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The Leader as Catalyst – on Leadership and the Mechanics of Institutional Change

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  • Sumon Majumdar
  • Sharun Mukand

Abstract

Individual leaders have been central to the transformation of political institutions, organizations and many instances of social and economic reform. Why are some leaders able to take advantage of opportunities to successfully catalyze large-scale change while others fail? In this paper we argue that the key to understanding a leader’s effectiveness lies in dissecting the symbiotic nature of the leader-follower relationship. While the expected dynamism of a leader attracts followers, at the same time, followers empower the leader and contribute to his dynamism. This two-way leader-follower interaction can endogenously give rise to threshold effects: ‘small’ differences in leader ability can have a large impact on the degree of effective leadership and dramatically alter the prospects for change. The framework also naturally allows us to explore when individuals may deliberately prefer to follow an ambitious leader with very different preferences rather than a leader with more congruent preferences. Moreover, by empowering the self-interested ambitious leader, such followership may make him a more effective agent of (both good and bad) change.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2337.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2337

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  1. Harberger, Arnold C, 1993. "Secrets of Success: A Handful of Heroes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 343-50, May.
  2. Hermalin, Benjamin E, 1998. "Toward an Economic Theory of Leadership: Leading by Example," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1188-1206, December.
  3. Arvind Subramanian & Francesco Trebbi & Dani Rodrik, 2002. "Institutions Rule," IMF Working Papers 02/189, International Monetary Fund.
  4. Morris, Stephen & Shin, Hyun Song, 1997. "Unique Equilibrium in a Model of Self-fulfilling Currency Attacks," CEPR Discussion Papers 1687, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  6. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
  7. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2005. "Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 835-864, August.
  8. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Julio J. Rotemberg & Garth Saloner, 1993. "Leadership Style and Incentives," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(11), pages 1299-1318, November.
  10. Timothy Besley & Maitreesh Ghatak, 2003. "Competition and incentives with motivated agents," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2202, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  11. Timothy Besley & Masayuki Kudamatsu, 2007. "Making Autocracy Work," STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers 48, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  12. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson, 2004. "Institutions As The Fundamental Cause Of Long-Run Growth," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 002889, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
  13. Young, Oran R., 1991. "Political leadership and regime formation: on the development of institutions in international society," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(03), pages 281-308, June.
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  1. Leadership in economics
    by Dani Rodrik in Dani Rodrik's weblog on 2007-08-27 18:52:01
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Cited by:
  1. Patrick Bolton & Markus K. Brunnermeier & Laura Veldkamp, 2008. "Leadership, Coordination and Mission-Driven Management," NBER Working Papers 14339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Goodall, Amanda H., 2009. "Highly cited leaders and the performance of research universities," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(7), pages 1079-1092, September.
  3. Goodall, Amanda H. & Kahn, Lawrence M. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2011. "Why do leaders matter? A study of expert knowledge in a superstar setting," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 77(3), pages 265-284, March.
  4. Gürerk, Özgür & Irlenbusch, Bernd & Rockenbach, Bettina, 2009. "Motivating teammates: The leader's choice between positive and negative incentives," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 591-607, August.
  5. Goodall, Amanda H. & Kahn, Lawrence M. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Why Do Leaders Matter? The Role of Expert Knowledge," IZA Discussion Papers 3583, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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