phrased it, “Leaders who make it to the
top may do so, not because of the skills they possess but because they look the role’” (p. 155).
By the same token, our theoretical perspective reveals the usefulness of seemingly narcissistic
behaviorsuch as that exhibited by Nicolas Sarkozy, former president of France, who frequently
manipulated the perception of his height in order to appear taller than he actually is (Allen,
2009). Although our review may unwittingly inspire more practical applications of these tactics,
we primarily hope to raise awareness of such manipulations among those who evaluate leaders.
Charismatic Leadership
Charismatic leadership has been a subject of growing interest in leadership research
during the last few decades (Yukl, 2013), with different theoretical approaches coming to the
fore in order to explain the underlying process (Babcock-Roberson & Strickland, 2010; Bass,
1985; Bono & Ilies, 2006; Brands, Menges, & Kilduff, 2015; Conger, Kanungo, Menon, &
Mathur, 1997; DeGroot et al., 2009; House, 1977; Nohe, Michaelis, Menges, Zhang, & Sonntag,
2013). The conceptual interest in charisma can be traced back at least to the ancient Greeks, who
provided the base word, kharisma, which means ‘favor’ or ‘divine gift’. True to its origins,
charisma has long carried a mystical connotationin the Christian Bible, for instance, the Holy
Spirit’s charisma is associated with qualities such as prophecy, ruling, teaching, wisdom, and
healing (Bryman, 1992). However, charisma did not truly enter the scientific purview until
Weber (1925), who pioneered the argument that charisma can serve as a source of leader
authority alongside tradition or law. Unfortunately, Weber’s work focused heavily on magical,
superhuman, or even divine abilities, which left the phenomenon of leader charisma without a
clear definition for a long time (Bryman, 1992). In fairness, describing and defining charisma in
terms of concrete variables has proven difficult (Willner, 1984). Even today, if our experience of
teaching MBA and executive classes is any indication, many lay people struggle to verbalize
what makes a person charismatic.
Conger and Kanungo (1987) tried to “strip the aura of mysticism from charisma” (p. 639)
by describing it foremost as an attributional phenomenon. This attribution occurs because of
some explicit leader behavior toward followers (e.g., challenge the status quo, promote an
idealized vision, incur personal risk; Conger & Kanungo, 1987). These behaviors are assumed to
activate and stimulate followers’ self-concept: Individuals in the presence of a charismatic leader
perceive themselves as better and belonging to something bigger (e.g., self-efficacy, collective
efficacy; House, 1977; Shamir et al., 1993).
Though there are now myriad definitions of charisma, Antonakis and colleagues (2016)
recently noted that most of these are problematic because they are imprecise and/or define
charisma by its antecedents, its effects, or via examples (MacKenzie, 2003). This, in turn, makes
it impossible to theoretically develop and empirically test the construct. Therefore, Antonakis
and colleagues (2016) provided a definition that is independent of its antecedents and/or
outcomes. This definition conceptualizes charisma as a form of leader signaling, and the
respective signals are based on values, symbols, and emotions (Antonakis et al., 2016).
According to Spence (2002), “signals are things one does that are visible and that are in part
designed to communicate” (p. 434). Whereas Spence’s (2002) definition of signals refers to
leaders’ concrete and deliberate behaviors (“things that one does [..] that are designed to[]”, p.
434), signals can also refer to how one looks (physique, bodily characteristics). Thus, signaling
may be better understood as a general process of communicating information (Antonakis et al.,
2016); hence, we use the terms “signals” and “cues” interchangeably.
As such, signaling encompasses all the possible cues a leader actively or passively
emanates, which provide the basis for followersinferences about the leader. In that sense, other
than Spence’s rather narrow definition of a visible cue, it could be argued that any cue that is
perceivable with our five senses (touch, hearing, taste, smell, sight) and interpretable in its
meaning can function as a signal (e.g., temperature). As we describe in more detail in the
sections that follow, such signals may also flow from the environment andwhile not pertaining
to the leader per semay still influence followers’ inferences about the leader’s qualities. Of
course, signals may convey honest information, but they could also be actively manipulated.
In leader signaling, values, symbols, and emotions are interrelated insofar as charismatic
leaders communicate values in a symbolic way (e.g., by using metaphors) and express emotions
that further underline the leader’s belief in these values (Antonakis et al., 2016). As such, to the
extent that followers agree with the leaders values, seemingly unrelated bodily cues such as
physical appearance, emotional display, or body language can induce the charismatic effect.
Although not yet tested empirically, value alignment is thus a conceptual prerequisite for the
charismatic effecta position shared by Antonakis and colleagues (2016). This then implies that
signaling also comes at some cost: Leaders have to live up to the values that they communicate,
and if not, they will lose their credibility (Antonakis et al., 2016).
With regard to the symbolic aspect of leader charisma, Conger and Kanungo (1987)
already acknowledged that leaders may actively use physical cues, such as appearance and body
language, to transmit their vision and motivation. In addition, Antonakis and colleagues (2011)
showed that non-verbal tactics like using body gestures, facial expressions, and an animated
voice tone inform charisma. However, the field generally lacks a theoretical fundament to make
sense of and understand these bodily and nonverbal signaling effects (for an exception, see Lord
& Shondrick, 2011). This is surprising given that cognitive and social psychology provide not
only ample evidence of such effects, but also a coherent research perspective for understanding
them in the form of grounded cognition or embodiment theory (Barsalou, 1999; Niedenthal,
Barsalou, Winkielman, Krauth-Gruber, & Ric, 2005). Consequently, the current review aims to
provide a new perspective on charisma as signaling (Antonakis et al., 2016) by applying an
embodiment perspective and reviewing the corresponding literature. In the following, we will
introduce this perspective by outlining its basic premises. Then, we will review the findings from
that literature to show how leadership research can achieve a deeper understanding of charisma’s
symbolic signaling effects.
We should note that, when referring to the cognitive process through which followers
ascribe charisma to a leader, we follow Jacquart and Antonakis’ (2015) use of the term
“inferences” rather than Conger and Kanungo’s (1987) use of the term “attribution”. Whereas
Jones and Davis’ (1965) theory of correspondent inferences is actually one type of attribution
theory (Fiske & Taylor, 2013), our decision to use the term “inferences” is rooted in research that
differentiates between inferences and attributions in how we judge others and interpret their
behaviors (Erickson & Krull, 1999). Correspondent inferences refer to what a behavior/person is
like (e.g., charismatic) whereas causal attributions refer to the cause of a particular behavior
(Erickson & Krull, 1999). Moreover, individuals can draw inferences spontaneously without
much cognitive effort. In contrast, causal attributions involve a multistage cognitive process (cf.
Calder, 1977) and are thus more cognitively taxing (Martinko, Harvey, & Douglas, 2007) and
less spontaneous (Erickson & Krull, 1999). Correspondingly, Lord and colleagues (Cronshaw &
Lord, 1987; Lord & Maher, 1990) critiqued that this process is too effortful to be used for every
judgment an individual makes. Indeed, Smith and Miller (1983) found that fast trait judgments
could not be mediated by attributional reasoning (which was rather slow). Given that embodied
cues are often processed automatically, and that most of the research we review addresses these
as inferences, we use that term to describe how individuals infer leader charisma from embodied
An Embodiment Perspective on Charisma
Recent developments in cognitive science have galvanized the idea of grounded
cognition, sometimes referred to as embodiment theory (Barsalou, 2008). In contrast to previous
theories of cognition (e.g., Fodor, 1987), this perspective argues that the brain’s semantic
memory system (i.e., knowledge, language) is connected to modal systems of perception (e.g.,
vision), action (e.g., movement), and introspection (e.g., affect) (Johnson & Rohrer, 2007). In
other words, grounded cognition assumes that knowledge is stored modally rather than amodally.
According to Barsalou (2008), amodal systems refer to “knowledge about experience in semantic
memories” (p. 618), whereas a modal system assumes that knowledge is also stored in the
brain’s systems “for perception (e.g., vision, audition), action (e.g., movement, proprioception),
and introspection (e.g., mental states, affect)” (p. 618). An embodiment perspective aligns with
this latter position, arguing that human cognition is grounded in the physical context of a
person’s body and the environment (Schubert & Koole, 2009). Hence, the acts of thinking about
abstract concepts and processing social information closely interact with the physical
experiences that ground the cognitive representations of concepts. Thereby, physical states
become mentally associated with cognitive concepts. When one of the two is presentfor
instance, when a certain physical cue is seen or perceivedthe other one (the cognitive concept)
is likewise activated through bodily feedback (Schubert & Koole, 2009). An example is the
connection between the physical experience of bodily contact and the cognitive concept of
communal relationships, which both focus on commonalities (Schubert, Waldzus, & Seibt,
2008). Correspondingly, studies have shown that waitresses receive higher tips when they briefly
touch customers on their hand or the shoulder (Crusco & Wetzel, 1984; Stephen & Zweigenhaft,
1986) because bodily contact signals connectedness (Schubert et al., 2008).
Such an understanding of cognition has important implications. First, it argues that bodily
states or experiences can activate cognitive concepts. For example, the bodily experience of
weight has an impact on how people attach importance or worth to something (Jostmann,
Lakens, & Schubert, 2009). Second, thinking also involves a reenactment of the bodily states tied
to the acquisition of knowledge. For example, if one is thinking of something frightening, the
body tends to cringe; if one is thinking about a relaxing experience, the body relaxes as well.
Notably, though, this perspective does not assume that all cognitive processes have to be
grounded in bodily states. Rather, cognition can be grounded in other ways such as situations and
reenactments. Importantly, this allowance suggests that situational cues, which are not directly
tied to our bodily states, can also stimulate a cognitive process. Research in that tradition has, for
instance, shown that people develop general associations between broader physical dimensions
(e.g., spatial dimensions) and abstract concepts (e.g., time): The past is represented as behind
one’s body, whereas the future is associated with ahead of one’s body, and the present is located
within the space near and around one’s body (Kranjec & McDonough, 2011). These associations
generalize to other cues from the same dimension, so that the mental concept is activated when
cues from that dimension are perceived.
Of course, the grounded cognition perspective is not a novel notion; it can be traced back
to ancient philosophy. However, the concept garnered considerable scientific interest starting in
the late 20th century, and has since found empirical support. Linguistics has been a forerunner in
this regard, arguing that abstract concepts are grounded in metaphors based on embodied and
situated knowledge (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, 1999). In metaphors, concrete dimensions of
embodied experience serve as structures to think about more abstract concepts. This link is then
automated and influences cognition when certain physical cues are present. An example is the
aforementioned connection between weight (concrete physical dimension) and importance
(abstract concept): People ‘weigh’ different arguments, for instance, in order to evaluate their
relative importance. Thanks to the development of these and similar ideas in cognitive science,
there is now ample empirical support for the embodied or grounded cognition perspective
(Barsalou, 2008; Glenberg, 1997; Niedenthal et al., 2005).
Such developments have not gone unnoticed in leadership research (recent examples
include: Giessner & Schubert, 2007; Olivola, Eubanks, & Lovelace, 2014; Trichas & Schyns,
2012). Indeed, Lord and Shondrick (2011) explicitly list the embodiment approach as a new
perspective in their conceptual review of leadership research. In fact, they already speculated that
an embodiment perspective may help explain “why charismatic leaders are able to inspire trust in
and commitment to their vision” (p. 217).
Thus, we are not the first to note the influence of nonverbal cues in the domain of
leadership (Bryman, 1992; Hall et al., 2005; Hamstra, 2014; Little, 2014; Todorov, Mandisodza,
Goren, & Hall, 2005), nor the first to try to systemize the respective cues (Awamleh & Gardner,
1999; Carney, Hall, & LeBeau, 2005; Schubert & Giessner, 2008); however, previous efforts
were solely focused on the person and did not account for environmental factors. More generally,
all of them lacked a unifying theoretical lens, such as embodiment. In response, we offer such a
theoretical lens of charisma that accounts for both the person and environmental factors.
