Leaders, Managers, Entrepreneurs on and Off the Organizational Stage*

Topics: Leadership, Organizational studies, Entrepreneurship Pages: 24 (8022 words) Published: March 26, 2013
Leaders, Managers, Entrepreneurs On and Off the Organizational Stage* Barbara Czarniawska-Joerges, Rolf Wolff
My purpose is to tell of bodies which have been transformed into shapes of different kinds. You heavenly powers, sinee you were responsible for those changes, as for all else, look favourably on my attempts, and spin an unbroken thread of verse, from the earliest beginnings of the world, down to my own times. Ovid: Metamorphoses Abstract Barbara CzarniawsicaJoerges Department of Business Administration, Lund University, Lund, Sweden Roif Woiff Gothenburg Research Institute at the School of Economics and Legal Science, Gothenburg, Sweden

This paper explores three crucial roles of the organizational theatre: managers, leaders and entrepreneurs. Changing fashion in the organizational theory debate as well as in organizational practice puts different roles in focus at different times. Organization theory should, accordingly, shift its attention toward studying the contexts in which a given role acquires dominance, in place of an unreflective discussion of the relative functional advantages of each of them. This paper argues that none of the three will ever go out of fashion, as they can be seen as enactments of archetypes, embodying the different fears and hopes of those who create organizations by their daily performance. Leadership is seen as symbolic performance, expressing the hope of control over destiny; management as the activity of introducing order by coordinating flows of things and people towards collective action, and entrepreneurship as the making of entire new worlds. The sociohistorical context needs to be considered as the stage-set wherein these roles gain prominence.


Organization Studies 1991, 12/4: 529-546 © 1991 EGOS 0170-8406/91 0012-0022 $2.00

Leaders are in, managers are out, entrepreneurs are waiting in the corridor. What orders their appearances and disappearances? In an attempt to answer this question, we propose to analyze all three roles, not in terms of organizational effectiveness, but as symbolic expressions of collective hopes and fears, played out ('performed') on the organizational stage. Leaders, managers and entrepreneurs are supposed to serve certain functions in organizations — functions which are ascribed to so-called executive positions. The term 'executive' comes from the times when managers were supposed to execute the owners' will. The separation of ownership and control (Chandler 1977) complicated this simple relationship, opening the way for discussions on the desired form of the executive role. This debate does not take place in a vacuum; it accompanies, reflects and influences changes in organizational practices and theories. Just which functions and in what configuration changes, both with theories and with time, because the definition of what executive functions should entail changes in line with master-ideas, whose time comes and goes (Czarniawska-Joerges and Joerges 1990). These, in turn, are related to


Barbara Czarniawska-Joerges, Rolf Wolff

broader changes in the cultural context of organizing (Czarniawska 1986). An ambition to tackle the issues of context leads researchers to obviously relevant aspects such as changes in business cycles or changes in political climate. A study of these can of course, if treated with devotion, completely fill more than one research career, and yet there always remains something unanswered, a phenomenon unexplained, of a kind that conventional organization studies are poorly equipped to grasp. Perhaps the theatre metaphor (Mangham and Overington 1986; Czarniawska-Joerges 1992) would help in describing those ephemeral phenomena. What leads to a change in repertoire of a theatre, a replacement of comedy by tragedy, Shakespeare by Pinter? It is the decision of the management, the wishes of the primadonnas, the current cultural fashion, the economic exigencies — and much more. In the organizational...
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