|Title||Charismatic leadership of media businesses: a case study of leaders of two media businesses in the post-Soviet states of Russia and Kyrgyzstan (1991-2016)|
This is a comparative case study of two media business leaders, one from Russia and one from Kyrgyzstan. Alexei Kharitonov of the Abak-Press and Kylychbek Sultanov of the Computer Press both started media companies after the break-up of the Soviet Union and managed to grow them from small businesses into the present media holdings.In comparing the media holding from Russia, which is the former Soviet Union’s largest economy, and the one from Kyrgyzstan, which is one of the smallest economies of the post-Soviet space, this will allow us to capture the processes of private media maturation in countries with a shared Soviet past, yet with a different present. The observed time frame is 25 years from the fall of the Soviet Union (1991-2016).
Only 13 media holdings in both Russia and Kyrgyzstan were found to meet the criteria of financial self-sustainability without any reliance on state/foreign funds. The data came from 54 in-depth semi-structured interviews with company founders/owners, senior and junior staff, media experts, academics, representatives of competing businesses, and failed media entrepreneurs. Data collection took place in Ekaterinburg and Bishkek in 2014-16, and it was supported through a University of Westminster scholarship.
Theory-wise, this research is focused on the concepts of charisma, media leadership and media entrepreneurship. The main argument is that Max Weber’s (1947) theory of charismatic authority is applicable to media business leaders in emerging economies. Charisma is a rare and transitory phenomenon (Yukl, 2013). This research argues that the charismatic authority of media leaders in the post-Soviet states is not only the closest to Weber’s original idea, but also morphs into the legal-rational authority of media managers once such companies enjoy financial stability. The reason for this can be explained through the turbulent nature of the media markets being formed (Vartanova, 2013) and the cultural character of the leadership which finds itself able to fit in certain contexts (Walter and Bruch, 2009). Moreover, in the fast-paced transition economy settings, the transformation from charismatic authority to legal-rational authority may take place within a single person. The Weberian theory of charismatic authority is discussed in this research alongside Alan Bryman’s (1992) findings on charisma in organisations and John Kotter’s (1982, 2012) model for the appraisal of general managers. In particular, Kotter’s framework for analysing the personal and background characteristics of company leaders is applied to analyse the maturation of leadership within privately-owned media businesses in Russia and Kyrgyzstan.