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Att leda storföretag: En studie av social kompetens och entreprenörskap i näringslivet med fokus på Axel Ax:son Johnson och J. Sigfrid Edström, 1900-1950
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History.
2005 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates leadership in Swedish business during the period of 1900-1950. The main aim is to explore the relationship between entrepreneurship and leadership and how the leader uses his social competence, both inside and outside the company, to enhance economic and organisational change. The study focuses on two main characters: Axel Ax:son Johnson (1876-1958), manager and owner of Johnsonkoncernen (The Johnson group), and J. Sigfrid Edström (1870-1964), professional manager of ASEA (today ABB). They represented Swedish capitalism in its golden years. The study uses archives previously never opened to researchers.

To understand how and why leadership have changed during the 20th century, the theoretical framework is based on the concepts of entrepreneurship, paternalism, network and charisma. Leadership involves communication. The corporate leader in the early 20th century had to build networks both of stronger and looser types, each of these two types with a different aim, but with the ambition to care for the company’s best interest. Johnson and Edström used their personality to attain more power inside the company as well as to attract attention from the outside. This thesis shows that if the leaders took advantage of their social communication skills they could create new combinations, which could benefit their companies. Therefore, the leader had to bring out the best in his co-workers, in order to attract new ideas, competence and entrepreneurial skills around him. The leader did not only involve himself in networks with fellow industrialists, but also with Social Democrats and journalists.

Johnson and Edström had to be leaders not only within the company but also in the surrounding society. They involved themselves in many other areas; in the local community and as opinion builders. The patriarchal strategies still proved fruitful during the period. Yet, modern strategies connected to large organizations and bureaucratic methods were also introduced. It was hard for the employees to accept these changes. If the companies would expand, the leader could attract admirers and followers who fully accepted the leadership and strategies. The leader had to become an entrepreneur with a will to encourage others.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, 2005. , 420 p.
Stockholm Studies in Economic History, ISSN 0346-8305 ; 45
Keyword [en]
leadership, entrepreneurship, social competence, charisma, paternalism, network, Axel Ax:son Johnson, Sigfrid Edström, Johnsonkoncernen, Avesta Jernverk, ASEA, biography, big business, opinion-builder, family business, professional leadership, economic history
National Category
Economic History
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-728ISBN: 91-85445-17-7OAI: diva2:197967
Public defence
2005-12-09, hörsal 11, hus F, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2005-11-05 Created: 2005-11-05 Last updated: 2012-07-05Bibliographically approved

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