Through Thick and Thin? Follower Constructions of Presidential Leadership Amidst Crises, 2001–2005

Document Type

Book Chapter


Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Leadership Studies


This study examined the impact of followers’ perceptions of crises and effectiveness in dealing with crises on their evaluations of President George W. Bush’s transformational and charismatic leadership over a period of five critical years of his presidency (2001–2005). James R. Meindl’s follower-centered and social constructionist approaches to leadership were used as a framework to explore these relationships. Data were collected over eight time periods from 477 individuals who were asked about their perceptions of the terrorism crisis and economic crisis facing the nation, as well as the effectiveness of the President and his team in dealing with these crises. Results showed that perceptions of effectiveness in handling both crises strongly predicted ratings of transformational and charismatic leadership of the President. In addition, followers who perceived a terrorism crisis and perceivedthat the President was effective in dealing with this crisis used more transformational and charismatic constructions to evaluate him. This was not the case for perceptions of economic crisis, indicating that different types of crisis may have varying implications for attributions of leadership. In a pattern that was consistent with previous studies, party affiliation also played an important role in these leadership ratings. Implications of these findings for future leadership research and practice are discussed in the context of Meindl’s overall body of work and the research tradition he inspired.

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© 2007 Information Age Publishing