What’s So Institutional about Leadership? Leadership Mechanisms of Value Infusion

Institutions and Ideals: Philip Selznick’s Legacy for Organizational Studies

ISBN: 978-1-78441-726-0, eISBN: 978-1-78441-725-3

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 28 March 2015


Leaders are important social actors in organizations, centrally involved in establishing and maintaining institutional values, a view that was articulated by Philip Selznick (1957) nearly a half-century ago, but often overlooked in institutionalists’ accounts. Our objective is to build on Selznick’s seminal work to investigate the value proposition of leadership consistent with institutional theory. We examine public interview transcripts from 52 senior executives and discover that leaders’ conceptualizations of their entities align with the archetypes of organization (i.e., economic, hierarchical, and power oriented) and institution (i.e., ideological, creative and collectivist) and cohere around a set of relevant values. Extrapolating from this, we advance a theoretical framework of the process whereby leaders’ claims function as transformational mechanisms of value infusion in the institutionalization of organizations.




We appreciate the constructive and insightful editorial guidance of Matt Kraatz. As well, we are indebted to Frank Dobbin, Mike Lounsbury, Jesper Strandgaard Pederson, Ann Westenholz, and participants at the Organizing Institutions Conference at the Copenhagen Business School for their thoughtful insights and encouragement. We thank Michael Weber for his research assistance and gratefully acknowledge the generous support of Boston College’s Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics and the Joseph F. Cotter Professorship.


Raffaelli, R. and Glynn, M. (2015), "What’s So Institutional about Leadership? Leadership Mechanisms of Value Infusion", Institutions and Ideals: Philip Selznick’s Legacy for Organizational Studies (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 44), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 283-316. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20150000044011

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