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The art of managing individuality

Hanne Nørreklit (Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 30 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to analyse the symbolic forms used in selected mainstream management models and to assess whether it would be expedient for enforcing the connection between leadership and individual human reality if such management models were fundamentally inspired by a successful manager and artist.


The theoretical starting point of this article is Cassirer's philosophy on symbolic forms. The paper analyses the symbolic forms embedded in the management discourse practice of art in the way that the concept is practiced by Kasper Holten, the highly successful Artistic Director of the Royal Danish Opera.


The analysis shows that conventional management control models are rooted in the symbolic form of science, but are at risk of getting caught in assumptions of the form gliding into the symbolic form of religion and myth, where all the forms tend to oppress essential aspects of individuality. Kasper Holten integrates the symbolic forms of art and science, which makes him capable of binding to the individual's life‐world.

Research limitations/implications

Analysing Kasper Holten's views on management reveals features and structures for a new management discourse practice which is far better suited to most of the knowledge jobs in contemporary society than the more conventional management discourse.


The paper provides novel insight into the interrelationship between the specific way of using language and the way of managing and constructing a world. It paves the way for another way of doing management control and accounting.



Nørreklit, H. (2011), "The art of managing individuality", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 265-291.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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