Dominance and Prestige: please, help!

I read today Jon K. Maner’s paper “Dominance and Prestige: A Tale of Two Hierarchies “.

Dominance and prestige are two distinct mechanism navigate in the to social ladder. Dominance is an evolutionary more ancient strategy, and is based on the ability to intimidate other members in the group by physical size and strength. The group members don’t accept the social rank freely, only by coercion. Prestige is based on skills and knowledge appraised by the community, and it is maintained without pressure. It is not a surprise, that the people adopting different strategies differ in their personality traits. People using dominance are more aggressive, manipulative, and narcissistic. However, people who use prestige instead are more conscientiousness, had higher self-esteem, and are able to make agreement with others. Both strategies might have some negative consequences. Dominant leaders has a higher priority is to keep power than to achieve group goals, while leaders having prestige sometimes prioritize their social approval over group goals.

Several years earlier Cheng JT and his coauthors also analyzed the two pathways:

Two Ways to the Top: Evidence that Dominance and Prestige are Distinct yet Viable Avenues to Social Status

They gave examples for the two ways:

From 1945 to 1980, Henry Ford II—grandson of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company—built Ford into the second largest industrial corporation worldwide, amidst a turbulent post World War II economy. Ford II attained his success, in part, by developing a  reputation for erratic outbursts of temper and unleashing humiliation and punishment at will upon his employees, who described him as a terrorizing dictator, bigot, and hypocrite. When challenged or questioned by subordinates, Ford II would famously remind those who dared  contradict him, “My name is on the building”. Yet, despite being widely regarded as one of the most intimidating and autocratic CEOs to ever grace the company, Ford II was an enormously  successful leader, and he has been credited with reviving the Ford business legend during a period of turmoil and crisis (Iacocca, 1984).

A contrasting example of effective leadership can be seen in the case of Warren Buffett,  chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, who was ranked the world’s third wealthiest person in 2010. Unlike Ford II, Buffett ran his company by developing a reputation for subtly steering rather than controlling every decision-making process. His autonomy-generating approach to  leadership is said to instill confidence and boost performance among his executives, whom Buffett describes as brilliant coworkers he trusts and respects. Buffett thus exemplifies a style of leadership quite opposite to that of Ford II, yet both individuals reached what can only be  considered the highest level of social status possible in any industry. This raises the question: are  here multiple ways of attaining social status and influence in human societies?

Please, could you write examples for the two prototypes! (My Hungarian fellows: please please forget about the present day local “heroes”!


4 thoughts on “Dominance and Prestige: please, help!”

  1. I barely know about corporations, but this topic of dominance and prestige is used a lot in movies and book. Like Darth Vader and Master Yoda in Star Wars, or Simba and Mufasa in Lion King. And usually negative character uses dominance.


  2. Back in the 1990s HP had the reputation of having an inspiring, democratic
    style of leadership – this was well known in the Canadian company Cadabra
    where she used to work back then. In later years, companies started to
    better control their public image, for purposes of marketing. On the other
    hand, Steve Jobs is known to have been a more autocratic leader, and he is
    also blamed for some bad decisions of Apple (details of this should be
    recoverable form newspapers). Another point, decedes passed between Ford II
    and Warren Buffett, and what worked back then may not work the same way
    today. At least a company dictator nowadays has to have some means to
    attract and keep employees – and these means likely need to involve more
    than good salaries. Headhunters keep suggesting alternatives to valuable


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s