Embodied Signals of Charisma
In the following sections, we review the concrete modal cues that leaders can actively or
passively use in order to signal charisma. These signals may stem from both the leader’s body
and the environment, and followers may infer charisma from these signals. An overview of these
cues can be found in Table 1
Notably, these embodiment studies have not linked bodily cues to a measurement of
charisma per se, but rather to a variety of person characteristics (i.e., inferences that followers
may draw about a leader): for instance, power (Judge & Cable, 2004), dominance (Van
Quaquebeke & Giessner, 2010), competence (Zebrowitz & Montepare, 2005), success (Todorov
The studies on embodied cues that we review stem from a literature research using scientific databases
and search engines, such as ISI Web of Knowledge, Google Scholar, or PsychArticles. The list of studies that we
present in this review is not exhaustive, but provides illustrative examples. We selected these studies because they
refer to clear bodily cues as part of their investigation and examined outcomes relevant for person perception/social
judgment. The list also includes some recent failed replication studies.
et al., 2005), attraction (Fawcett & Markson, 2010), trustworthiness (Zebrowitz, Voinescu, &
Collins, 1996), valence (Frank & Gilovich, 1988), or morality (Zhong & Liljenquist, 2006). In
order to structure the multitude of findings for these signals, we group them along four broader
categories: power, competence, warmth, and morality. Competence and warmth are the classic
dimensions of social judgment. This research stream is concerned with the basic dimensions of
human perception, that is, the broader categories that people have available to evaluate others
(Cuddy, Fiske, & Glick, 2008; Fiske, Cuddy, & Glick, 2007). Researchers have introduced
morality as a third dimension of social judgment (Leach, Ellemers, & Barreto, 2007). We added
power as a fourth dimension because it is an important characteristic, particularly, in an
organizational context. In the process of reviewing the embodiment literature, we found these
four dimensions to be useful categories for building a comprehensive review. Having said that, it
is important to note that the four categories do not collectively form leader charisma; they are
purely intended to structure the review. Yet, the objective embodied cues we discuss may form
additional bases upon which perceivers infer charisma. Hence, we argue that, to the degree that
there is value alignment between leaders and their followers, all the bodily cues we review may
serve as embodied signals of charisma and ultimately result in a charismatic effect.
Power is “having the discretion and means to asymmetrically enforce one’s will over
entities(Sturm & Antonakis, 2015, p. 139). In the sections that follow, we detail findings on the
relationship between different embodied cues and power inferences.
General Physical Appearance
The concept of power is predominantly rooted in the vertical dimension of space
(Giessner, Ryan, Schubert, & Van Quaquebeke, 2011; Schubert, Waldzus, & Seibt, 2011). A
meta-analysis by Judge and Cable (2004), for instance, showed that physical height is related to
various success factors in organizational settings, such as social esteem, performance, income,
and leader emergence all of which could arguably be proxies of power. Along similar lines,
Gawley, Perks, and Curtis (2009) found in a sample of Canadian workers that physical height
positively correlated with holding a position of authority. In the effort to become a leader,
physical height seems to be an advantage (Judge & Cable, 2004; Stogdill, 1948; Stulp, Buunk,
Verhulst, & Pollet, 2013). Research in other areas suggests that height is related to inferences of
dominance: Referees, for example, seem to be more likely to blame taller soccer players for
ambiguous fouls than smaller players, suggesting that the taller player is perceived to be the
dominant one (Van Quaquebeke & Giessner, 2010). Furthermore, referees tend to be taller than
their assistants and taller referees seem to have more authority in controlling a soccer game
(Stulp, Buunk, Verhulst, & Pollet, 2012). Meanwhile, shifts in power are often mentally
represented as changes in estimated height (Holbrook & Fessler, 2013). Following Canada’s
1988 federal election, for instance, people judged the election winner as taller after the election,
but judged the losers as shorter than before the election (Higham & Carment, 1992).
According to an embodied perspective, height is just one potential cue deriving from a
more abstracted and embodied dimension of vertical space (Giessner & Schubert, 2007).
Consequently, the effect of height-related cues can also extend to the environment, with recent
research showing that even subtle cues can have similar effects. For example, previous anecdotes
suggest that television and print media actively use camera angles to characterize people as
strong versus weak (Mandell & Shaw, 1973; Tiemens, 1970). In this vein, Giessner, Ryan,
Schubert, and Van Quaquebeke (2011), analyzed archival data and conducted experiments in
order to show that more powerful persons are often portrayed from below (so that one has to
look up to them), whereas less powerful persons are often portrayed from above (which is
associated with looking down at them). This was particularly the case when the context of the
picture referred to power, as in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people (Giessner
et al., 2011). Such vertical angles in pictures seem to influence people’s judgments of another’s
height and, by extension, their behavior towards others (Thomas & Pemstein, 2015). Given that
physical height is such a strong predictor of power, leaders actively use and manipulate their
perceived height to appear more powerful, especially in the political arena (Verser & Wicks,
2006). Case in point: Journalists repeatedly noted that the former French president Sarkozy wore
shoes with high heels (Allen, 2009), made his taller wife wear long skirts so she could discreetly
lower herself for official pictures, did not hire tall bodyguards, and surrounded himself with
particularly small workers during a factory visit to a French automotive component supplier
(Allen, 2009).
One explanation for the relationship between power and verticality (physical height,
looking up to somebody) comes from the evolutionary perspective. During human evolution,
height was an indicator of strength and, thus, an advantage that led to power. By the same token,
as a recent article in The Economist points out, greater height in China also reflects greater
income because richer people in the past had better living conditions (The Economist, 2014).
Through such mechanisms, height can thus become a proxy for power. The height-power
relationship also aligns with evolutionary leadership theory (King, Johnson, & Van Vugt, 2009;
Van Vugt, 2006; Van Vugt, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2008), which claims that leadership emerges as a
function of evolutionary demands. Alternatively, one could argue that this relationship is an
outgrowth of childhood experiences: When humans are young and comparatively small, they
literally look up to their parents who hold authority (power) over them (Schubert, 2005). Adult
humans then translate this groundwork into the various metaphors and cues that society uses to
emphasize the connection between verticality and power: Monarchs are addressed as ‘your
highness’, high-ranking officials typically have their offices at the top of the building, and
winning athletes stand on the highest step of the podium (Schubert, 2005). Taken together, these
findings suggest that the concept of power, when mentally activated by verticality and its
symbols, shifts spatial attention in an early stage of information processing (Zanolie et al., 2012).
These embodied signals can be part of the leader’s physicality or the environment.
One illustrative example of the relationship between facial signals and power can be
found in numerous newspaper articles describing the prominent photo of U.S. President Barack
Obama and his national security team watching the capture of Osama bin Laden in 2011. In the
photo, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can be seen covering her moutha striking gesture in
contrast to other people in the room, who are largely either somber or curious (e.g., Blake, 2011).
Although many people interpreted this gesture in combination with her facial expression as a
sign of shock and anxiety, Hillary Clinton herself was quick to claim that she was trying to avoid
coughing due to an allergy (for exemplary media coverage see Hudson, 2012). Regardless of
whether this was true or not, the media coverage and subsequent downplaying effort suggest a
concern for what the gesture communicated in terms of her power.
Evidence exists that facial cues are a strong factor in the perception of power (Aguinis,
Simonsen, & Pierce, 1998; Trichas & Schyns, 2012). For example, Rule and Ambady (2008) let
participants rate the photos of CEOs from the 25 highest- and 25 lowest-ranked Fortune 500
companies in 2006, finding a positive and significant relationship between judged power of the
CEO and company profits (controlling for attractiveness, affective expression, and age). One
power cue that surfaced in that research was how much of a person’s face is visible to an
observer in relation to the rest of the bodya phenomenon called face-ism or facial prominence
(Archer, Iritani, Kimes, & Barrios, 1983; Schwartz & Kurz, 1989; Zuckerman, 1986). On a
photograph, for example, an observer would perceive a person as more powerful if the picture
features a larger proportion of the face relative to the body. Similar to the use of camera angles,
one can find ample evidence of this phenomenon in the media. One example would be cartoons
of former U.S. President George W. Bush, which depicted more of his body and less of his face
after he had started wars, a situation where he was perceived as less powerful (Calogero &
Mullen, 2008). Similarly, because men are often assumed to be more powerful than women,
research on sex differences finds that across different contexts (e.g., artwork, periodicals,
drawings), pictures of men more often display more of their face and less of their body compared
to women (Archer et al., 1983).
In addition to angles and proportions, facial expressions also play an important role in
power inferences. For instance, people with lowered eyebrows are perceived as more dominant
than people with raised eyebrows (Keating, Mazur, & Segall, 1977), whereas a relaxed-looking
face is perceived as more powerful than a nervous-looking face (Aguinis et al., 1998).
Meanwhile, people expressing anger are perceived as more powerful (Tiedens, 2001) due to the
intimidating effect of an angry face (Clark, Pataki, & Carver, 1996). At the same time, people
expressing sadness are perceived as weak and, thus, less powerful (Tiedens, 2001).
One explanation for the anger versus sadness effect is that the facial features of an angry
face include more vertical lines (Aronoff, 2006) and verticality signals power (Schubert, 2005).
Indeed, observers tend to interpret angular and diagonal configurations in a person’s face as
more threatening compared to curvilinear (round) patterns (Aronoff, Barclay, & Stevenson,
1988; Aronoff, Woike, & Hyman, 1992). Additionally, increasing the perceived height of a face
increases perceived dominance (Re, DeBruine, Jones, & Perrett, 2013). Yet, how people evaluate
certain facial features seems to be context-dependent (Re et al., 2013; Rule & Tskhay, 2014). A
high facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) usually signals aggressiveness; indeed, people with a
high fWHR are perceived rather negatively (Hehman, Leitner, Deegan, & Gaertner, 2015).
Another facial indicator of power is visual dominance: How much people look at their
interaction partner while they speak versus while their interaction partner is speaking. When
exercising power in speech, people tend to look more at the other person when they speak
compared to when the other person is speaking. But when exercising less power in a
conversation, people do the opposite: They look more at their interaction partner while they
listen compared to when they speak (Dovidio et al., 1988; Dovidio & Ellyson, 1982). This effect
is potentially due to a threatened sense of personal space a grounded bodily experience
(Kleinke, 1986). Interestingly, case examples of charismatic leaders often refer to the intensity of
the leader’s eyes (Bryman, 1992).
Body Posture
The same geometrical patterns that convey emotions in faces can be found for body
movements (Aronoff et al., 1992). In videos of ballet performances, Aronoff and colleagues
(1992) found that dancers representing a threatening character used more diagonal poses and
angular movements, whereas dancers representing a warm character used more round poses, arm
displays and movements. Studies on body posture have produced similar findings: Less
interpersonal distance (Dean, Willis, & Hewitt, 1975) and an open body posture are related to
higher perceived power compared to a closed posture (Schubert et al., 2011).
Body posture also influences the development of social hierarchies. To illustrate this
point, Tiedens and Fragale (2003) conducted an experiment in which participants sat opposite
from a confederate sitting in either an expanded or a constricted pose. Participants tended to
show a complementary posture, sitting in a constricted pose when the confederate sat in an
expanded pose (and vice versa). Applied to a leader-follower situation, this implies that when a
leader’s posture is expanded, followers tend to adopt a more constrictive posture in return.
Consequently, the leader will feel more powerful whereas followers will feel less powerful
(Ranehill et al., 2015).
Vocal cues are another indicator that work alongside physical appearance to influence the
perception of power (Hall et al., 2005; Klofstad, Anderson, & Nowicki, 2015). People tend to
speak louder when they are either assertive, angry, or confident in their answers (for example, to
trivia questions) (Kimble & Musgrove, 1988; Kimble & Seidel, 1991). Given that these emotions
are related to dominant types of behaviors (Kimble & Musgrove, 1988), the power concept
seems to be embodied in loudness. Moreover, amplitude and speech rate are also positively
related to the perceived dominance of the speaker as they relate to similar, power-oriented
emotional experiences (Harrigan, Gramata, Lucic, & Margolis, 1989), such as more frequently
interrupting a conversation partner (Bilous & Krauss, 1988).
Likewise, people with a low-pitch voice are generally rated as stronger (Klofstad et al.,
2015) and experiments show that people who believed themselves to be physically dominant (vs.
less dominant) lowered (vs. raised) their voice pitch when speaking to a competitor (Puts,
Gaulin, & Verdolini, 2006). These findings are just a snapshot of the many studies that show
how vocal cues relate to power (cf. meta-analysis by Hall et al., 2005). Thus, power inferences
are based on signals that generally involve how the person appears (height, posture, facial
expression) and what s/he sounds like.
