The Enduring Allure of Charisma: How Barack Obama Won the Historic 2008 Presidential Election

Document Type



Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Leadership Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences


We apply charismatic leadership theory to the historic 2008 United States presidential election, in hopes of inspiring dialogue around how leadership theory can inform the critical process of evaluating and electing public leaders. While numerous leadership theories are relevant to understanding the 2008 election, charismatic leadership theory highlights aspects of the leader, followers, and the unfolding economic crisis that are particularly relevant in helping us to understand how a relatively inexperienced political outsider ascended to the US Presidency. Given the potential perils and challenges newly elected President Barack Obama faces in the months and years ahead, we also suggest four core strategies rooted in charismatic leadership theory that may help him capitalize on his early charismatic appeal, as well as avoid the pitfalls of charisma that have plagued some of his predecessors.

Rights Information

© 2009 Elsevier Inc