Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the idea that the ideal manager is a social construct that is a product of the context within which it exists. The context chosen to illustrate this idea is that of the first two decades of the Cold War (1945‐1965) in the USA. Design/methodology/approach – The methodology used is an analysis of 17 management textbooks published between 1945 and 1965 in the USA. Findings – The analysis of the textbooks shows a typification of the ideal manager as an educated male who wielded authority effectively and accepted social responsibility. These four characteristics can all be tied to the social and political context of the early Cold War years. Research limitations/implications – Limited by its focus on management theory in the USA during the early Cold War era, and a selection of textbooks based on available resources. Future research could analyze the ideal manager construct during social and political contexts other than the Cold War, and across other social formations (e.g. the UK, Canada, France, etc.). Practical implications – Practical implications apply to both organizations and academic institutions. Management educators should be attempting to use textbooks that present management theory in a problematic way and organizations should be aware of the impact of social and political context on the construct of the manager in order to determine the qualities and characteristics that are most needed today. Originality/value – The paper looks at the ideal manager as a social construct, rather than an ideal that was created void of outside influence and assumed to be ideal for all contexts. It also uses the context of the Cold War period, which has been a neglected context in management research.
Journal of Management History – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 26, 2008
Keywords: Managers; Management theory; Books; Historical periods