Routinization of Charisma refers to the rationalization or institutionalization process whereby institutionalized social structures such as a bureaucracy are vested with rational-legal authority, which incorporates the charismatic impetus and supersedes the charismatic leader.
Under politics, charismatic control is often seen in authoritarian regimes, autocracies, dictatorships, and theocracies. Repeatedly, these governments will build a massive personality cult to retain their charismatic influence. When the head of such a state dies or leaves office without being replaced by a charismatic figure, the regime is likely to collapse quickly afterward unless it has been thoroughly institutionalized.
Weber analyses several societal causes that lead to the routinization of charisma. He claims that members of a charismatic leader’s group will only depend on “faith and excitement, on gifts, treasure, or random acquisition” in the early phases of that leader’s leadership.
In contrast to the illogical and random character of charisma, the community members are interested in continuing their lives in a manner that provides them daily security and stability. To illustrate his thesis, Weber mentions the difficulty of picking a charismatic leader’s successor after death. How this succession issue is resolved directly affects the nature of future leader–subordinate interactions.
Initially, recruiting may be based on charm, but the designated leader must also meet set standards. These standards may involve training, eligibility, and genealogy testing. Weber adds that the anti-economic nature of charisma will change because the leader must have some form of fiscal organization to provide for the necessities of their society. This monetary organization “becomes one of the everyday officials, the patrimonial form, particularly in the estate types or bureaucratic variant.”
In conclusion, the fiscal organization becomes a differential power infused with its traditions, norms, and interests, with which the charismatic leader must be both materially and ethically pleased.
The routinization of charisma by Weber is an example of how social processes limit people’s agency. Since Weber’s work, several authors have analyzed the relationship between agency and structure. Although from distinct viewpoints, Parsons and Goffman investigated the influence of social structures on the behaviour of certain social groupings.
Later, building on Berger and Luckmann’s social constructionist perspective, institutional environments such as Rowan and Meyer as well as Powell and DiMaggio argued that modern communities contain institutional rules that, over time, are becoming rationalized myths that are generally believed but never tested: they arise and are maintained through popular perception, the education system, the legal system, and other institutional forms.
From a more abstract standpoint, Giddens maintained that structures are not external to social actors but rather rules and resources that are formed and reproduced by actors’ behaviors.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Weber’s connection between charisma and leadership revived under the guise of the “transformational leadership” concept. The thesis received considerable attention and continues to provide the basis for most current work on the topic. In contrast, the transformational leadership literature discusses Weber’s views on the routinization of charisma very little, if at all, except an indirect approach employed by authors who discuss transactional leadership.
Instead of viewing charismatic leadership as an irrational concept, the overwhelming majority of transformational leadership theorists have seemed to embrace a normative approach that assumes rationality on the leader’s part. Irrationality and the routinization process are disregarded because they do not fit the theoretical framework. With Weber’s work in mind, it is possible to claim that the routinization of charisma and its implications on transformative leadership is a topic that warrants more study.