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The effects of prestige on collective performance and information flow in a strictly hierarchical institution.

Offord, M. and Gill, R. and Kendal, J. (2019) 'The effects of prestige on collective performance and information flow in a strictly hierarchical institution.', Palgrave communications., 5 . p. 4.


Institutions such as the military aim to respond efficiently to complex logistical challenges using a strictly hierarchical structure, where leaders are assigned a rank by senior colleagues and team members are trained to obey leader commands. Anthropologists have observed that leadership status outside of these top-down hierarchical institutions is often affected by the attribution of prestige by non-leaders. Here we show that even in the strictly hierarchical institutional context of the Royal Navy, informal prestige networks play a functional role in leadership efficacy and group-level dynamics. Specifically, a team leader’s informal prestige is a far stronger predictor of team performance and rate of information transmission during training exercises at sea than their formal rank. We find that the more decentralised the prestige network the more efficient it is for disseminating information. The implications of our findings for traditional conceptions of leadership in hierarchical institutions and the effects of prestige on group-level behaviour are discussed.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Date accepted:03 December 2018
Date deposited:04 December 2018
Date of first online publication:15 January 2019
Date first made open access:16 January 2019

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