Structural Environment
Through a series of laboratory studies, Schubert (2005) showed that environmental cues
also activate our cognitive system. In one study, participants were presented with group labels
referring to power (e.g., master, servant) on different vertical screen positions (i.e., upper part
versus lower part of the screen), their task being to judge which groups were powerful versus
powerless. Groups were identified more quickly when their vertical position (up vs. down)
matched their power (high vs. low). In accordance with vertical position, powerful is associated
with up movements whereas powerless is associated with down movements (Schubert, 2005).
Building on those findings, Giessner and Schubert (2007) showed that environmental
information about vertical distance influences power inferences. To this end, they manipulated
an organizational chart, which typically portrays hierarchical levels and lines of command in an
organization. In one study, they varied the length of a vertical line connecting two levels in the
hierarchy, finding that a longer line between leader and subordinate altered the perception of the
leader’s power. Notably, this effect did not occur if the horizontal line was expanded. In
addition, participants placed the leader higher (lower) in the chart when they thought the leader
was more (vs. less) powerful.
Yet the relationship between power and verticality also depends on the context and
whether power differences are salient. Powerful groups are positioned higher in vertical space in
the presence of powerless groups, but not in their absence (Giessner et al., 2011; Lakens, Semin,
& Foroni, 2011). In other words, it seems the context must render power differences relevant
before leaders can actively position themselves along the vertical dimension.
One way that organizations tend to contextualize verticality and size, and thus support
impressions of power, is through certain symbols that signal prestige (e.g., large desks). To make
this point apparent, Chen, Lee-Chai, and Bargh (2001) conducted an experiment in a professor’s
office and asked participants to sit either on the large professor chair behind the desk (signaling
the idea of more power) or on a simple visitors chair across the desk (signaling the idea of less
power). Participants in the professor’s chair showed stronger activation of the cognitive concept
of power than participants in the guest chair, suggesting that symbols of power relating to
vertical size (in this case, higher vs. lower in the institutional hierarchy) activate power
perceptions (Chen et al., 2001).
Taken together, inferences of power are embodied in several physical dimensions like
verticality (height, facial features, vertical distance), posture, and vocal characteristics, but how
do these signals (i.e., the bodily cues that were reviewed) relate to leader charisma? According to
Antonakis and colleagues (2016), charisma is leader signaling, so followers need to first
recognize the charismatic leader as a leader. The vertical dimension in space offers various
possible signals that leaders can utilize in order to be perceived as a leader (i.e., the sender),
whether that be via manipulating their perceived height or vertical distance from followers, or
through the use of metaphors.
Competence is considered a core dimension of impression formation (Fiske et al., 2007),
encompassing traits such as intelligence, knowledge, and creativity (Cuddy et al., 2008;
Wojciszke, Bazinska, & Jaworski, 1998). Yet, despite the assumed complexity involved in an
adequate judgment, people often make inferences on competence in a fraction of a second
(Tskhay, Xu, & Rule, 2014; Willis & Todorov, 2006), using nonverbal cues to derive their
appraisal of others (Schubert et al., 2011). In the sections below, we review those cues that
‘radiate’ competence.
General Physical Appearance
Physical appearance plays a key role in competence inferences. For example, Todorov
and colleagues (2005), asking participants to rate pairs of candidates for the U.S. Senate and
House elections (years 2000-2004), found that perceived competence inferred from candidate
photographs significantly predicted success in the election. According to Antonakis and Dalgas
(2009), this ability to judge competence from facial appearance seems to be common to both
children and adults. In their study, which compared how Swiss university students and Swiss
children (aged 5-13) rated pairs of candidates from the 2002 French parliamentary run-off
ballots, they found that both groups predicted the winning candidate in the same way. Their
findings suggest that, in a political election at least, people base their judgments of competence
on rudimentary heuristicsfor instance, facial stereotypes (Ramsey, Langlois, Hoss, Rubenstein,
& Griffin, 2004)that already exist in childhood (Cogsdill, Todorov, Spelke, & Banaji, 2014;
Sussman, Petkova, & Todorov, 2013).
These findings raise the question: What does a ‘competent’ physical appearance look
like? Apparently, people are perceived as less competent when their face more closely resembles
a baby face (Poutvaara, Jordahl, & Bergren, 2009; Zebrowitz & Montepare, 2005). A baby face
(vs. a mature face) is typically more round and features large eyes, high eyebrows, a small nose,
a high forehead, and a small chin (Berry & Zebrowitz McArthur, 1985; Zebrowitz & Montepare,
2005). Additionally, and congruent with the power cue, a larger face-to-body ratio in a picture
inspires more perceived competence in the viewer (Schwartz & Kurz, 1989).
Moreover, a person’s whole physical appearance and the way that person presents him-/
herself in interactions with others influences perceptions of said person’s competence. To
illustrate this point, Tskhay and colleagues (2014) let participants rate short videos of orchestra
conductors and encouraged them to concentrate on their first impression of the conductor. They
found a significant relationship between perceived expressiveness of the conductor and the
conductor’s perceived level of success (i.e., competence). In addition, the perceived age of the
conductor predicted participants’ ratings of the conductor’s success. Similarly, Barrett and
Barrington’s (2005) experiment, which involved manipulating a newspaper article, varied how
favorable a political candidate looked in an article photo. In the favorable condition, he was
smiling, shaking hands with a supporter, and accompanied by his attractive wife. In the
unfavorable condition, the candidate looked annoyed while being interviewed by reporters
around him. Participants rated the candidate as more competent in the favorable than in the
unfavorable condition. Thus, body gestures convey certain emotional signals that will be
interfered as competent or non-competent. Likewise, Murphy, Hall, and Colvin (2003) showed
participants short social interactions between two persons and asked them to rate the pair’s
intelligence. Perceived intelligence ratings significantly correlated with the person’s actual
intelligence as measured prior. Here, perceived intelligence was significantly and positively
related to longer eye-gaze, upright posture, and eye contact.
The literature also points to some overlap between embodied cues related to competence
and those related to power. Faces, for instance, seem to be particularly strong cues for both
power and competence. There also seems to be a connection between verticality and
competence. When we ‘hold someone in high regard’, we usually consider this person as
competent, whereas ‘looking down on somebody’ implies the opposite. Likewise, those at the
top of any ratings (e.g., companies, universities, sports teams) are those who perform
exceptionally well and are thus considered more competent than those at lower positions in the
ranking. However, to the best of our knowledge, this connection has not been empirically tested.
Meanwhile, the color red seems to bear some relationship to both power and competence:
Red-haired women are perceived as more competent (Takeda, Helms, & Romanova, 2006),
while men wearing red clothes (compared to blue or grey) are perceived as more dominant
(Feltman & Elliot, 2011; Wiedemann, Burt, Hill, & Barton, 2015). Likewise, sports teams
wearing red shirts are more likely to win than teams wearing other colors (Attrill, Gresty, Hill, &
Barton, 2008; Feltman & Elliot, 2011). This association might come from the fact that angry
faces often turn red. Although research exists regarding the effects of colors on emotions (Valdez
& Mehrabian, 1994), more empirical testing is needed in the context of leadership that ties color
effects to the embodied signaling of power and competence (cf. Amhorst & Reed, 1986).
In sum, there is evidence that embodied physical cues influence inferences of
competence. It is important to note that followers infer competence via signals not only in distant
relationshipsfor instance, when they rate political candidates with whom they do not verbally
communicatebut also in closer ones where they, theoretically, have more sources of
information than nonverbal signals (Tskhay et al., 2014). In terms of leader signaling, this
implies that the impression leaders convey via nonverbal signals of competence when aligned
with the leader’s values - is crucial for their reputation. These non-verbal signals encompass
leaders’ body language (e.g., expressiveness; Tskhay et al., 2014), their facial expression (Barrett
& Barrington, 2005; Murphy et al., 2003), their posture, and color signals (e.g., through
Warmthdefined as a trait that comprises kindness, friendliness, helpfulness, generosity,
and trustworthinessis central in how people perceive others (Asch, 1946; Cuddy et al., 2008;
Fiske et al., 2007; Wojciszke et al., 1998). In first impressions, people infer warmth faster than
any other trait (Willis & Todorov, 2006). Judging another person’s warmth within a fraction of a
second also reflects evolutionary demands, because people had to immediately determine
whether another person is a friend or a foe and has good or bad intentions (Fiske et al., 2007).
General Physical Appearance
Similarity breeds interpersonal warmth. Whereas the similarity-attraction hypothesis
often focuses on similarities in attitudes (Byrne, 1961), it also pertains to more physical attributes
(Fawcett & Markson, 2010). Similarity has been shown to induce feelings of intimacy (Reis &
Shaver, 1988) and psychological closeness (Aron, Aron, Tudor, & Nelson, 1991). As closeness
is related to feelings of increased physical temperature (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999), similarity
should be grounded in warmth. Indeed, a study by Ijzerman and Semin (2010) showed how
similarity leads to the experience of increased room temperature. In addition, mimicry and
synchrony are both related to affiliation (Hove & Risen, 2009), such that when people strive to
create rapport with another person, they unconsciously mimic this person’s gestures (e.g., face
touch) (Lakin & Chartrand, 2003). This preference for physically similar others seems to be
innate (Fawcett & Markson, 2010): Three-year-old children, for instance, choose to play with a
similar rather than a dissimilar puppet, and this preference is stronger for stable dimensions (hair
color) than for unstable dimensions (shirt color) (Fawcett & Markson, 2010).
Facial cues also affect inferences of warmth. For one, more symmetrical faces are
perceived as more attractive and trustworthy (Jones et al., 2004; Zebrowitz et al., 1996).
Furthermore, people with a baby face, although scoring lower on competence ratings (Zebrowitz
& Montepare, 2005), are perceived as warmer and kinder compared to people with more mature
faces (Berry & Zebrowitz McArthur, 1985). Moreover, the expression of anger correlates
negatively with trustworthiness (Richell et al., 2005); the same holds for a neutral face, whereas
a smiling face increases trustworthiness (Krumhuber et al., 2007).
Structural Environment
Metaphors describing interpersonal relations such as holding warm feelings toward
someone or giving someone the cold shoulder’ suggest that the abstract concept of
interpersonal warmth is grounded in temperature perceptions (Ijzerman & Semin, 2009, 2010).
Perceived physical warmth (as compared to coldness) does indeed lead to greater perceived
social proximity and a stronger focus on relations (Ijzerman & Semin, 2009). People who
experience physical warmth perceive others as warmer and friendlier, as well as show more
prosocial behavior (Williams & Bargh, 2008). For instance, participants in an experiment who
held a hot (vs. cold) therapeutic pad were more likely to choose a reward that was framed as a
gift for a friend than a reward for themselves (Williams & Bargh, 2008).
Physical warmth also affects social comparison outcomes because it leads to a greater
similarity focus and fosters assimilation with a comparison person (Steinmetz & Mussweiler,
2011). On a warm (vs. cold) day, participants in experiments rated objects as more similar, as
well as rated their physical strength as more similar to a comparison person (Steinmetz &
Mussweiler, 2011). In a leadership context, a warm (versus cold) physical context might incline
followers to perceive themselves as more similar to their leaders. This is relevant because leaders
derive part of their charisma from how well followers identify with them (Bryman, 1992)a
sentiment that largely rests on the experience of sameness (Hogg & van Knippenberg, 2003).
Experiences of physical coldness have the opposite effect and lead to feeling socially excluded
(Zhong & Leonardelli, 2008). To illustrate, people estimate a room’s temperature as lower after
thinking about a situation of social exclusion; at the same time, being socially excluded leads
people to prefer warm food and drinks (Zhong & Leonardelli, 2008).
As with other dimensions, the relationship between physical and interpersonal warmth
has roots in people’s early life experiences. Children experience physical as well as interpersonal
warmth when their mothers hold them affectionately, thereby forming an association between the
two sensations (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). This also holds true for facial cues that affect warmth
as well as competence perception. Probably unconsciously, a round face (baby face) reminds one
of a baby that is cute, nice, and likeable, all of which activate the concept of warmth. By
contrast, the more vertical lines in mature faces relate to experience and thus higher competence.
In sum, the physical dimensions of similarity and temperature seem to be related to the
perception of interpersonal warmth. Charismatic perceptions of leaders might thus be elicited by
such signals when the leader uses them in alignment with his/her values. For instance, leaders
who emphasize communal values might want to underline their message with the respective
embodied signals. That is, they might want to establish some form of similarity, whether through
their clothes or their gestures, and also try to act in a warm rather than cold environment. Further,
facial cues like a round face also seem to convey interpersonal warmth and, thus, may represent a
relevant signal for leaders, although they are harder to actively manipulate.
