What do managers know? Wisdom and manager identity in later career

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In this article we focus on the knowing of experienced middle managers in later career and make a two-fold contribution to management learning research. Firstly, we critically examine the construct of wisdom as a way of deepening understanding of such managers’ knowing and we respond calls to provide empirical evidence of the manifestations of wisdom in contemporary management practice. Secondly, we assess the managers’ engagement with wisdom as a resource for identity-work. Management is increasingly conceptualised as an identity project and we examine how managers deployed wisdom as a discursive identity resource. We show how wisdom was used to counter currently favoured normative narratives of evidence based management and the associated subject position of the omniscient and rational, but never quite adequate, manager. We reveal how narratives of wisdom were drawn upon in constructing distinctive, valued and preferred managerial subjectivities sustainable in later career. Finally, we propose implications for management learning and manager education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-430
JournalManagement Learning
Issue number4
Early online date1 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


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