Journal of Management Control

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 223–240 | Cite as

Upper echelons theory in management accounting and control research

  • Martin R. W. HieblEmail author
Short survey paper


In recent years, scholars have started to draw on upper echelons theory to analyze the relationship between the characteristics of top managers and management accounting and control systems. This short survey paper aims to give an overview of upper echelons theory and its current applications to management accounting and control research. The paper shows that existing research consistently finds that younger and shorter-tenured CFOs and top managers with business-related backgrounds are associated with more innovative and/or sophisticated management accounting and control systems. In contrast, the (sparse) extant results on CEO characteristics and on characteristics of top management teams are somewhat contradictory. The paper concludes with an outlook on fruitful future research avenues, which include the analysis of additional management accounting and control systems and additional upper echelon characteristics, moderators such as managerial discretion and executive job demands, and the combined effect of upper echelons and management accounting and control systems on organizational performance.


Upper echelons Management accounting Management control 



The author thanks two anonymous reviewers for their most helpful comments and Ingrid Abfalter for her outstanding assistance in language editing.


  1. Abernethy, M. A., Bouwens, J., & van Lent, L. (2010). Leadership and control system design. Management Accounting Research, 21(1), 2–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arthaud-Day, M. L., Certo, S. T., Dalton, C., & Dalton, D. R. (2006). A changing of the guard: executive and director turnover following corporate financial restatements. Academy of Management Journal, 49(6), 1119–1136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baxter, J., & Chua, W. F. (2008). Be(com)ing the chief financial officer of an organisation: Experimenting with Bourdieu’s practice theory. Management Accounting Research, 19(3), 212–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burkert, M., & Lueg, R. (2013). Differences in the sophistication of value-based management: The role of top executives. Management Accounting Research, 24(1), 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carpenter, M. A., Geletkanycz, M. A., & Sanders, W. G. (2004). Upper echelons research revisited: Antecedents, elements, and consequences of top management team composition. Journal of Management, 30(6), 749–778.Google Scholar
  6. Chenhall, R. H. (2003). Management control systems design within its organizational context: Findings from contingency-based research and directions for the future. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 28(2–3), 127–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crossland, C., & Hambrick, D. C. (2011). Differences in managerial discretion across countries: How nation-level institutions affect the degree to which CEOs matter. Strategic Management Journal, 32(8), 797–819.Google Scholar
  8. Dunford, B. B., Boswell, W. R., & Boudreau, J. W. (2010). When do high-level managers believe they can influence the stock price? Antecedents of stock price expectancy cognitions. Human Resource Management, 49(1), 23–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Elbashir, M. Z., Collier, P. A., & Sutton, S. G. (2011). The role of organizational absorptive capacity in strategic use of business intelligence to support integrated management control systems. The Accounting Review, 86(1), 155–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Finkelstein, S., Hambrick, D. C., & Cannella, A. A. (2009). Strategic leadership: Theory and research on executives, top management teams, and boards. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Gallo, M. A., Tàpies, J., & Cappuyns, K. (2004). Comparison of family and nonfamily business: Financial logic and personal preferences. Family Business Review, 17(4), 303–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gallo, M. A., & Vilaseca, A. (1998). A financial perspective on structure, conduct and performance in the family firm: An empirical study. Family Business Review, 11(1), 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ge, W., Matsumoto, D., & