Professor in Evolutionary Psychology, Work and Organizational Psychology


Leadership and status

leadership by example in the weak-link game

Cartwright, E., Gillet, J., & Van Vugt, M. (2013). Leadership by example in the weak-link game. Economic Inquiry.



We investigate the effects of leadership in a four player weak-link game. A weaklink game is a coordination game with multiple Pareto-ranked Nash equilibria. Because the more efficient equilibria involve a degree of strategic uncertainty groups typically find it difficult to coordinate on more efficient equilibria. We wanted to see whether leadership by example, in the form of one player acting publicly before the rest of the group, could help groups do better. Our results suggest that leadership can increase efficiency but is far from being a guarantee of success. Specifically, in a significant number of groups we observed successful leadership and increased efficiency, but in most groups efficiency was low despite the efforts of leaders. We did not find any difference between voluntary leaders and leaders that are randomly assigned.

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