Centrality and charisma: Comparing how leader networks and attributions affect team performance

Author(s): Balkundi P, Kilduff M, Harrison DA


When leaders interact in teams with their subordinates, they build social capital that can have positive effects on team performance. Does this social capital affect team performance because subordinates come to see the leader as charismatic? We answered this question by examining 2 models. First, we tested the charisma-to-centrality model according to which the leader's charisma facilitates the occupation of a central position in the informal advice network. From this central position, the leader positively influences team performance. Second, we examined the centrality-to-charisma model according to which charisma is attributed to those leaders who are socially active in terms of giving and receiving advice. Attributed charisma facilitates increased team performance. We tested these 2 models in 2 different studies. In the first study, based on time-separated, multisource data emanating from members of 56 work teams, we found support for the centrality-to-charisma model. Formal leaders who were central within team advice networks were seen as charismatic by subordinates, and this charisma was associated with high team performance. To clarify how leader network centrality affected the emergence of charismatic leadership, we designed Study 2 in which, for 79 student teams, we measured leader networking activity and leader charisma at 2 different points in time and related these variables to team performance measured at a third point in time. On the basis of this temporally separated data set, we again found support for the centrality-to-charisma model. 

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