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The Structure of Leadership: Presidents, Hierarchies, and Information Flow


  • AUTHOR's NOTE: Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2002 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association and 2003 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. Thanks to Brandice Canes-Wrone, Matt Dickinson, Dave Lewis, Jim Pfiffner, research workshop participants at Princeton's Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, and especially Tom Hammond for helpful conversations and comments on various aspects of this ongoing project. All errors, needless to say, remain my own.

Andrew Rudalevige is associate professor of political science at Dickinson College and visiting research scholar at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, Princeton University.


This article draws on various theories of organization and hierarchy to argue that presidential staff may be conceived as a necessary limiting structure on an otherwise chaotic informational environment. As such, the shape of that structure shapes the kind, caliber, and amount of information presidents receive on policy matters. Melding classic organization theory and recent formal work with earlier hypotheses about staff effectiveness, I argue that informational institutions centered on functional rather than specific policy lines will best serve the president, and that parallel processing and other monitoring mechanisms will also help the president obtain good advice. Evidence from the Truman, Reagan, and Bush II administrations is used to illustrate this theory and sketch a more systematic research agenda.