The concept of charismatic leadership

Stig Larsson (University of Göteborg, Göteborg, Sweden)
Lars Rönnmark (University of Göteborg, Göteborg, Sweden)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Publication date: 1 December 1996


Argues that little attention has been devoted to charismatic or transformational leadership in the voluntary sector, although many socially‐oriented voluntary organizations, such as relatives’ associations, clients’ associations, crisis centres and environmental groups aim to change people’s cognitive and emotional capacity and living conditions. The voluntary associations have a great power to bring about change because of the leaders’ ability to link the goals of the organization to those of the members, so that the aspirations of the individual members coincide with the good of the organization. Analyses charismatic or transformational leadership in concrete terms in a voluntary Swedish organization (Reningsborg), which combines changes in marginalized young people with practical relief work for the poor and needy of eastern Europe. In their work to create resources for international aid, the young outcasts are redefined as helpers and participants in a common project. This is the foundation for the production of identity, meaning and social belonging. Argues that the forms of organization and leadership in this analysed example give lost people access to a meaningful context which our de‐traditionalized postmodern society does not automatically give to the young generation. The new social movements that have arisen out of the need to create identity and meaning may possibly have the same role in transforming society in the postmodern era that the labour movement, the temperance movement and the free‐church movement had in the modern era. Concludes that leadership which enables the communication of messages in keeping with the times and the mobilization of forces for voluntary work are a common denominator of the two eras.



Larsson, S. and Rönnmark, L. (1996), "The concept of charismatic leadership", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 9 No. 7, pp. 32-44.

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Copyright © 1996, MCB UP Limited

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