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Choice of an authoritative style when implementing a survival urgency-based strategic change: A middle manager’s perspective

Maheshkumar Joshi (School of Business – George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)
Sanjeev Jha (Department of Information and Decision Sciences, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana, USA)

Journal of Strategy and Management

ISSN: 1755-425X

Article publication date: 15 May 2017




Extant research suggests that managing strategic change has become a key managerial function and this duty encompasses changes in organizational product-market boundaries and organizational structure among many related organizational activities. The need to achieve strategic change arises because of major shifts in the external environment and the subsequent need for the organization to remain viable and competitive in the changed environment. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to investigate if middle managers are likely to adopt authoritative style while implementing strategic change when they sense organizational survival.


“Sensemaking” literature led to development of the authors’ hypotheses and these were tested using the responses of 117 middle managers. The authors used survey-based instrument to collect data and used regression analysis to explicate the responses of the middle managers.


Results indicate that when middle managers sense that the survival of the organization is at stake, they are likely to choose an authoritative style. The authors also investigated the moderating role of organizational commitment, strategic posture of the top management team, and hostile business environment on the relationship between perception of survival urgency and the choice of authoritative implementation style. Only organizational commitment moderates this relationship.

Research limitations/implications

The authors’ data collection was survey based and the authors used a single source for each questionnaire and this process may lead to possibilities of mono-method bias. However, steps were taken to reduce the resultant mono-method bias. The respondents are from a variety of industries and future research may focus on one specific industry.

Practical implications

The first implication of this study allows us to expand research focus on the adoption of authoritative style, a research area that is not explored very much. The second implication of the study is that middle managers tend to focus on their emotions when it comes to implementing strategic changes. Using arguments from sensemaking the authors show that the perception of need for survival or the perception that business environment is hostile will determine how strategic change could be implemented. Middle managers must be treated as more than just the implementers of the directives/fiats/orders/edicts that originate from the top.

Social implications

Role of middle managers in strategic change management is critical and the authors suggest that the perception of organizational survival at risk leads to choice managerial style by middle managers.


The authors have combined ideas from both the strategic management and organizational development fields to understand successfully the implementation of strategic change in a survival urgency situation. In the past, the strategic management literature focused primarily on understanding strategy formulation process, and the process of implementation was generally neglected. The respondents are from a variety of industries. The analysis indicate that membership to any one firm was not impacting the results obtained by the authors and as such allows for results to generalized.



Joshi, M. and Jha, S. (2017), "Choice of an authoritative style when implementing a survival urgency-based strategic change: A middle manager’s perspective", Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 168-186.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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