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Identifying Good Managers

Updated: Jun 15


Overview

We develop an experimental method to isolate the contribution managers make to team

success. The method requires observing people manage multiple groups and carefully controlling for the individual skills of both managers and workers. We test our approach in a large, pre-registered lab study. We find that some managers have a consistently positive impact on their teams. Surprisingly, people who want to be managers perform worse on average than managers selected randomly. Manager contributions are associated with decision-making skills, but not gender, age or ethnicity.


Key Empirical Findings

  • Good managers are roughly twice as valuable as good workers in our experiment

  • People who nominate themselves to manage perform worse than managers who got the job through a lottery. We find evidence that this is due to self-promoted managers being overconfident, especially about their social skills.

  • Managerial performance is positively predicted by economic decision-making skill and fluid intelligence – but not by gender, age, or ethnicity.

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