Neo-charismatic Leadership: A New Theory for Effective Leadership in Higher Education

Ghada T Angawi


Many HE Institutions are currently transforming their processes and programmes in response to global and local demands. Leaders in HE play a significant role in managing such external and internal pressures of change. HE leadership is considered to be under-researched, in comparison with the extensive amount of studies on leadership in general. This study focuses on leaders’ behavioural roles in the context of strategic decision-making, using the neo-charismatic theory as a framework for analysis. The theory encompasses seven leadership behavioural roles for transforming institutions in three consecutive stages: (1) The search for opportunity, (2) formulating a shared vision, and (3) devising the means to achieving the vision.

A qualitative two case study approach is used which involved three leaders of HE in the United Kingdom and three types of strategic decisions, (1) location and reorganisation; (2) input in the form of buildings and funds; and (3) boundaries. Two main methods were used in this research: document analysis and semi-structured interviews.  Data analysis revealed a set of recurring behavioural roles and this was compared across two cases. The findings of the study suggest that the neo-charismatic model (NCM) is highly relevant for understanding effective leadership in HE. Moreover, the model places an emphasis on an ethical dimension that appeared to influence how leaders took decisions and reacted to the context. Finally, leaders were able to influence the context when behaving with the characteristics depicted by the NCM.


Charisma, leadership, higher education

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