Morality is defined as an abstract concept describing behavior or beliefs that people view
as right versus wrong (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). It comprises traits such as fairness, honesty,
sincerity, and tolerance (Wojciszke et al., 1998) and is a major guiding value for people across
cultures (Schwartz, 1992). Leach and colleagues (2007) have shown that morality contributes to
the positive evaluation of a person or a group. In the following, we review empirical findings for
the relationship between physical cues and perceived morality.
General Physical Appearance
In terms of physical appearance, brightness and colorin other words, associations that
accompany white versus black and light versus darkshape our perceptions of someone as
moral or immoral. Some prominent examples exist where the color white is used to demonstrate
morality. The People’s Action Party (PAP) in Singapore is also known as ‘Men in White’,
because they wear white uniforms as a sign of being corruption-free (The Economist, 2006).
Similarly, the party of Recep Erdoğan (12th president of Turkey) is called AKPor AK Parti,
and AK in Turkish means "white" or “clean” (The Economist, 2002). Significant religious
figures, such as the pope, wear white in public. In metaphors and images, God is usually
associated with light, often depicted as wearing white, whereas the devil is usually associated
with darkness, often depicted as red or black (Meier, Robinson, & Clore, 2004). Moreover, the
white wedding gown is a tradition rooted in purity notions. Research has shown that
white/light/brightness is indeed related to ‘being good’, whereas darkness has negative
connotations (bad, evil, immoral) (Frank & Gilovich, 1988; Meier et al., 2004; Stabler &
Johnson, 1972). For example, Stabler and Johnson (1972) ran an experiment in which children
heard positive versus negative self-statements and were then asked to indicate whether these
statements were emitted from a white or a black box (loudspeaker) located next to them. The
children more often associated positive self-statements with the white box and negative self-
statements with the black box. In the domain of sports, research finds that when professional
football and hockey players are rated, those players wearing a white uniform score lower on
malevolence than those in a black uniform (Frank & Gilovich, 1988; Webster, Urland, & Correll,
2012). Interestingly, black (vs. white) uniforms seem to elicit more aggressive behaviors
(Webster et al., 2012), which seems to relate more to dominance and power. On a more abstract
level, people categorize words faster when font color (white vs. black) matches word valence
(positive vs. negative) (Meier et al., 2004).
Another cue related to morality is cleanliness, which derives from purity. The words
‘clean’ and ‘pure can be used to describe both a physical and moral state (Zhong & Liljenquist,
2006). We speak, for example, of a clean record’, ‘washing away our sins’, or of immoral
behavior that is described as disgusting. People can experience cleanliness and disgust after both
physical experiences (e.g., feeling clean after taking a shower, feeling disgust when seeing rotten
food) and moral experiences (e.g., having a clean conscience after saying the truth, feeling
disgusted by cruel behavior). Across two experiments, Schnall, Benton, and Harvey (2008)
found that mentally activating the concept of cleanliness or cleaning oneself after the experience
of disgust reduces the severity of moral judgments. Meanwhile, participants in an experiment by
Cramwinckel, De Cremer, and van Dijke (2013) felt dirtier after allocating (vs. not allocating) a
financial bonus to a subordinate who showed unethical behavior. In a subsequent study, they
manipulated dirtiness and let participants touch either a piece of fake fecal matter (dirtiness) or a
hygienic cleansing wipe (cleanliness). Afterwards, they asked them to evaluate and assign a
bonus to a subordinate who performed well on a task because he cheated. Participants in the
dirtiness condition evaluated the subordinate’s performance more positively and assigned a
higher bonus than in the cleanliness condition, but only when the subordinates immoral
behavior did not serve their own interest (in other words, they gave a lower bonus when the
behavior did serve their own interest). This finding suggests that self-interest is a boundary
condition for the effect exerted by embodied physical cues on moral behavior (Cramwinckel et
al., 2013). Hence, we can contend that the physical concept of cleanliness is embodied in moral
judgments (Cramwinckel et al., 2013; Schnall, Haidt, Clore, & Jordan, 2008).
Structural Environment
The vertical dimension of space not only plays an important role in people’s judgments of
power, but also serves as an indicator for morality. Metaphors with a moral connotation often
refer to vertical position: We speak, for instance, of someone who is ‘high minded’ (moral)
versus someone who is ‘underhanded’ (immoral). To substantiate this idea, Meier, Selbom, and
Wygant (2007) conducted a word evaluation task, finding that participants evaluated positive
(negative) words faster when they appeared at the top (bottom) of a screen, which is consistent
with the connotation of ‘up’ as ‘good’ and ‘down’ as ‘bad’ (Meier & Robinson, 2004). This
association is especially prevalent in metaphors referring to the divine (e.g., ‘ascending to
heaven’, ‘going down to hell’). On this point, Meier, Hauser, Robinson, Friesen, and Schjeldahl
(2007) conducted six experiments with different dependent measures (implicit associations,
encoding tendencies, memory, and social judgment), showing that divinity is mentally
represented on the upper side of the vertical dimension. We see this reflected in how actual
religious leaders present themselves: The pope usually speaks to an audience from an elevated
position, just as many priests speak to the parish community from a pulpit. In both cases, people
have to look up to them, which makes them appear not only more powerful, but seemingly closer
to God and, by extension, more divine. This association between verticality and divinity is neatly
captured by the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, which theologians interpret as humanity’s
attempt to reach the level of godhood (“Tower of Babel,” 2015).
In sum, embodied signals of purity (color, cleanliness) and verticality (up vs. down) lead
to inferences of morality. Because charisma as signaling is value-based (Antonakis et al., 2016),
and moral values are considered important for most people (Allison, Messick, & Goethals,
1989), it seems reasonable that leaders need to align the moral values they communicate verbally
or through their actions with congruent embodied signals of purity and verticality. Such signals
may come in the form of clothes (as in the aforementioned examples of political parties in
Turkey and Singapore) or in the way leaders position themselves relative to followers (e.g., they
could adopt an elevated position).
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Synthesis and Research Agenda
Leader charisma is a phenomenon that often carries almost mystical connotations
(Antonakis et al., 2016). We sought to unravel such “mysticism” by reviewing the findings from
embodiment research on physical cues (e.g., leader physical height, room temperature, facial
features) and highlighting how such cues can add to the charismatic effect. In the following, we
will first discuss the theoretical implications of such an embodiment perspective for research on
leader charisma. Next, we draw from theories of information processing to elaborate on how
followers make sense of embodied signals. In particular, we discuss how multiple (and
potentially contradictory) signals are processed, and how followers’ first impressions of the
leader shape their later interactions. We then discuss the universality of some of the reviewed
embodied signals and follow with practical implications for leaders and practitioners.
Implications for Research on Charisma and Charismatic Leadership
Our review on embodied signals of charisma contrasts with many previous approaches,
which have mainly focused on leader behavior or leader-follower interactions (Bass & Avolio,
1993; Bass, 1985; Bono & Ilies, 2006; House, 1977; Howell & Frost, 1989; Shamir et al., 1993).
Instead, we built on the most recent conceptualization of charisma by Antonakis and colleagues
(2016), who refer to charisma as leader signaling that is based on values, symbols, and emotions.
The embodiment perspective specifically explains the symbolic signals of charisma beyond those
linked to rhetorical display (e.g., the use of metaphors). In contrast to approaches that rely on
such explicit leader behavior, an embodiment perspective also accounts for seemingly unrelated
signals that are grounded in humans’ bodily experiences. As a result, it can help explain why
followers often unconsciously and automatically categorize a leader as charismatic.
To further elucidate the “magic aura” of charisma, the embodiment perspective also illustrates
why and when environmental cues may supplement those inherent to the leader persona to build
the charismatic effect. As such, our approach is also congruent with recent theorizing that
characteristics of the physical work environment (e.g., illumination, temperature, cleanliness, and
distance) can influence organizational outcomes (Zhong & House, 2012). However, a question
arises in this distinction between signals that flow directly from the leader and signals that flow
from the environment: namely, whether environmental signals are actually honest signals, or
should rather be termed “pseudo-charismatic” signals because the possibility to manipulate them
suggests that they might be dishonest or non-natural. In this respect, we think it is important to
note that even if such signals are actively manipulated, they are still signals of charisma based on
the charisma definition (Antonakis et al., 2016). Thus, one should be careful with terms like
“pseudo-charismatic signals” and rather refer to the respective signals using terms like
orchestrated (vs. natural), or simply mention that they are actively manipulated (vs. not
manipulated). Certainly, the possibility that such effects exist extends our future research
perspective on studying charisma: For example, we can manipulate environmental signals in lab
settings, study their occurrences in the field, or perhaps control for them when studying personal
charisma in field settings.
Another question that arises is how embodied signals explain inferences of charisma
beyond the leader’s message (e.g., values) and framing of that message (e.g., use of metaphor).
On this point, Antonakis and colleagues (2011) conducted an experiment in which participants
were videotaped before and after they received training on how to deliver a speech
charismatically. The strategies that participants learned and employed in their speeches were
mostly of a verbal nature (nine verbal and three nonverbal strategies). Additionally, many of the
physical signals that we reviewed (e.g., height, facial characteristics, hair color) were constant
between the two speeches. Still, participants were rated as significantly more charismatic after
the training. Whereas the verbal signaling may have been sufficient to be perceived as
charismatic (cf. Jacquart & Antonakis, 2015), there was also a positive relationship between the
use of verbal signaling and the use of non-verbal signaling (Antonakis et al., 2011), which
suggests that the two develop jointly. Thus, the stories presented in the speeches may have
automatically activated emotions, gestures, and postures that were coherent with the stories
content. Consequently, the trained signaling may have been stronger because the values,
symbols, and emotions were present and aligned. To our knowledge, this aspect of good
storytelling has not been tested; thus, it would be exciting to explore how far storytelling itself
produces embodied signals that align with the content.
Methodological Considerations of Studying Embodied Signals
In the context of measuring charisma, an embodiment perspective may also provide a
solution to the endogeneity problems that have sparked recent discussion in leadership research
(Antonakis et al., 2016, 2014). Endogeneity occurs when the relationship between an
independent and a dependent variable is due to other causes that are missing in the model, such
as omitted variables, omitted selection, simultaneity, common-method variance, or measurement
error (Antonakis et al., 2010). Not accounting for endogeneity leads to biased estimators (as
opposed to consistent estimators, which converge to the true parameter in the population as the
sample size increases), making it impossible for researchers to draw causal inferences from the
data. Embodied signalssuch as height, temperature, voice, or colorcan be immune to
endogeneity provided that they are measured objectively, do not correlate with error in the
dependent variable, vary randomly in the population, and no endogenous selection has been
made on them. If these requirements are met, embodied signals could be employed as
instrumental variables that provide better estimates of the effects that perceptual/behavioral
measures of leadership have on certain outcomes. This could ultimately help reduce bias in
leadership research.
In this regard, it is also important to address the question of whether the estimated values
of the dependent variable (y) are an accurate proxy of the true objective ratings (y*); in fact, they
may not be accurate (cf. Todorov et al., 2015). For example, a person can be perceived as
charismatic and subsequently emerge as a leader because of some exogenous embodied signals
(e.g., objectively measured height), but the inferences (charisma) and consequences (leader
emergence) may not address whether this person actually possesses intelligence or experience
(cf. Antonakis & Jacquart, 2012).
Thus, the question of whether and how embodied signals accurately predict leader
outcomes remains. Interestingly, a recent study by Elgar (2014) has shown that in contexts where
a leader’s competence can be perfectly observed, the leader’s height does not predict leader
outcomes. So height may only act as a signal for leadership in situations of imperfect
information: People may then give the taller person the benefit of the doubt, simply because
more objective information is not available. In contrast, other embodied signals may actually be
able to predict true underlying characteristics. For instance, body symmetry objectively predicts
measured intelligence, presumably because both represent a general fitness factor (Prokosch,
Yeo, & Miller, 2005).
