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Why do leaders matter? A study of expert knowledge in a superstar setting

  • Goodall, Amanda H.
  • Kahn, Lawrence M.
  • Oswald, Andrew J.

This paper provides evidence of the importance of what might be termed 'expert leaders'. Although it is widely assumed that leaders affect the performance of their organizations, the complexity of this social-science research area has meant that comparatively little empirical progress has been made. We deliberately choose a narrow focus. We examine a high-skill setting in which there are accurate data on performance. We argue that an influential role is played by a leader's expert knowledge. A strong predictor of a leader's success in year T is that person's level of technical attainment, in the underlying activity, in approximately year T-20. Our data are on US professional basketball. The paper documents a correlation between brilliance as a player and the (much later) winning percentage and playoff success of that person as a team coach. The results suggest that leaders' effects on performance are substantial and are visible in the data within the first 12 months of a coach being hired.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 77 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (March)
Pages: 265-284

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:77:y:2011:i:3:p:265-284
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  1. Borghans Lex & Lee Duckworth Angela & Heckman James J. & Weel Bas ter, 2008. "The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits," ROA Research Memorandum 001, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
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  27. Hermalin, Benjamin E., 2007. "Leading for the long term," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 1-19, January.
  28. Rosen, Sherwin & Sanderson, Allen, 2001. "Labour Markets in Professional Sports," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(469), pages F47-68, February.
  29. Steven N. Kaplan & Mark M. Klebanov & Morten Sorensen, 2008. "Which CEO Characteristics and Abilities Matter?," NBER Working Papers 14195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Stefan Szymanski, 2000. "A Market Test for Discrimination in the English Professional Soccer Leagues," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 590-603, June.
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