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  Charisma is a theological term (originally Greek) meaning ‘gift of grace’. In a religious context it refers to individuals or groups of believers who claim to possess special powers.

Within sociology it is used to refer to the special qualities and powers claimed by, and attributed to an individual, making him or her capable of influencing large numbers of people who become followers. The charismatic leader may be a religious or a political leader.

Charismatic authority is one of three types of legitimate authority identified by Weber. Charisma refers to the authority vested in a leader by disciples and followers by virtue of a belief that the leader possesses special powers and extraordinary personal gifts. It is a form of authority which is based on an affective and emotional commitment to a leader. The authority of a charismatic leader may transcend existing authority. DA

See also church; power; religion; sect; social control; social movements.Further reading R. Bendix, Max Weber: an Intellectual Portrait; , R. Wallis (ed.), Millennialism and Charisma.



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