Call for Proposals

From Isolation to Integration in the C-Suite: Consolidating Our Gains in Strategic Leadership Research

At its heart, strategic management is concerned with explaining firm heterogeneity. Scholars within the strategic leadership paradigm view the firm as a reflection of its top managers, and thus build upon the premise that firms vary because their strategists vary. Although this research stream extends back decades, its popularity has risen of late with field-wide interest in behavioral strategy and micro-foundations of strategic management. Scholars have identified the influence of an increasing range of dispositions, cognitions, experiences, and values on CEO behavior, the CEO-TMT and CEO-board interfaces, and broader corporate outcomes while taking advantage of wider and more comprehensive access to promising data sources.

However, when viewed collectively, this work is often fragmented. Executive characteristics are studied in isolation, context is often neglected, and little work is done to develop a more systematic or configurational perspective on executive characteristics. Moreover, strategic leadership research often pays insufficient heed to both its psychological underpinnings and its implications for non-academic audiences. We believe now is an especially opportune time to both integrate isolated gains in strategic leadership research and also identify – in conjunction with micro/OB scholars and practicing managers – meaningful new directions for this stream. The goal of this SMS special conference is to provide a forum for sharing insights with scholars as well as practitioners and to move closer to an integrated view of strategic leadership phenomena.

A number of developments in executive research and practice make it pertinent to address these topics:

  • The proliferation of research on executive traits and values creates a need to aggregate knowledge and craft a path for future research before the field becomes too fragmented.
  • Scholars and practitioners alike are under scrutiny about how executive compensation is detrimental to organizations and society; reconciling the theory and practical implications is therefore critical.
  • Given mounting pressures to perform, executive tenure is increasingly short. Concomitantly, executive turnover has important implications for organizations. Balancing this dichotomy presents a challenge, particularly with demands for increased diversity in the C-Suite. 
  • Executives affect external stakeholders’ views of organizations. The interpretation of executives’ actions/intentions as well as the subsequent status, reputation, or stigma stakeholders assign to an organization are widely consequential, and not yet well understood. 
  • Accessing executives for the purpose of academic study has long been a challenge, and various approaches offer avenues to advance our understanding of this unique population. At the same time, practicing executives can offer insights into the issues they deem important and ways to better work in concert with academics. Moreover, promising new research methods offering configurational and holistic approaches have emerged.

The conference will provide opportunities for strategy (macro) scholars, micro scholars, and executives to interact, with the purpose of generating interesting and novel research questions and locating possible data sources and field sites that will facilitate their testing. Opportunities include prominent keynote speakers, integrative panel discussions, and specific within-track activities as well as social events for informal interactions. 

Theme Tracks

Track Chairs:
Steven Boivie, Texas A&M University
Cuili Qian, University of Texas at Dallas

This track will explore the role of executive demographics (e.g., gender), psychology, and values as sources of action and performance differentials across organizations. We especially encourage work that seeks to integrate multiple executive characteristics and adopts a person-centric (as opposed to a variable-centric) perspective on executives. In what ways can we aggregate what we know and advance understanding in new ways?

Track Chairs:
Rhonda Reger, University of North Texas
Karen Schnatterly, Virginia Tech

Executive compensation and other non-pecuniary benefits, such as the use of corporate jets and country club memberships, help explain executive behavior and firm actions/performance, and have important practical implications. Executives are also motivated by intrinsic rewards. This track represents a deep dive into understanding the myriad implications of executive motivations and total rewards they receive from their firms, such as how rewards differentially appeal to and affect the behavior for various types of CEOs. We particularly welcome work that considers multiple types of rewards and how they combine and interact.

Track Chairs:
Amy Hillman, Arizona State University
Christine Shropshire, Arizona State University

The movement of executives into and out of organizations has important implications for firm strategy and performance. This track will focus attention on how organizations hire, evaluate, and fire the individuals in CEO and TMT roles, as well as in what ways these decisions affect organizations. As the role of the Board of Directors is to select, evaluate, and reward the CEO in particular, questions relating the Board to issues with CEO selection, TMT coordination, and settling up will also be of interest to this track.

Track Chairs:
Daniel Gamache, University of Georgia
Scott Graffin, University of Georgia

The theme of this track will focus on external influences, including both firm stakeholders and different national systems/institutions. Accordingly, work will touch on the many ways that stakeholders’ views of executives matter. Issues such as how executive relationships (e.g., social capital), acquired characteristics (e.g., celebrity, reputation, status, etc.), and behaviors (e.g., statements in earnings calls) affect stakeholders’ views of, and responses to, the firm will be addressed. In addition, the various roles national systems, cultural differences, and legal environments play in the degree to which executives affect firms will be a focus of this track.

Track Chairs:
Brian Boyd, Northern Arizona University
Michael Withers, Texas A&M University

This track will focus on empirical challenges and creative methods to improve both measurement and analysis in executive research. Work that offers holistic and configurational approaches and that seeks to import methodology from other disciplines and subfields of management is especially welcome.