What makes Steve Jobs such a charismatic leader? It could be that he's good at hiding what he does.
That's the finding of new research that shows that the most charismatic leaders often achieve their mystique by adding an element of mystery and magic to their management activities.
In one of the researchers' studies, subjects judged two executives — one who succeeded through vision and the other who 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.
"The research results suggest that charisma is sometimes an illusion," the researchers said. "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."
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 backfire, the researchers said, pointing out that they limit the transfer of skills from the "mysterious" manager to others.
"Winning in business and political endeavors comes not only from performing well, but also from managing the interpretations that others make of your performance," said Michael Morris, one of the professors who conducted the research, who leads Columbia Business School's Program on Social Intelligence.
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