The impact of charismatic leadership training on nonprofit leader outcomes

November 17, 2010

Throw your hands in the air, ladies and gentlemen, and take charge, real charge of your employees’ development, their sustenance, their passion and their environment! That is, if it works. Charismatic leadership, characterized by the expression of positive emotions and a compelling vision, is believed to be among the most effective styles of leadership. 

“Charismatic leaders are highly sought after and highly paid among top companies,” explains Stefanie K. Johnson, associate professor of management in the Business School. “However, the extent to which charismatic leadership actually impacts organizational outcomes is not well established.”

Johnson is exploring the impact of charismatic leadership on employee outcomes using leaders from local nonprofit organizations in the Denver Metro area. She chose nonprofits because:

  • The organizations they serve have a positive impact on society, creating room for a compelling organizational vision.
  • Employees in the nonprofit sector are often underpaid compared to the for-profit sector. “There is a need for leadership to take the place of monetary motivators,” Johnson says.
  • With more than 1.4 million nonprofit organizations in the United States employing 8.7 million individuals, nonprofit leaders are often unable or unwilling to spend money leadership development programs.

The training focuses on the use of vision and communication of that vision using positive emotions. Johnson has designed a study in which leaders participate in a program where they receive charismatic leadership training. “I will examine changes in employee outcomes from before to after the training,” she says. “If a change is demonstrated it can be concluded that the changes is caused by charismatic leadership.” A second group of leaders will receive control training, enabling Johnson to compare the effectiveness of the charismatic training to the more general training program.

Johnson’s research aims to improve her classroom teaching, result in an A-level publication and benefit the leaders involved. “This project can have a positive impact on local nonprofit organizations while answering an important research question.”