The multitude of embodied signals that shape inferences of leader charisma give rise to
another question, namely: How do different cues jointly shape followers’ inferences of the
leader? To date, most empirical studies in the embodiment literature have focused on the effect
of one physical cue on only one or a few outcomes (Batres, Re, & Perrett, 2015). In reality,
followers are confronted with copious physical stimuli that jointly characterize the leader and
environment at the moment of interaction. Just recently, Batres and colleagues (2015) showed
that there is perceptual cross-influence between the facial cues of masculinity, height, and age as
they relate to perceived dominance. In an earlier study, Mehrabian and Ferris (1967) investigated
how people perceive a person’s attitude if it is simultaneously communicated through two
channels (vocally and through facial expression). Both vocal and facial cues independently
affected attitude perception, although the effect of the facial cue was significantly stronger than
the effect of the vocal cue (Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967).
But what happens when signals are contradictoryfor instance, when a leader with a
baby face acts in a cold environment? The baby face signals interpersonal warmth (Zebrowitz &
Montepare, 2005) whereas the cold environment fosters interpersonal distance (Ijzerman &
Semin, 2009). Is there one effect that is stronger than the others or do they negate one another?
Does it matter that one cue (baby face) pertains to the leader whereas the other one (temperature)
describes the environment? How would baby face and temperature interactively explain
followers’ inferences about the leader? How would the situation change if the environment was
warm instead of cold? In the latter case, there would be two different signals that convey the
same meaning. Would the two cues have an additive or even an exponential effect on followers’
inference of the leader? On this point, it is worth questioning the vividness/salience of embodied
signals and whether they need to be apparent in order to have their (desired) effects (Wagemans
et al., 2012). For instance, is the height-power relationship as strong in the Netherlands, a taller
society, as it is in other countries where people are generally shorter? There are many such
interactions and combinations of embodied signals waiting to be illuminated in future research.
Relatedly, research on leadership perceptions has shown that people tend to perceive
holistic patterns rather than individual variables when they characterize a person (Foti &
Hauenstein, 2007; Smith & Foti, 1998). Consequently, it seems future research would be well
advised to investigate such patterns of embodied and non-embodied signals using latent profile
analysis (for continuous indicators) or latent class analysis (for categorical indicators) (Foti,
Bray, Thompson, & Allgood, 2012). This approach may be a fruitful avenue to determining
whether individuals manifest specific, but reoccurring “charisma profiles” that comprise
embodied and other signals. Depending on the kind of communicated value(s) (cf. Schwartz,
1992; Van Quaquebeke, Graf, Kerschreiter, Schuh, & van Dick, 2014), different combinations of
rhetorical, symbolic, and emotional signals may create discrete signals of charisma that are
nonetheless holistic and coherent.
With regard to the measurement of embodied signals, future research should rely on
signals that are exogenous and objectively measurable. Some embodied signals are relatively
easy to capturefor instance, physical height, temperature, or colors. Other signals, such as the
cues that make a face threatening, need more sophisticated approaches. Todorov and colleagues
(2015) provide an overview about extant data-driven methods for studying inferences from faces,
such as using computer-generated faces or face averaging. Moreover, individuals can wear
customized electronic devices such as sociometric badges or smartphones equipped with infrared
sensors or Bluetooth in order to capture other aspects of embodied signaling, such as gestures
and posture, as well as distance from and movement toward others (through a technique called
reality mining) (Pentland, 2010). These devices have the advantage of recording embodied
signaling in everyday interactions, and the ongoing advancement of such technology will allow
researchers to more rigorously study such signals (Kozlowski, 2015; Pentland, 2010).
Processing of Embodied Signals
Future research may also want to more closely inspect how people process information
derived from cues. In this respect, a useful and broader framework can be found in the body of
research on Implicit Leadership Theories (Lord & Maher, 1991). According to one of its sub
streams, i.e., leadership categorization theory (Lord, Foti, & De Vader, 1984; Lord, Foti, &
Phillips, 1982), individuals implicitly compare a target person (i.e., a leader) to their prototype of
an ideal (charismatic) leader (also coined “recognition-based information processing). The
better the match between the target person and the leader prototype, the more the target person
will be perceived as a leader (Van Quaquebeke, Graf, & Eckloff, 2014). Based on Lord, Foti, and
de Vader (1984), who reason that individuals have different prototypes for different kinds of
leaders (e.g., religious vs. military leader), we expect that individuals may also develop specific
prototypes of charismatic leaders. In general, such a prototype could encompass not only
rhetorical qualities, but also physical characteristics (i.e., embodied signals). The first evidence
of this possibility can be found in the early explorations of leader prototypeswhich found
masculinity, strength, and attractiveness to be components of people’s leader prototype
(Offermann, Kennedy, & Wirtz, 1994)as well as in more recent approaches, which consider
facial features to be an important part of leader prototypes (Trichas & Schyns, 2012).
An information processing perspective on leader prototypes assumes that a prototype’s
attributes are mentally represented as an activity pattern in a connectionist network (Hanges,
Lord, & Dickson, 2000; Lord, Brown, Harvey, & Hall, 2001). In such a network, individual
processing units (comparable to neurons) are activated through incoming information (e.g.,
leader signals) (Bechtel & Abrahamsen, 2002). These units subsequently activate or inhibit
connected units depending on whether the two units match or conflict (Lord et al., 2001). Thus,
for a specific leader prototype (e.g., charisma prototype) to be activated, one or more connected
units in the network need to be activated, which will then activate the whole network (Bechtel &
Abrahamsen, 2002; for slightly different approaches, see also Dehaene, 2014; Freeman &
Ambady, 2011). This process occurs automatically and can vary in the degree of consciousness
(Hanges et al., 2000). With regard to leader charisma, the activation of a unit that represents an
embodied signal (e.g., physical height) might indirectly activate other units of the charisma
prototype that are cognitively connected but not necessarily present in reality. As such, many
more charismatic qualities might be (falsely) attributed to a person who has clear embodied
signals of charisma. In consequence, the alignment of rhetorical, emotional, and embodied
signals could also render a specific charisma prototype more thoroughly activated.
Importantly, we argue that such a connectionist network of leader prototypes is not
amodal in nature (i.e., only connecting abstract knowledge structures), but rather has a modal
representation (i.e., connecting abstract knowledge with emotional and bodily experiences;
Barsalou, 1999, 2008). Thus, the connections should extend to modal experiences and result in
further activation of the prototype’s components. One example of such a modal activation effect
might be the “awestruck effect” – which describes followers tendency to suppress their own
emotions in the presence of charismatic leadership (Menges, Kilduff, Kern, & Bruch, 2015).
Other examples might include complementary posture effects (Tiedens & Fragale, 2003) or
emotional contagion effects (Meindl, 1995). On this point, an embodiment perspective may
provide a suitable theoretical fundament for investigating the outcomes of charismafor
instance, followers’ emotional responses or physical positioning relative to the leader as a result
of certain embodied signals. However, future research still needs to understand the underlying
sequential inference processes. For instance, how long they take, how much awareness they
require, or whether they include any rational reasoning or just simple and direct associations.
Another question that arises concerns the relationship of leader charisma with the four
dimensions of power, warmth, competence, and morality which served as a structure for this
review. A closer look reveals that these four dimensions might actually relate to leader charisma.
For instance, Etzioni (1975) defined charisma as “the ability of an actor to exercise diffuse and
intense influence over the normative orientations of other actors” (p. 305). Similarly, Bryman
(1992) stated that “power is a critical element in the conception of charisma (p. 52), suggesting
that power might be an important outcome of charisma. Hence, once followers classify a leader
as charismatic, they might infer other qualities as well, like competence, warmth, or morality,
through a fill-in-the-blanks cognitive process (Cantor & Mischel, 1977). Thus, future research
could test how inferences of charisma relate to social judgment.
A further point of consideration is that, in a leader-follower relationship, followers are
confronted with leader signaling over time. Just as leader signals may or may not be aligned at
one point of observation, the same may occur with sequential signals. The question is how
“earlier” and “later” leader signals interact with each other or, put differently, how first
impressions shape followers’ later perception of the leader. A useful model for approaching such
questions is the one advanced by Gilbert and colleagues (1988). They argued that a person’s
perception consists of three sequential information-processing processes: 1) initial
categorization, 2) characterization, and 3) correction. During stage 1, the perceiver (the follower)
identifies the leader’s attributes, such as the leader’s physical height and facial features. In the
second stage, the follower draws dispositional inferences about the leader (Gilbert, Krull, &
Pelham, 1988)for instance, that the leader is charismatic—which also influences the follower’s
perception of the leader’s actual behavior. During the third stage, the perceiver adjusts the initial
characterization based on additional information (Gilbert et al., 1988; Mann & Ferguson, 2015).
Gilbert and colleagues (1988) contend that while the former two processes, categorization and
characterization, are relatively automatic and happen without conscious attention, the latter
process of correction is more effortful and complex.
This model suggests that followers could theoretically update or completely correct their
initial categorization of the leader; yet this would require considerable cognitive effort, and there
is thus a question if followers will follow-through. In light of the correspondence bias (Gilbert &
Malone, 1995), it stands to reason that leaders will have an easier time seeming charismatic later
on, even if their later behavior is uncharismatic, so long as followers initially perceived the
leader as charismatic based on embodied cues. By the same token, person memory models
suggest that people tend to rely on prior impressions due to their easy accessibility instead of
processing new information, except for situations when new information is starkly inconsistent
(Hastie & Park, 1986; Srull & Wyer, 1989). Thus, we expect that followers will very quickly
develop an impression of the leader and later interpret leader behavior via that frame rather than
revise their perception of the leader. This would suggest that the consequences of embodied cues
on leadership go above and beyond first impressions. As such, the question remains as to what
the leader can do to change followers’ early impressions in order to be perceived as more
charismatic and whether there are factors that make followers more/less willing to alter their first
Universality and Replicability of Effects
Whereas some findings for embodied signals are strong and stable across studies (e.g.,
verticality and power), other findings are heterogeneous and contradictory, as the meta-analysis
by Hall and colleagues (2005) highlights. Some effects were found in one study, but not in
others: For instance, Poutvaara and colleagues (2009) did not find the negative effect of baby-
facedness on election success that was previously suggested by Zebrowitz and Montepare
(2005). Meanwhile, there has been ongoing debate about the failed attempts to replicate some of
the published embodiment studies. For instance, Schnall and colleagues’ (2008) findings on
cleanliness and the severity of moral judgments could not be replicated (Johnson, Cheung, &
Donnellan, 2014). Similarly, the “Macbeth effect” proposed by Zhong and Liljenquist (2006),
which describes peoples’ tendency to “wash away their sins” and seek to cleanse themselves
when their moral self-concept is threatened, could not be replicated (Earp, Everett, Madva, &
Hamlin, 2014; Fayard, Bassi, Bernstein, & Roberts, 2009). Further large-scale replication
attempts also failed to replicate the relation of weight and power, as well as the association of
physical warmth and interpersonal distance (Ebersole et al., 2016). Another debate involves
Carney and colleagues (2010) research on power poses and their effects on hormone levels
(Ranehill et al., 2015). While it was possible to replicate the effect of power posing on self-
evaluation, the finding that adopting a high-power pose (vs. a low-power pose) increases
testosterone and lowers cortisol levels could not be replicated (Ranehill et al., 2015). Carney,
Cuddy, and Yap (2015) responded to this failed replication attempt by reviewing a total of 33
studies that successfully established the effect of power posing, and suggested a search for
moderators. However, Simmons and Simonson (in press) highlighted the need to account for
selective reporting; by means of p-curve analysis, they concluded that the 33 reviewed studies
did not provide evidence for an effect unequal to zero when accounting for selective reporting.
In order to clarify the true effects of embodied signals, future research might either
conduct meta-analyses on these effects, which should include unpublished findings, or further
engage in pre-registered replication attempts with samples that have sufficient power for testing
(Chambers, Feredoes, Muthukumaraswamy, Suresh, & Etchells, 2014; Nosek & Lakens, 2014).
At the same time, inconsistent findings and failed replication attempts suggest that future
research may need to consider possible moderators in order to better understand these effects.
The recent theoretical framework on charisma by Antonakis and colleagues (2016) might help in
this regard, as it suggests that followers’ charisma perceptions result from symbolic signals under
a specific conditionnamely, when the leader’s and followers’ values are aligned. Interestingly,
a study by Djordejevic and Ijzerman (2015) could not replicate the finding that the weight of a
book alters importance judgments (cf. Jostmann et al., 2009). However, post-hoc testing
indicated that the association may exist only for those employees who value reading. Thus, the
value fit between reading and the book cue resulted in the importance judgments.
