Good Intentions Gone Awry: Investigating a Strategically Oriented MLD Program

Magnus Larsson, Melissa Carsten, Morten Knudsen

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Purpose – Complex organizations increasingly rely on middle managers as strategic linking-pins between the top and bottom levels of the organization. Using social identity theory and commitment theory as the foundation, this study evaluates a management and leadership development program (MLDP) intended to engage middle managers as strategy creators and implementers. We also evaluate the cascading effects of leadership development by assessing changes in subordinates’ identification with the leader, and commitment to the work unit and organization. Design/methodology/approach – Using a sample of 107 manager participants and 913 of their subordinates, this study measures differences in both manager and subordinate identification and commitment prior to and after the completion of a 6 months strategically oriented MLDP. Findings – Despite the organizations’ best intentions, manager identification with and commitment to the organization decreased after completion of the MLDP. Similarly, subordinates identification with the leader and commitment to the organization also decreased at Time 2.
Research limitations/implications – The results paint a complex picture of the nuances of social identification as an outcome of MLDPs, and problematize the notion of cascading effects on subordinates within the organization. Researchers are encouraged to further examine organizational attitudes and perceptions as outcomes of MLDPs. Practical implications – Suggestions are offered regarding how practitioners can manage strategically oriented MLDPs in order to avoid identity confusion and promote strategic action. Originality/value – Strategically oriented MLDPs are increasingly popular in organizations. This study is one of the first to evaluate the theoretical mechanisms through which these programs may affect managers and problematize these effects for complex organizations
TidsskriftJournal of Management Development
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)334-354
Antal sider21
StatusUdgivet - 2020


  • Strategic orientation
  • Leadership development
  • Organizational identification
  • Organizational commitment
  • Cascading effects