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Strategic LeadershipTheory and Research on Executives, Top Management Teams, and Boards$
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Bert Cannella, Sydney Finkelstein, and Donald C. Hambrick

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195162073

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195162073.001.0001

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Do Top Executives Matter?

Do Top Executives Matter?

Chapter:
(p.16) 2 Do Top Executives Matter?
Source:
Strategic Leadership
Author(s):

Sydney Finkelstein (Contributor Webpage)

Donald C. Hambrick (Contributor Webpage)

Albert A. Cannella

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195162073.003.0002

The chapter commences with an overview of the literature on executive roles, but then primarily addresses the central debate over whether top executives really have much influence on what happens to their organizations. On one side of the debate is much of the work in strategic management, which asserts that top executives can greatly affect—for good or for ill—the form and fate of their companies. On the other side, various schools within organizational theory—notably population ecology, contingency theory, and institutional theory—have argued that executives are greatly constrained by inertial, environmental, and normative forces. The chapter primarily elaborates on Hambrick and Finkelstein's introduction of the concept of “managerial discretion” as a theoretical lever for resolving this debate. The amount of managerial discretion, or latitude of action, that a given executive possesses arises from environmental, organizational, and individual factors. The chapter concludes with an overview of the literature on “the romance of leadership,” or the human tendency to believe that managers make a difference.

Keywords:   executive roles, managerial discretion, executive effects, romance of leadership

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