Unacknowledged pioneers in 20th-century management thought


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‘Management by objective’ is an expression coined by Peter Drucker in 1954. The quest for ‘corporate excellence’ originated with the book ‘In Search of Excellence’ (co-written with Robert Waterman) that catapulted overnight Tom Peters from obscurity to worldwide fame. ‘Business re-engineering’, which transformed corporations throughout the 1990s, was theorised by Michael Hammer and James Champy. ‘Competitive advantages’, eagerly sought after by corporate executives around the world, were first spotted by Michael Porter in 1980, the most widely quoted management author. As for the 8 steps for managing changes that consultants apply worldwide, they were designed by John Kotter.

As the aforementioned examples illustrate, a small group of management gurus has played a pivotal, and perhaps unduly monopolistic, role in shaping management theory and practice. For better or worse, their ideas, theories and often charismatic personas have left indelible marks on how things are done in workplaces. From the early proponents of the classical school (Taylor, Fayol, the Gilbreths, etc.) to controversial CEOs such as Alfred Sloan or Jack Welch and contemporary figures like Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg and others, management gurus have been behind creation of a near homogenous view of organisational best practice. Indeed, the expression ‘best practice’ itself comes from the guru playbook and implicitly conveys the idea that deviation from orthodoxy is undesirable. The media for purveying the guru’s prescriptions are business schools and associated consultancies. These spheres of commercial life are, of course, industries in themselves, often highly profitable but with a growing list of detractors.

The conventional wisdom is that monopolies benefit only those who hold them. This maxim is indisputably true in the economic arena but is also arguably alive and well when it comes to intellectual monopolies. This Special Issue of JMH puts the spotlight on the dysfunctional historical role of intellectual monopolies in the development of management thought. It invites contributions from scholars who seek to make a case that there are consequential thinkers from (specifically) the 20th century who merit a place on the podium alongside those who dominate the textbooks. In short, the mission of the Special Issue is to break up the intellectual monopoly that began with the classical school and has had a stranglehold on orthodoxy.


List of topic areas

  • How one is installed as a guru: a historical case of style over substance? 
  • Breaking up the monopoly: Unacknowledged gurus. 
  • The legacy of management gurus on business education, leadership development and executive training. 
  • The reception and critique of management gurus' ideas in academic and practitioner communities. 
  • The ethics and ethical implications of management guru philosophies and practices. 
  • The emergence and sway of contemporary management gurus in the digital age. 
  • Flesh and blood gurus vs. artificial gurus: what’s coming?


Guest Editors

Anthony M. Gould, 
Université Laval, 
[email protected]

Jean-Etienne Joullié, 
[email protected]


Submissions Information 

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available by clicking the button below.
Submit your paper here!
Author guidelines must be strictly followed.
Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to “Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.


Key Deadlines 

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 1 November 2023 
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 1 May 2024
Closing date for abstract submission: 1 February 2024 
Email for submissions: [email protected]