Research supporting the Matthew effect demonstrates that high-status actors experience performance benefits due to increased recognition of their work and greater opportunities and resources, but recent research also indicates that high-status actors face a greater risk of negative performance evaluations. In this paper, we seek to contribute to the status literature by reconciling these findings and ask: To what extent does status influence heterogeneity in performance evaluations? We explore how project leader status affects the performance of innovation projects in the video game industry. We hypothesize that there is an inverted U-shaped relationship between project leader status and project performance, and a positive relationship between project leader status and performance extremeness (i.e., performance variation). In order to test our hypotheses, we analysed the performance of video game projects and computed the status of project leaders by applying a project affiliation social network analysis. We find that an intermediate level of status – neither too much nor too little – is positively associated with average project performance. We also reveal more extreme performance effects for high-status leaders: While some achieve superior project performance, others experience significant project failures. We, therefore, provide important theoretical and practical insights regarding how status affects the implementation of innovations. We also discuss the implications of these findings for the literature on middle-status conformity.
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© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Management Studies published by Society for the Advancement of Management Studies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd