Two Ways to the Top? When and Why Dominance and Prestige Lead to Social Rank


Interpersonal hierarchies are one of the most fundamental structures by which human interactions are organized (Yu & Kilduff, 2019), and dual-strategies theory suggests that humans navigate these hierarchies through the use of dominance (force and coercion) or prestige (display of valued traits to gain respect; Maner & Case, 2016). In this dissertation, I argue that efficacy of dominance and prestige is largely dependent on the context and that a deeper consideration of context is required to make dual-strategies theory useful for modern organizational hierarchies. In Chapter 1, I describe how dominance and prestige may operate in modern organizational contexts, provide the first theoretical integration of dual-strategies theory with the larger body of research on leadership, and offer recommendations as to how future research can more effectively address the modern organizational context. In Chapter 2, I investigate how one contextual factor—the time frame of group interactions—can impact the efficacy of dominance and prestige. I specifically find that dominance and prestige are effective strategies both initially and after extended group interactions, but that prestige is associated with gains in social rank over time while dominance is not. In Chapter 3, I investigate another contextual factor that impacts the efficacy of dominance and prestige: whether leaders are selected by their subordinates or those above them in the hierarchy (i.e., upper-level supervisors). I demonstrate that subordinates are less likely than upper-level supervisors to select a dominant leader and more likely than upper-level supervisors to select a prestige-based leader. This means that dominance may be more effective when leaders are selected from above than when they are selected from below. Finally, in Chapter 4, I draw conclusions from the prior chapters and discuss the implications of my findings.

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