Date of Award

Spring 1990

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Bud B Khleif


This study provides a comprehensive theory of charismatic relationships which, consistent with the original meaning of the term charisma, emphasizes the followers' belief that their leader is attached to their perception of the divine. In that the process of theory development shows its application to several modern leader-follower relationships, analysts can use the theory to examine such relationships in a variety of social settings.

The theory was developed from an ideal type model based on Hasidism, a significant Jewish religious movement which centers on the zaddik. Literally, zaddik means "righteous" and is applied to an individual who is believed to have a special relationship with God, and in Hasidism his role expanded to include tasks of leadership in all spheres of Hasidic life.

The ideal type model, constructed in twenty propositions, was compared to the characteristics of four twentieth century leader-follower relationships which occurred in political and civil, that is secular, mass movements. The empirical data came from biographies, historical accounts, and personal remembrances describing the political, social, and personal relationships of the following charismatic leaders: (1) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi--India; (2) Gamal Abdul Nasser--Egypt; (3) David Ben-Gurion--Israel; (4) Martin Luther King, Jr.--United States.

The comparative analyses revealed that the leader-follower relationships of Gandhi and Nasser conformed to the model, but that those of Ben-Gurion and King did not conform to all propositions. It was found that the distinguishing features of charismatic relationships are that followers (1) believe the charismatic leader to be imbued with superhuman qualities, (2) believe that he has a divinely sanctioned mission, and (3) express those beliefs by showing him reverence and paying him homage. In other words, followers regard their leader as having divinely ordained, superhuman qualities.

Specific research for applications of the theoretical model is suggested, and a model for mass social movements, a by-product of the study, is also described.