The Handbook of Research on Top Management Teams
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The Handbook of Research on Top Management Teams

Edited by Mason A. Carpenter

This Handbook presents original research and theory on executives, top management teams, and boards of directors and illustrates the vital importance of this field of study.
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Chapter 9: Corporate Elite Career Experiences and Strategic Preferences: The Case of the Chinese Corporate Governance Reform

Wm. Gerard Sanders and Anja Tuschke


Wm. Gerard (Gerry) Sanders and Anja Tuschke In the past several decades, research on top executives has grown steadily, largely as a result of Hambrick and Mason’s (1984) influential upper echelons framework (Carpenter et al., 2004; Finkelstein et al., 2009). At a theoretical level, top managers process stimuli through filters comprised of values and cognition. They make strategic choices based on how they process these stimuli, and those choices affect important organizational outcomes. Top management’s values and cognitive base are developed in numerous ways, such as through indigenous culture, education, and work experiences. As Carpenter et al. (2004) note, the upper echelons perspective is also a methodological orientation that proposes that demographic characteristics serve as useful proxies for unobserved cognitive and psychological properties of top managers. Such a perspective generally assumes that the observed proxies tap into relatively stable managerial properties. However, a number of cognitive properties are developed over time through experience, and thus even mature managers may develop along different pathways from colleagues who otherwise appear to be homogeneous on a number of the dimensions that upper echelons research typically focuses on (e.g., tenure, age, functional background). Only recently have scholars started to analyze the evolution of demographic distributions among the firm’s upper echelons (Beckman and Burton, 2008). Consistent with this recent work, we assume that managerial values and preferences develop over time through foundational experiences. However, these foundational experiences may also play important roles in preparing and qualifying managers for positions at the pinnacle of organizations (Carpenter...

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