To further investigate the universality of embodied signals and their boundary conditions,
researchers should explore followers’ relational models as a moderator (Fiske, 1992; Giessner &
Quaquebeke, 2010). Relational Models Theory describes four ways of defining a social
relationship (i.e., authority ranking, market pricing, communal sharing, and equality matching),
each of which is related to specific behaviors that are normatively appropriate in that relationship
(Fiske, 1992). In light of our charisma definition and its emphasis on value-based, congruent
signaling (Antonakis et al., 2016), a relational models perspective might explain that certain
embodied signals are particularly effective for some followers because they fit with their
relational model. Embodied signals of power, for instance, may be particularly effective for
individuals whose relationship to the (charismatic) leader is defined by authority ranking, which
entails asymmetrical interactions (Fiske, 1992; Giessner et al., 2011). Similarly, embodied
signals of warmth such as similarity (Schubert, Waldzus, & Seibt, 2008) might be most effective
when the relational model is communal sharing, which is defined by need satisfaction (Ijzerman,
Janssen, & Coan, 2015; Schubert et al., 2008).
Culture is another possible moderator that needs investigation. So far, most studies on
embodied cues have been conducted in Western cultures. However, Tskhay and colleagues
(2014) state that some of people’s nonverbal and implicit leadership beliefs are culture-specific.
One example is the effect of speech rate and vocal relaxation. Whereas there is an overall
positive relationship between speech rate and perceived power, studies with Korean perceivers
revealed a negative relationship between speech rate and power (Hall et al., 2005). Similarly,
research on leadership imagery has shown that people interpret the position of a leader in relation
to a group differently depending on their cultural background: Whereas U.S. Americans
represent a leader as standing in front of a group, Singaporeans represent a leader as standing
behind a group (Menon, Sim, Fu, Chiu, & Hong, 2010). There is a similar issue with color:
Whereas the color white stands for being morally worthy in Western cultures, some Asian
cultures, such as Buddhists, wear white clothes as a sign of mourning. In Western cultures, by
contrast, the color black stands for mourning. Another question is whether the relationship
between physical warmth and interpersonal warmth holds true in countries marked by high heat
(e.g., Middle East, Africa) and where high temperatures are often perceived as unpleasant (cf.
Zhong & House, 2012). Given these findings, cultural and geographical context could influence
the effects of embodied signaling. In sum, the effect of cultural and behavioral differences on
cue-based charisma inferences seems a fruitful avenue for future research. It may help us
understand why certain leaders are thought of highly in some contexts and yet seem to
completely clash with expectations in other situations. Furthermore, this avenue of research
might potentially resolve some of the inconsistent empirical findings in the literature.
Practical Implications
Embodied signals, so we argue, form an integral part of charisma. From a leader’s
perspective, it is useful to recognize that subordinates’ perceptions of them heavily depend on
these embodied signals. As Lord and Shondrick (2011) point out, leaders need to align the
impression derived from their embodied signals with the messages they send to followers if they
want to effectively communicate their vision. In contrast, inconsistency in those messages
(whether embodied or behavioral) might compromise one’s efforts at effective leadership.
Moreover, leaders should be aware that embodied cues affect people even before concrete
leadership (inter)actions take place (cf. Swider, Barrick, & Harris, 2016). Not all embodied
signals are under the leader’s control (e.g., the leader’s innate physical characteristics, the
location, the weather). Nonetheless, it seems worthwhile for leaders to consider what aspects are
under their control and how they can leverage these in order leave a favorable first impression,
which will ultimately influence how subordinates perceive their leadership at later stages (Gray
& Densten, 2007; Kenney, Blascovich, & Shaver, 1994, Swider et al., 2016). It may behoove the
providers of executive trainings to adjust their curricula accordingly.
Beyond leaders themselves, those who need to evaluate leaders (HR departments,
journalists, voters, etc.) should be equally aware of these dynamics (Swider et al., 2016). Trying
to disentangle a first impression from actual leadership qualities can be difficult because, as
outlined above, these processes are often unconscious and automatic. Yet, being aware that
certain embodied cues can distort one’s impression formation might help to overcome biased
decisions. Whereas it is possible to update and even reverse implicit evaluations from first
impressions, this correction process requires perceivers to actively (re)consider the respective
pieces of information (Mann & Ferguson, 2015). Given the high cognitive resources that a
correction needs (Mann & Ferguson, 2015), organizations may benefit from raising awareness
about biased first impressions before they happen (Pope, Price, & Wolfers, 2014). In response,
observers could, for instance, pay special attention to physical cues, trying to compensate for
their influence by holding as many variables constant as possible. For example, if the candidate
is very tall, observers can keep more distance when they shake hands in order to reduce the angle
from which they look up at the candidate. Additionally, some effort could be dedicated to always
evaluating applicants at the same room temperature. Although this may sound a bit excessive,
this very problem spurred the social media company Pinterest to introduce an Implicit Bias
Training for managers to help them minimize such biases (Tsotsis, 2015). According to the
popular tech blog Techcrunch, such trainings are becoming increasingly popular in Silicon
Valley (Tsotsis, 2015) as part of an effort to separate fact from fiction in the optimal
development of talent. It remains to be seen, however, whether such trainings can effectively
reduce respective biases (for instance, in hiring decisions; Zebrowitz, Tenenbaum, & Goldstein,
1991). History shows that disentangling the mind from the body is no easy task.
From the ancient Greeks to the 21st century, leader charisma has been an enigma
associated with magic or even divine abilities. Accordingly, many theoretical approaches on
charisma suffer from trying to define the concept by its antecedents or outcomes. In contrast,
recent approaches seek to demystify leader charisma and explain its essence in terms of concrete
behaviors and learnable skills (what a leader does and how the leader is like). In this context, the
embodiment perspective is an additional lens that may help to explain charisma above and
beyond the leader’s messages and rhetoric. As such, this perspective adds an important piece to
the puzzle that is charisma’s “magic aura” (cf. Weber, 1925).
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Embodied Signal
Key finding(s)
General physical appearance
Judge & Cable (2004)
Physical height
Physical height is significantly related to workplace success (social
esteem, leader emergence, performance, and income).
Stulp, Buunk, Verhulst, &
Pollet (2013)
Physical height
Physical height of political candidates in U.S. elections is positively
related to popular votes as well as to being reelected (for U.S.
Gawley, Perks, & Curtis (2009)
Physical height
Positive relationship between physical height and holding a position
of authority for men but not for women.
Van Quaquebeke & Giessner
Physical height
Assumed foul perpetrators (stronger/dominant player) in soccer
games were on average taller than their assumed victims.
Stulp, Buunk, Verhulst, &
Pollet (2012)
Physical height
Referees in soccer games who have more power in controlling the
game are taller than their assistants.
Holbrook & Fessler (2013)
Physical height and
A purported Islamic terrorist was perceived as physically smaller and
weaker after the death (defeat) of Osama bin Laden has been made
salient and priming a successful terrorist leader leads to more
favorable estimates of a terrorist’s physique.
Highham & Carment (1992)
Physical height
An election winner was judged to be taller after the election whereas
the losers were judged to be shorter than before the election.
Stogdill (1948)
Physical height
A review of extant studies on leadership revealed a positive
relationship between physical height and leadership.
Giessner, Ryan, Schubert, &
Van Quaquebeke (2011)
Picture angle
(perceived physical
Powerful persons are more often portrayed from below (appearing
taller) whereas less powerful persons are more often portrayed from
above (appearing smaller).
Thomas & Pemstein (2015)
Camera angle
(perceived physical
Differences in camera angle shape observers’ perceived height of
others and subsequently influence whether people act more (high
camera angle) or less (low camera angle) against their own self-
Verser & Wicks (2006)
Camera angle
(perceived physical
On photographs, U.S. presidential candidate Gore was depicted more
often from below than from above which made him appear taller than
he actually is.
Mandell & Shaw (1973)
Camera angle
(perceived physical
People perceive a person on TV more positively if that person is
pictured from below (low camera angle).
Wiedemann, Burt, Hill, &
Barton (2015)
Men wearing red clothes are perceived as more dominant.
Feltman & Elliot (2001)
Wearing red clothes increases perceptions of dominance and threat.
Aronoff (2006)
Facial characteristics
Facial characteristics of angularity and diagonality are related to
perceptions of threat in that face.
Aguinis, Simonsen, & Pierce
Facial expression
A relaxed face, in contrast to a nervous-looking face, is associated
with higher power.
Trichas & Schyns (2012)
Facial expression
The better the match between an individual’s inferences from a target
person’s facial expression and that individual’s implicit leadership
theories, the more leader-like the target person is perceived to be.
Zuckerman (1986)
Face-to-body ratio in
Persons in photographs with high face-to-body ratio were rated
higher on dominance.
Calogero & Mullen (2008)
Face-to-body ratio in
Cartoons of former U.S. president George W. Bush depicted more of
his body and less of his face (low face-to-body ratio) when he was
perceived as less powerful (after starting wars).
Rule & Ambady (2008)
Facial appearance
Positive relationship between perceived power-traits based on CEO’s
facial appearance and company profits.
Keating, Mazur, & Segall
Shape of eyebrows
Persons with lowered-eyebrows are perceived as more dominant than
persons with raised eyebrows.
Tiedens (2001)
Emotion expression
Expressing anger is associated with high social status, expressing
sadness is associated with low social status.
Aronoff, Barclay, & Stevenson
Facial features
Faces appear more threatening when they contain more angular and
diagonal features and fewer curvilinear features.
Re, DeBruine, Jones, & Perrett
Face shape
Increasing the perceived height of a face increases perceived
Rule & Tskhay (2014)
Facial appearance
The economic context (e.g., a financial crisis) affects how a leader’s
facial appearance influences the perception of that leader.
Hehman, Leitner, Deegan, &
Gaertner (2015)
Facial width-to-height
ratio (fWHR)
Individuals with higher fWHR are perceived as physically stronger
and more aggressive.
Dovidio & Ellyson (1982)
Visual dominance
Persons exhibiting high visual dominance (ratio of time spent looking
at the interaction partner while speaking compared to the time
looking while listening) are perceived as more powerful compared to
moderate or low levels of visual dominance.
Dovidio, Ellyson, Keating,
Heltman, & Brown (1988)
Visual dominance
Participants with high power showed high visual dominance and
participants with low power exhibited low visual dominance.
Body posture
Aronoff, Woike, & Hyman
Body movements
In videos of ballet performances, dancers representing a threatening
character used more diagonal poses and angular movements.
Dean, Willis & Hewitt (1975)
Interpersonal distance
Subordinates who start a conversation with a superior keep more
interpersonal distance than superiors who initiate the interaction.
Interpersonal distance increases with rank differences.
Carney, Hall, & Smith Le Beau
Body posture
High-power individuals, compared to low-power individuals, are
believed to display a rather open body posture (standing upright,
leaning forward, orientation toward conversation partner).
Tiedens & Fragale (2003)
Body posture
Participants paired with a confederate exhibiting a dominant,
expanded (vs. submissive) posture adjusted their stance to a more
constricted (expanded) posture.
Carney, Cuddy, & Yap (2010)*
Body posture
Adopting a high-power pose (open, expansive) compared to a low-
power pose (closed, contractive) leads to increased feelings of power.
Kimble & Seidel (1991)
Loudness, response
Assertive or confident people speak louder and respond faster.
Kimble & Musgrove (1988)
Assertive individuals speak louder (and more) than unassertive
Harrigan, Gramata, Lucic, &
Margolis (1989)
Amplitude, speech rate
Amplitude and speech rate are positively related to the perceived
dominance of the speaker.
Bilous & Kraus (1988)
More interruptions are associated with higher perceived dominance.
Klofstad, Anderson, & Nowicki
Voice pitch
Political candidates with a low-pitch voice are perceived as stronger.
Puts, Gaulin, & Verdolini
Voice pitch
Men with a low-pitch voice are rated as more dominant; participants
in an experiment who believed themselves to be physically dominant
(vs. less dominant) lowered (vs. raised) their voice pitch when they
spoke to a competitor.
Structural environment
Schubert (2005)
Vertical position
Power is mentally represented along the vertical dimension in space.
Higher power is associated with a higher (vs. lower) vertical position
and upward (vs. downward) movements.
Giessner & Schubert (2007)
Vertical distance
The longer the line in an organizational chart and, thus, the greater
the vertical difference between leader and subordinate, the more
powerful the leader is perceived to be; participants tend to place a
leader higher in the chart when they think this leader is powerful.
