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Why a Group Needs a Leader: Decision-making and Debate in Committees


  • Dessein, Wouter


I develop a model of group decision-making, in which a committee generates proposals and holds open discussions, but the ultimate decision is either taken by a leader (decision by authority) or by majority vote. Optimal communication processes are studied that combine both cheap talk statements (proposals) and costly state verification (discussions). I show that by favouring one particular agent — the leader — authoritative decision-making reduces rent-seeking discussions and often results in a higher decision-quality relative to majority decision-making. Institutions which guarantee a "right to voice" by separating the roles of decision maker and discussion leader may further improve efficiency.

Suggested Citation

  • Dessein, Wouter, 2007. "Why a Group Needs a Leader: Decision-making and Debate in Committees," CEPR Discussion Papers 6168, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6168

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eric Van den Steen, 2005. "Organizational Beliefs and Managerial Vision," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 256-283, April.
    2. Gilat Levy, 2007. "Decision Making in Committees: Transparency, Reputation, and Voting Rules," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 150-168, March.
    3. Wouter Dessein, 2002. "Authority and Communication in Organizations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 811-838.
    4. Bauke Visser & Otto H. Swank, 2007. "On Committees of Experts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 337-372.
    5. Ottaviani, Marco & Sorensen, Peter, 2001. "Information aggregation in debate: who should speak first?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 393-421, September.
    6. Ricardo Alonso & Wouter Dessein & Niko Matouschek, 2008. "When Does Coordination Require Centralization?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 145-179, March.
    7. Vijay Krishna & John Morgan, 2001. "A Model of Expertise," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 747-775.
    8. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Efficiency of Equity in Organizational Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 154-159, May.
    9. Paul R. Milgrom, 1981. "Good News and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(2), pages 380-391, Autumn.
    10. David Austen-Smith & Tim Feddersen, 2002. "Deliberation and Voting Rules," Discussion Papers 1359, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    11. Nicola Persico, 2004. "Committee Design with Endogenous Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(1), pages 165-191.
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    Cited by:

    1. Graham, John R. & Harvey, Campbell R. & Puri, Manju, 2015. "Capital allocation and delegation of decision-making authority within firms," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(3), pages 449-470.

    More about this item


    Authority; Committees; Debate; Group decision-making; Leadership; Majority rule;

    JEL classification:

    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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