Managerial Mystique: Magical Thinking in Judgments of Managers’ Vision, Charisma, and Magnetism

Journal of Management, Forthcoming

37 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2011

See all articles by Maia J. Young

Maia J. Young

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Michael Morris

Columbia Business School - Management

Vicki Scherwin

California State University, Long Beach

Date Written: March 2, 2011

Abstract

Successful businesspeople are often attributed somewhat mystical talents, such as the ability to mesmerize an audience or envision the future. We suggest that this mystique – the way some managers are perceived by observers – arises from the intuitive logic that psychologists and anthropologists call magical thinking. Consistent with this account, Study 1 found that perceptions of a manager’s mystique are associated with judgments of his/her charismatic vision and ability to forecast future business trends. We hypothesized that mystique arises especially when success is observed in the absence of mechanical causes, such as long hours or hard-won skills. In Study 2, managers who succeeded mysteriously rather than mechanically evoked participants’ attributions of foresight and their expectations of success at visionary tasks, yet not administrative tasks. We further hypothesized that as mystique is assumed to spread through contagion, observers desire physical contact with managers who are attributed mystique and their possessions. Study 3 found managers described as visionary as opposed to diligent are judged to be charismatic and ultimately magnetic. We discuss the implications of these judgment patterns for the literatures on perception biases and impression management in organizations.

Keywords: mystique, vision, contagion, attribution

Suggested Citation

Young, Maia J. and Morris, Michael W. and Scherwin, Vicki, Managerial Mystique: Magical Thinking in Judgments of Managers’ Vision, Charisma, and Magnetism (March 2, 2011). Journal of Management, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1791984

Maia J. Young (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/x5157.xml

Michael W. Morris

Columbia Business School - Management ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2296 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.michaelwmorris.com

Vicki Scherwin

California State University, Long Beach ( email )

1250 Bellflower Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90840
United States

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