Lakens, Semin, & Foroni
Vertical position
The relationship between vertical distance and power is moderated by
the salience of power differences and is stronger when power
differences are salient.
Chen, Lee-Chai, & Bargh
Vertical size
Participants sitting in a large professor’s chair behind a desk (vs. a
simple visitor’s chair across the desk) showed a stronger activation of
the cognitive concept of power.
Zanoli, van Dantzig, Boot,
Wijnen, Schubert, Giessner, &
Pecher (2012)
Vertical position
Participants identify words describing a powerful (vs. powerless)
person faster when the vertical position (up vs. down) of the word
matches the power of the person (high power and up, low power and
General physical appearance
Willis & Todorov (2006)
Facial appearance
Participants drew inferences about a person’s competence from a
picture in as little as 100ms.
Todorov, Mandisodza, Goren,
& Hall (2005)
Facial appearance
Inferred competence from the facial appearance of U.S. congressional
election candidates predicts election outcomes with above-chance
Antonakis & Dalgas (2009)
Facial appearance
Adults and children seem to use the same cues in judging competence
from facial appearance. Swiss university students predicted the
winner of a political election in the same way children did.
Cogsdill, Todorov, Spelke, &
Banaji (2014)
Facial appearance
Adults and children show consensus in judging competence from
Sussman, Petkova, & Todorov
Facial appearance
Positive relationship between competence ratings based on facial
appearance by U.S. participants and election outcomes for political
candidates in Bulgaria.
Poutvaara, Jordahl, & Bergren
Facial appearance
Negative relationship between facial features of a babyface (vs. a
more mature-looking face) and competence ratings for political
candidates in Finland.
Archer, Iritani, Kimes, &
Barrios (1983)
Face-to-body ratio in
Face-to-body ratio in a picture is positively correlated with attributed
Schwarz & Kurz (1989)
Face-to-body ratio in
Persons presented with a high (compared to low) face-to-body ratio in
pictures are rated as more competent.
Tskhay, Xu, & Rule (2014)
Expressiveness, age
Perceived expressiveness and age of orchestra conductors predicts
how successful they are.
Barrett & Barrington (2005)
Physical attractiveness
Favorable (vs. unfavorable) presentation of a political candidate in a
newspaper article predicts how competent this candidate is rated by
participants in an experiment.
Murphy, Hall, & Colvin (2003)
Posture, gaze
Positive relationship between intelligence ratings and longer eye-
gaze, more eye contact, and an upright posture.
Takeda, Helms, & Romanova
Red-haired women are overrepresented and blonde-haired women are
underrepresented in corporate leadership positions in the U.K.
Attrill, Gresty, Hill, & Barton
Teams wearing red shirts in English football teams (8 cities, 55-year
time period) performed better than teams wearing other shirt colors.
Amhorst & Reed (1986)
Male evaluators rated women wearing dark jackets (vs. light jackets)
as more competent.
General physical appearance
Fawcett & Markson (2010)
Children prefer to play with a puppet that is similar (vs. dissimilar) to
their own physical appearance.
Hove & Risen (2009)
Mimicry, synchrony
Positive relationship between both mimicry and synchrony and
Lakin & Chartrand (2003)
When people aim to achieve rapport with another person, they mimic
this person’s gestures.
Jones, Little, Feinberg, Penton-
Voak, Tiddeman, & Perrett
Male faces that are highly symmetric are rated as more attractive than
faces that are less symmetric.
Zebrowitz, Voinescu, & Collins
Positive relationship between facial symmetry and perceived honesty
of the rated person.
Berry & Zebrowitz McArthur
Facial appearance
People with a babyface are perceived as warmer and kinder relative
to people with more mature faces.
Richell, Mitchell, Peschardt,
Winston, Leonard, & Dolan et
al. (2005)
Emotion expression
Negative relationship between expressing anger and trustworthiness.
Krumhuber, Cosker, Marshall,
& Rosin (2007)
Emotion expression
A smiling face is associated with higher trustworthiness compared to
a neutral-looking face.
Structural environment
Ijzerman & Semin (2009)
Perceived physical warmth leads to greater perceived social
proximity and a stronger focus on relations.
Ijzerman & Semin (2010)
Higher perceived similarity leads to higher perceived ambient
Williams & Bargh (2008)
Experiencing physical warmth (vs. coldness) through holding a warm
(vs. cold) object causes people to perceive others as warmer and
friendlier and show more prosocial behavior.
Steinmetz & Mussweiler
On a warm (vs. cold) day, participants rated objects as more similar
and rated their physical strength as more similar to a comparison
Zhong & Leonardelli (2008)
Thinking about a situation of social exclusion (vs. inclusion) leads to
lower estimates of room temperature. Being socially excluded leads
to greater preference for warm (vs. cold) food and drinks.
General physical appearance
Meier, Robinson, & Clore
When evaluating words, participants categorize words faster when
word valence (good vs. bad) matches font color (light vs. dark) than
when there is a mismatch between the two.
Frank & Gilovich (1988)
Professional sport teams with black uniforms are penalized more
often than teams with non-black uniforms. Switching from non-black
to black uniforms is accompanied with an increase in penalties.
Referees judge players in black uniforms more harshly, but these
players also seem to play more aggressively.
Stabler & Johnson (1972)
Children associate positive statements with a white box and negative
statements with a black box.
Webster, Urland, & Cornell
In the National Hockey League (NHL), teams wearing black jerseys
were penalized more often than teams with others jerseys, suggesting
that black jerseys are perceived as more aggressive than other colors.
Zhong & Liljenquist (2006)*
Positive association between physical and moral purity. Participants
who thought or wrote about an unethical (vs. ethical) incident came
up with more cleaning-related words in a word completion task and
showed a greater demand for cleaning products.
Schnall, Benton, & Harvey
Mentally activating the concept of cleanliness or cleaning oneself
after the experience of disgust reduces the severity of moral
Schnall, Haidt, Clore, & Jordan
Experimentally inducing feelings of disgust leads participants to
make more severe moral judgments (compared to control groups).
Cramwinckel, De Cremer, &
Van Dijke (2012)
Participants who touched a dirty (vs. a clean) object evaluated the
performance of a subordinate who cheated more positively and
assigned a higher bonus to him/her, but only when no self-interests
were involved.
Structural environment
Meier, Selbom, & Wygant
Vertical position
Participants in an implicit association task evaluated positive
(negative) words faster when they appeared at the top (bottom) of a
Meier & Robinson (2004)
Vertical position
Participants evaluate positive (vs. negative) words faster when they
appear at a higher (vs. lower) position on a computer monitor.
Meier, Hauser, Robinson,
Friesen, & Schjeldahl (2007)
Vertical position
The concept of divinity (God-Devil) is mentally represented on the
vertical dimension (up-down). God is associated with a high vertical
position and the Devil is associated with a low vertical position.
(Failed) Replication Attempts
Johnson, Cheung, & Donnellan
Replication of Schnall, Benton, & Harvey (2008): Could not replicate
the finding that physical cleanliness leads people to make less severe
moral judgments.
Earp, Everett, Madva, &
Hamlin (2014)
Replication of Zhong & Liljenquist (2006): Failed to replicate the
relationship between physical and moral cleanliness.
Fayard, Bassi, Bernstein, &
Roberts (2009)
Replication of Zhong & Liljenquist (2006): Failed to replicate the
relationship between physical and moral cleanliness.
Ranehill, Dreber, Johannesson,
Leiberg, Sul, & Weber (2015)
Body posture
Replication of Carney, Cuddy, & Yap (2010): Adopting a power pose
leads to self-reported feelings of power but no effect on hormone
Ebersole et al. (2016)
Replication of Jostmann, Lakens, & Schubert (2009): Could not
replicate the relationship between perceptions of weight and
perceptions of importance.
Djordejevic and Ijzerman
Replication of Jostmann, Lakens, & Schubert (2009): Could not
replicate the finding that the weight of a book leads to importance
judgments, but post-hoc testing indicated that the association may
exist only for those who value reading.
Ebersole et al. (2016)
Replication of Szymkow, Chandler, IJzerman, Parzuchowski, &
Wojciszke (2013): Could not replicate the relationship between
physical and interpersonal warmth.
... Charisma. An additional point is charisma, which some scholars see as the essential attribute of leadership (Bass, 1985;de Vries, 2018;Reh et al., 2017). Seen as a sociological concept, the term charismatic leadership, or even charisma, is not easily defined (Tokbaeva, 2021;Vergauwe et al., 2017). ...
... The subsequent successful coordination leads to a contentdependent psychological mechanism. Reh et al. (2017) and Sacavem et al. (2017) emphasize this definition, adding that charisma appears in the content and the delivery of a leader's messages, the latter being the non-verbal clues regarding facial expression, body language, and voice. ...
Through globalization and cultural awareness, more focus has been set on gender-related issues and the treatment of women throughout the world. Particular research attention has focused on the achievements and setbacks of female leaders as a major aspect of global organizations’ success. The purpose of this qualitative comparative phenomenological study was to analyze the relationship between culture and gender in leadership, specifically with female leaders in Germany and Iran. The study aimed to get insights into the cultural challenges and opportunities women face in gaining access to leadership positions in these two countries. Cultural aspects and the symbiotic acceptance of gender-specific traits were analyzed in relation to effective leadership in order to describe and document the perceptions of female leaders in Germany and Iran. Female leaders from Germany and Iran were interviewed to share their experiences regarding challenges, opportunities, cultural perceptions of their roles, and, finally, their best practices of how to overcome the barriers. By clustering the participants’ responses into themes and sub-themes and with the application of thematic coding, the research obtained a reflection of female leaders’ experiences in Germany and Iran. Study participants agreed that leadership is difficult and had challenges for all women, even more for women in Iran where structural barriers are more apparent. Agreement was achieved regarding male dominance in both cultures and the support men receive in management positions. Women often have to work harder and are missing the feeling of belonging. Participants agreed that women who are naturally competitive may have fewer challenges in leadership positions. Women seek mentorship; however, while this exists in Germany, the concept is missing in Iran. German women incorporate their organization’s mission statement and ethical values into their own work, and Iranian women consider themselves more ethical. While legal and corporate structures in Germany are working toward incorporating women into the workforce, these structures do not exist in Iran. Germany prefers the sustainable leadership style in combination with transformational leadership. Iranian leaders are drawn toward servant leadership. The result of the study demonstrates that culture is related to the challenges women face in leadership positions. While opportunities have a cultural correlation, they differ based on the societal expectations of females. Last but not least, women in both countries are able to develop their best practices with different leadership styles. Keywords: gender, gender diversity, culture, cultural diversity, cultures, leadership, Iran, Germany, servant leadership, Sustainable leadership, virtual leadership, transformational leadership, female leaders
... Authentic leaders are self-aware and act in harmony with, their values, knowledge, and emotions (Harvey, Martinko, & Gardner, 2006), they are future-oriented (Luthans & Avolio, 2003), use balanced information processing (Avolio & Gardner, 2005), and (as a consequence of these dispositions) are concerned to make a positive contribution to the external world (Ilies, Morgeson, & Nahrgang, 2005). Authentic leaders, therefore, embody these characteristics of excellence (Reh, Van Quaquebeke, & Giessner, 2017). An authentic leader, like a transformational leader, has a clear set of laudable values, including courage, as well as the skill to negotiate the complexities of the workplace and their leadership role to enact such excellence. ...
... Going further, and similar to Bob's response to uncertainty, in standard decision and game theory, the 'irrelevance of irrelevant alternatives' principle is well known. In the prisoner's dilemma (Rasmusen, 2007), for example, strategy equilibrium theory suggests that irrespective of what the other player chooses, the first player should always choose to defect; that is, not to cooperate. However, real people behave differently when the same game is played in an uncertain context; for example, when players have no idea about the move of other players or the players feel a sense of loyalty to the other players. ...
... Throughout the course of this process, the leader must constantly present "proofs" of their authority (e.g. performances that impress their audience with a sense of the leader's prowess in something) in order to reinforce their charismatic identity as well as convince the follower to believe and possibly subjugate into this identity as well (Finlay, 2002;Reh et al., 2017). Collins (2015) goes further to show that these "proofs" consist of a bodily-and-emotional coordination similar to Durkheim's collective effervescence, such as in boxing where a fighter must prove their prowess in order to convince elite fighting groups that they are worthy of membership. ...
