Monday, July 18, 2011

 Magical thinking and charismatic leadership

We attribute certain leaders charismatic qualities through “magical thinking,” according to researchers at Columbia Business School, UCLA, and California State University.

Their research results show that charisma is sometimes an illusion. “While managers can establish a reputation as a transformational, charismatic leader in a number of valid ways, managers can also gain the mystique of charisma by veiling how they accomplish what they do, like a stage magician. Would audiences be as wowed by Steve Jobs’ informal, spontaneous pitches if they observed the ten hours of practice Jobs commits to every ten minute pitch? Would knowing his method make him seem less magical?”

The study features three different experiments. The first tests whether ascriptions of mystique are associated with perceptions that the manager is visionary and will succeed in forecasting future business trends. The second examines whether managers who perform well in the absence of an obvious success mechanism, such as extensive practice or technical skills, are more likely to be imputed mystique and judged more capable at tasks that require vision but not those that depend on administrative skill. In the third study, subjects judged two executives — one succeeded through vision and the other succeeded through hard work. The results show that, compared to the hard-working executive, the visionary executive was judged to be more creative, curious, and charismatic.

“While the organization may benefit from the establishment of a new executive as a leader in the eyes of the followers, such theatrics can also be dangerous, as they limit the transfer of skills from this manager to others,” they suggest.

Source: http://goo.gl/WoJtW

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