Pink Slips from the Underground: Changes in Terror Leadership

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Personnel management at the top of terrorist groups presents a puzzle. Commanders act off-message reasonably often, sometimes angering powerful backers. When this happens group leaders typically have the means and incentives to kill the commander. Yet, we often observe group leaders dismissing them instead. This gives those commanders an opportunity to work against the movement by providing aid to the government or starting a competing group. Why would rational leaders act this way? We argue formally that this is a consequence of having to satisfy two "masters," a common problem in organizational behavior but as of yet underexplored in the study of terrorist organizations. Our model elucidates the substantive factors that underlie a leader's fraught personnel decision when caught in such a bind, here conceptualized as between backers and an important constituency. We develop implications for organizational functioning and structure, government action against groups, and the effect of technological innovations on leaders' incentives.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Foster, MJ; Siegel, DA

Published Date

  • June 1, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 63 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 231 - 243

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1468-2478

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0020-8833

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/isq/sqz017

Citation Source

  • Scopus