Publication Date

June 2008


Why do some leaders succeed while others fail? This question is important, but its complexity makes it hard to study systematically. We draw on a setting where there are well-defined objectives, small teams of workers, and exact measures of leaders’ characteristics and organizational performance. We show that a strong predictor of a leader’s success in year T is that person’s own level of attainment, in the underlying activity, in approximately year T-20. Our data come from 15,000 professional basketball games and reveal that former star players make the best coaches. This ‘expert knowledge’ effect is large.


Suggested Citation
Goodall, A. H., Kahn, L. M., & Oswald, A. J. (2008). Why do leaders matter? The role of expert knowledge. Retrieved [insert date] from Cornell University, ILR School site: