The Chicago Bears hired a new head coach this week. Prior to the hire, the conversation about what qualities the new coach should have reminded me of sociologist Max Weber’s definition of charismatic authority. Here is how one scholar summarizes the concept:
According to Max Weber’s concept of “charismatic authority,” charisma is based on a social relationship between the charisma holder and the charisma believer. The Weberian perspective is not focused on analyzing the personality of the charismatic leader, but rather on the structure of the charismatic social relationship. The social structure that comes out of a charismatic relationship represents an emotional collectivization held together by an emotional bond with the leader. A charismatic leader is not only a person who is given great expectations and trust and to whom special skills are attributed. A charismatic leader constitutes a new leadership, a new structure of social relationships, and a new cognitive definition of the situation of social action.
Contrast this with some of what I heard a successful coach should be able to do:
-connect with players
-hold players accountable for performance
-have a track record of success
-help players develop and grow
-command any situation
-have a plan and execute it
-build and sustain a (successful) culture
Many of these traits can be expressed in different ways. Measuring some of them is difficult. Can a number of them only be ascertained by having a close relationship with the coach and/or being in the same room and experiencing the charisma and magnetism of that coach?
To some degree, these traits apply to numerous leadership roles. The football coach as a “leader of men” is glamorized and masculinized but business, civic, and political leaders are supposed to embody at least a few of these these traits as well. Those who do well might have the charismatic authority, those who do not make it do not.