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The Leader as Catalyst: On Mass Movements and the Mechanics of Institutional Change

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  • Mukand, Sharun; Majumdar, Sumon

    (University of Warwick)

Abstract

Why are some leaders able to rally mass support and successfully catalyze revolutionary change while others fail? We argue that the key to understanding a leader’s effectiveness lies in dissecting the symbiotic relationship between the leader and his committed activist-followers. Good leaders attract committed activist-followers. In turn, these followers have a bottom-up role in empowering the leader by rallying support from the broader populace, resulting in a mass movement. This two way leader-follower interaction can endogenously give rise to threshold effects: ‘small’ differences in leader ability have a dramatic impact on the prospects for change. Therefore, while underlying structural conditions and institutions are important, there is an independent first-order role for individual agency in bringing about institutional change and development. We show that for a leader ‘it is better to be feared than loved’. An ambitious, self-serving leader attracts activistfollowers who fear bad institutional change and hope to insulate themselves by becoming loyal followers. Indeed by empowering such a self-serving leader, these followers make him a more effective agent of (both good and bad) institutional change.

Suggested Citation

  • Mukand, Sharun; Majumdar, Sumon, 2010. "The Leader as Catalyst: On Mass Movements and the Mechanics of Institutional Change," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 08, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:08
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    File URL: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/centres/cage/manage/publications/08.2010_mukand.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422, July - De.
    6. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2005. "Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 835-864.
    7. Thomas Ferguson & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2008. "Betting on Hitler—The Value of Political Connections in Nazi Germany," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 101-137.
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