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.

M.J. Young, Michael Morris, and V.M. Scherwin
Journal Article
Publication Date
Journal of Management

Full Citation

Young, M.J., Michael Morris, and V.M. Scherwin
. “Managerial mystique: Magical thinking in judgments of managers' vision, charisma, and magnetism.”
Journal of Management
, (January 01, 2013):