Moral and reptilian charisma: Their measurement and relationships with speaker nonverbal behaviors, communicator style, audience emotions and gender

Date of Completion

January 2006


Speech Communication




A charisma measure based on Weber's theory was developed and tested. Three studies were conducted in order to assess the dimensionality of charisma and explore the extent to which charisma is a property of the leader, the audience, their relationship or the situation. In Study l, ratings of speeches of well-known politicians yielded two factors. Moral charisma emphasizes pride in and respect for the leader's task and calling, whereas reptilian charisma involves the leader's emotional power, vitality, and vigor. Moral charisma was derived from the Idealized Influence dimension of MLQ (Bass, & Avolio, 1994), and reptilian charisma from the Inspirational Motivation dimension of MLQ and the charisma factor of C4 (Buck, and Vieira, 2002). In Study 2, Ps rated the most or least charismatic person they knew. Both studies demonstrated relationships of perceived prosody and speech errors with charisma. Moral charisma was associated with decreased negative and increased positive emotions. Reptilian charisma was associated with increased positive and negative emotions (Study 1) and increased positive emotions and envy/jealousy (Study 2). In Study 3, coders rated 200 speech segments lasting ten seconds each. Both moral and reptilian charisma related positively with the communicator image. Interestingly, reptilian charisma was the strongest influence on communicator image among moral charisma, dominance, and impression leaving. All three studies demonstrated that charisma has two dimensions, a moral and a reptilian. The studies further help understanding the diverse styles of various charismatic leaders and also of nonleaders. Moral charisma has some similarities with other existing typologies, namely the distant (Shamir, 1995), vision-induced (Boal, and Bryson 1987) and socialized charisma (Howel, 1988). Reptilian charisma seems to share some similarities with close, personalized and personal charisma (Friedman, Prince, Riggio, & Dimatteo 1980). Judgments of reptilian charisma could be made with minimal amount of behavioral information about the leader. On the other hand, judgments of moral charisma required familiarity with the leader's vision and actions. When judgments could be done, partitioning the variance of charisma indicated that it largely resides in the leader and his or her relationship with the audience.^