Professor in Evolutionary Psychology, Work and Organizational Psychology


Leadership and status

Charisma as signal: An evolutionary perspective on charismatic leadership

Grabo, A, Spisak, B., & Van Vugt, M. (2017). Charisma as signal: An evolutionary perspective on charismatic leadership. The Leadership Quarterly



We present an evolutionary perspective on charismatic leadership, arguing that charisma hasevolved as a credible signal of a person's ability to solve a coordination challenge requiring urgent collective action from group members. We suggest that a better understanding of charisma's evolutionary and biological origins and functions can provide a broader perspective in which to situate current debates surrounding the utility and validity of charismatic leadership as a construct in the social sciences. We outline several key challenges which have shaped our followership psychology, and argue that the beneļ¬ts of successful coordination in ancestral environments has led to the evolution of context-dependent psychological mechanisms which are especially attuned to cues and signals of outstanding personal leadership qualities. We elaborate on several implications of this signaling hypothesis of charismatic leadership, including opportunities for deception (dishonest signaling) and for large-scale coordination.



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