What difference does the quality of the single person at the top make for the overall performance of the organization? How dependent are large companies on their CEOs? Are they really the ones leading the firm or just mascots with very limited powers?
These questions are very hard to answer since CEOs work only for a very small number of different firms in their lifetime. This limits the scope to measure their contribution to organizational success, because observing the same manager in different organizations thus using different sets of resources and working with different people is crucial to measure a manager’s contribution to overall success.
In a new IZA Discussion Paper, Sandra Hentschel, Gerd Mühlheußer and Dirk Sliwka study the impact of managers on the success of professional soccer teams using data from the German “Bundesliga”. The authors exploit the high turnover of managers between teams to disentangle the managers’ contributions. Furthermore, team performance is publicly observable on a weekly basis.
The researchers find that teams employing a manager at the 75% ability percentile gain on average 0.25 points per game more than those employing a manager at the 25% ability percentile, which corresponds to a sizeable difference of 18% of the average number of points awarded per game.
As an example: In comparison to a moderately able manager, a team coached by Jürgen Klopp (the current coach of Borussia Dortmund) would have achieved 0.46 points more per game, leading to 15.64 more points per season. On the other hand, a team coached by Benno Möhlmann (the current manager of FSV Frankfurt) would have acquired 0.33 points less per game or 11.22 points per season.