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The Charisma Heuristic as Cognitive Bias: Demystifying Charisma in Leadership Theory and Practice

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Abstract

This article takes the perspective of the follower's experience of "charisma." When assigning "charisma" to another, an individual surrenders a measure of individual autonomy by becoming a "follower" of a "leader." This choice is a heuristic which carries benefits and risks. The benefit is decreased cognitive load, and the risk is the possibility that the leader's influence will push against the follower's interests. Extending Shamir's self-concept approach, this paper identifies the genesis of charisma as a change in the follower's representation of self. It suggests that this change should be considered in the context of a broader change in the individual's abstract representation of events in order to simply choice and action. Thus, the paper argues that the charisma heuristic is a cognitive bias about which both followers and leaders should be wary. The article goes on to argue that categorical mathematics can be used by individuals and their advisors to distinguish those abstract representations that are internally consistent and transparent about their expected policy outcomes from those that are internally inconsistent and thus, if adopted during a charismatic experience, might lead to negative outcomes. (185 words)

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Half-title pageSeries pageTitle pageCopyright pageDedicationPrefaceAcknowledgementsContentsList of figuresHalf-title pageIndex
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