Charismatic Leadership

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Matevž Straus
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Theoretical Sociology

Charismatic Leadership – Astro Airlines, part 1

Max Weber, German sociologist, introduced the concept of social authority into sociology and defined three main types of it: traditional, rational and charismatic authority. Since the first is strongly connected with (remaining of) feudal era and rational autority is predominant in capitalist society, charismatic authority from time to time emerges in every society. Scope of analysis of charismatic authority was further extended by Sigmund Freud's second essay Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego (Massenpsychologie und Ich-analyse), which joined sociology with (social) psychology. Sociologist and psychologist were then followed also by researcher of organisational sciences, thus we will for apply theories on the case of Burton's Astro Airlines and try to explain it.

Arthur Burton was a founder of Astro Airlines, airline company providing cheap flights based on radical and visionary idea of it's founder and (charismatic) leader. It could be claimed that Burton had charisma, a term used to describe personal characteristic of people that have ability to persuade, influence and inspire others. Greek meaning of the word „kharisma“ ["gift" or "of/from/favored by God/the divine"(Charisma. Wikipedia)] suggests that person posses supernatural ability. Despite our scientific atheist/agnostic position, it should be kept in mind that, as W.I. Thomas argued, „if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences“(Thomas&Thomas 1928, 171). And Arthur Burton was percieved by his employees as almost supernatural – He was regarded by many employees as an ispirational leader who made you believe that you could do anything. His vision was inspiring and appealing, while his speeches communicated high expectations and pictured prosperity and well-being. In 1980s, when Astro Airlines was...
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