Full-text available
Purpose This article investigates how medical specialists as professionals and elective cosmetic surgery tourists as consumers relationally negotiate decisions within the cosmetic surgery clinic. Drawing on a Goffmanian approach, this article explores the processual social structures that shape consumer logics in the clinic as a social space and as a type of professional institution. Design/methodology/approach This article is based on ethnographic fieldwork in cosmetic surgery clinics in South Korea. Findings This article identifies two genres of professional strategies (spatial arrangements and dramaturgical performances) that are leveraged by medical specialists to assert control over and persuade consumers to purchase cosmetic surgery. Research limitations/implications The valorization of surgery captured in this article suggests that surgical modifications may serve as another vehicle for entrenching class inequality between those able and those unable to afford surgery. Practical implications This article offers recommendations for future policymaking in terms of the regulatory oversight of the consumer profiles eligible for surgery and the marketing practices of clinics. Originality/value This article offers a micro-level account of how the high-risk good of cosmetic surgery is sold by medical specialists in charismatic and affective bids to enhance their legitimacy, authority and trust.
... Similar models of this standard of leadership are reflected in charismatic (e.g, Weber, 1954) and transformational models of leadership (e.g., Burns, 1978;Bass, 1990). For instance, Reh et al., 2017 found that the "charismatic effect" often attributed to leaders who are said to inspire followers and their motivations, may be linked to leader signaling which consists of values, symbols and emotions embodied by the leader. This embodiment perspective of charisma also accounts for how follower first impressions of a leader shape their later interactions. ...
Full-text available
We aim to problematize the ways in which school leaders who seek social justice conflate heroic leadership discourses in their practices. Using qualitative data collected from an urban school principal, this study examines heroic metaphors utilized by the principal when describing social justice leadership and how heroic-centered approaches contradict with achieving social justice goals in school. The findings suggest that the principal’s idea of social justice leadership relies on discourse around “battles to win”, a savior complex, and seeing herself as the central model for driving change. Such heroic discourses reflect the principal’s sole reliance on herself as a savior for her staff and community, which ultimately contradicted the social justice ideals that she sought to accomplish. Our inquiry provides a window to problematize heroic discourse embedded in social justice leadership and address how school leaders must be cognizant to how their practices might conflate with social justice outcomes.
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This research has focused on different parameters for the working environment of the hotel industry. The main objective of this research paper is to analyze the effect of Workplace Attire on employee performance and to determine the mediating effect of Organizational Idethe identification and Self-esteem for Pakistan. The basic criteria are set upon self-esteem and factors. The data sample consists of 200 employees working in the restaurant industry. It showed the impact significantly of Workplace Attire on Employee Performance and the study also proved the mediating effect of Organizational Identification and Self-Esteem on the relationship between Workplace Attire and Employee Performance. The findings provide some important managerial implications for better decision-making in the field of the restaurant industry.
Rethinking charismatic leadership in organizations: an evolutionary approach This integrative review of literature offers a new perspective on a research object that generates as much fascination as distrust in the research field: charisma as a source of leadership. This research is conceptual and uses the evolutionary perspective to rehabilitate charismatic leadership as a relevant object of study in organizations. Charisma is studied as a signal, and charismatic leadership as a signaling process aiming at unifying a group toward a common goal. This research draws on early developments in the evolutionary approach to propose an in-depth reflection on the identification of charismatic signals, their effects on the group, and the information that is communicated. The objective is to propose a precise and complete understanding of what charismatic leadership is and how it can be used in organizations. The contributions of this research are therefore firstly theoretical: to extend the first developments of the evolutionary approach applied to charismatic leadership and to answer the main criticisms of the concept. The originality of this work is also to have rehabilitated the role of the body as a tool for the transmission of information in the leadership process. But the contributions are also managerial: by converting charismatic signals into verbal and non-verbal communication techniques, we show that they can be used as a strategic resource in organizational leadership.
Adopting a cognitive and follower-centric approach to charismatic leadership, we hypothesized that followers show lower levels of cognitive effort, reflected in superficial processing of factually correct information when listening to and viewing a charismatic leader. We conducted two experiments, using a 2 (charismatic versus neutral) × 2 (female versus male leader) between-subjects design and videos of trained actors delivering a speech. We examined the effects of leader charisma on (1a) followers’ ability to detect factually false information, (1b) accuracy to remember information from the leader (study 1, N = 100), (2a) the persuasiveness of factual messages, (2b) followers’ prosocial behavior and (2c) the mediating effect of the leader’s persuasiveness on followers’ prosocial behavior (study 2, N = 140). We did not find support for the effect of leader charisma on detecting false information, the persuasiveness of messages, or increased prosocial behavior among followers. We found an effect of leader charisma on memory. Participants recognized fewer messages in the charismatic compared to the neutral leader conditions. Exploratory analyses provided mixed results for an interaction effect of leader charisma and sex on detecting and remembering false information. Our studies offer first insights into the cognitive outcomes of the charismatic signaling process.
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Drawing upon extensive research in luxury, we investigate how firms manage to sustain charismatic legitimacy over a succession of charismatic heirs. We question the presumption that charismatic legitimacy is personal and transitory. Instead, we show that management can deal with the inherent human limitations of charismatic legitimacy by forming a brand dynasty. We define a brand dynasty as a brand in which a series of persons (brand heirs) embody the brand persona that is defined by reference to a brand founder. Our analysis identifies three general managerial practices that together transfer and when repeated sustain brand charismatic legitimacy.
Despite a tremendous amount of research on the topic, we still have little evidence regarding the extent to which transformational leader behaviors (TLBs) cause a number of outcomes. The primary inhibitors include a lack of theoretical precision, the conflation of leader (follower) behaviors with evaluations, as well as measurement and design issues which prevent causal inferences. To address such concerns, we reframe the transformational leadership literature from a signaling theory perspective. Study 1 reviewed existing definitions of transformational leadership. Building on this, we introduce a new definition of TLB: Leader signaling through developmental and prosocial behaviors tailored for each unique stakeholder (e.g., person, dyad, group, organization). Leveraging topic modeling, Study 2 involved the analysis of open-ended survey responses. Using a constant comparative approach, six TLBs were identified: 1. teaching life lessons, 2. introduction to developmental opportunities, 3. providing different perspectives, 4. seeking different perspectives, 5. questioning critical assumptions, and 6. speaking words of affirmation. Studies 3 and 4 were preregistered experiments that showed TLBs cause variation in follower evaluations of the leader as transformational (n = 416; Cohen’s d = .50) and contributions to a public good (n = 320; Cohen’s d = .36), respectively. We conclude with recommendations for theory and practice.
Remote and gig work is prevalent in today’s labor market and calls for skilled digital leaders. Signaling charisma using charismatic-leadership-tactics (CLTs) to increase follower performance works in face-to-face communication. However, technology-mediated communication reduces the signaling opportunities, thereby calling the effectiveness of charismatic signaling into question. In Study 1, I conducted a large field experiment investigating the impact of charismatic signaling (neutral or charisma) and the chosen communication channel (text, audio, video), on follower performance in the gig economy. Video messages led to lower output than text or audio communication in the neutral set-up. In contrast, the output was not significantly different between the communication channels in the charisma set-ups. The data revealed a positive interaction between video communication and CLT presence. The charismatic video led to higher output than the neutral video indicating that leaders need to deliver a coherent picture, especially when using the video channel. In Study 2, I investigated if traditional questionnaires (MLQ) measuring perceived charisma and unrelated participants’ forecasts predict Study 1′s outcomes. Although CLT presence led to higher scores in perceived charisma, follower performance was not predicted by the scores. Thus, the MLQ is not an appropriate instrument for predicting follower behavior.
The philosophical tradition mistakenly asks how the inside (i.e., thoughts, ideas, concepts) can represent the outside (i.e., the world). This trap is a consequence of the view that mind and body must be two ontologically different entities. On this view the problem of meaning is to explain how disembodied "internal" ideas can represent "external" physical objects and events. Several centuries have shown that given a radical mind-body dichotomy, there is no way to bridge the gap between the inner and the outer. When "mind" and "body" are regarded as two fundamentally different kinds, no third mediating thing can exist that possesses both the metaphysical character of inner, mental things and simultaneously possesses the character of the outer, physical things. Embodied Realism, in contrast to Representationalist theories, rej ects the notion that mind and body are two ontologically distinct kinds, and it therefore rejects the attendant view that cognition and language are based on symbolic representations inside the mind of an organism that refer to some physical thing in an outside world. Instead, the terms "body" and "mind" are simply convenient shorthand ways of identifying aspects of ongoing organism-environment interactions - and so cognition and language must be understood as arising from organic processes. We trace the rejection of this mind-body dualism from the philosopher-psychologists known as the early American Pragmatists (James and Dewey) forward through recent cognitive science (such as Varela, Maturana, Edelman, Hutchins, Lakoff, Johnson, Brooks). We argue that embodied realism requires a radical reevaluation of the classical dualistic metaphysics and epistemology - especially the classical Representationalist theory of mind - and we conclude by investigating the implications for future investigations for a new, pragmatically-centered cognitive science.
On the basis of the current theories of charismatic leadership, several possible follower effects were identified. It is hypothesized that followers of charismatic leaders could be distinguished by their greater reverence, trust, and satisfaction with their leader and by a heightened sense of collective identity, perceived group task performance, and feelings of empowerment. Using the Conger–Kanungo charismatic leadership scale and measures of the hypothesized follower effects, an empirical study was conducted on a sample of 252 managers using structural equation modelling. The results show a strong relationship between follower reverence and charismatic leadership. Follower trust and satisfaction, however, are mediated through leader reverence. Followers' sense of collective identity and perceived group task performance are affected by charismatic leadership. Feelings of empowerment are mediated through the followers' sense of collective identity and perceived group task performance. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
List of Tables. List of Figures. Acknowledgements. Series Editor's Introduction. Part I: Leadership and Information Processing. Part II: Perceptual and Social Processes. Part III: Leadership and Organizational Performance. Part IV: Satbility, Change, and Information Processing. Bibliography. About the Authors. Index.
In a well-known article, Carney, Cuddy, and Yap (2010) documented the benefits of “power posing”. In their study, participants (N=42) who were randomly assigned to briefly adopt expansive, powerful postures sought more risk, had higher testosterone levels, and had lower cortisol levels than those assigned to adopt contractive, powerless postures. In their response to a failed replication by Ranehill et al. (2015), Carney, Cuddy, and Yap (2015) reviewed 33 successful studies investigating the effects of expansive vs. contractive posing, focusing on differences between these studies and the failed replication, to identify possible moderators that future studies could explore. But before spending valuable resources on that, it is useful to establish whether the literature that Carney et al. (2015) cited actually suggests that power posing is effective. In this paper we rely on p-curve analysis to answer the following question: Does the literature reviewed by Carney et al. (2015) suggest the existence of an effect once we account for selective reporting? We conclude not. The distribution of p-values from those 33 studies is indistinguishable from what is expected if (1) the average effect size were zero, and (2) selective reporting (of studies and/or analyses) were solely responsible for the significant effects that are published. Although more highly powered future research may find replicable evidence for the purported benefits of power posing (or unexpected detriments), the existing evidence is too weak to justify a search for moderators or to advocate for people to engage in power posing to better their lives.
Jostmann, Lakens, and Schubert (2009) reported that holding a heavy (vs. light) book led to higher importance ratings of having a voice in a decision-making procedure. The present authors replicated this method in a highly powered study and extended it by including additional measures, and did not find exactly the same results. There were no main effect of weight on the importance of having a voice in a decision-making procedure, importance of a book, and importance of healthy eating. However, the present design was slightly different, as the authors included three (counterbalanced) assessments of the effects. When the authors conducted the analysis on the first measurement only in the counterbalanced design, they found the effects on the perceived importance of a book, but with a smaller effect size than the original. In this analysis, they also confirmed earlier findings that this effect only occurs when participants find reading important. When the question about having a voice in a decision-making procedure was asked first, the effect of weight was marginally significant and in the opposite direction. This could potentially be a contrast effect. It may be that the effect only occurs for measures regarding which the participant do not have strong opinions about, but the authors form new testable hypotheses at the end of the manuscript to update Jostmann et al.’s (2009) model.
offers a comprehensive description of the development and validation of transformational leadership theory / in response to criticisms of the conceptualization, measurement, and evidential bases of the theory, the authors bring together the results of an impressively extensive program of research / they identify what they consider to be both the strengths of their approach as well as the areas needing further development / offer a future agenda for research and training (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)