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IACM 2023

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Network Versus Expertise: The Effect of One’s Path To Power On Conformity Behavior

Employees attain positions of leadership via different paths, specifically through their networks or because of their expertise. In these positions, leaders often need to mold consensus even when there may be pressures to comply with the majority. Can leaders’ paths to power influence their propensity to conform? Across 4 studies (N = 1,763) we observe individuals who attain positions of power via their network (versus expertise) to conform more to others’ opinions. We study this effect via a survey of professionals (Study 1), as well as in tightly controlled experimental studies (Studies 2-4). We find that powerholders’ awareness of their dependency on others mediates this effect (Study 2), that one’s path to power affects their observable conformity behavior (Study 3), and that this effect is stronger for those in high-rank positions (Study 4). Thus, securing a position of power via one’s network may encourage leaders to follow, rather than lead.

Kelly Nault
IE Business School

Andy Yap

Michael Schaerer
Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University


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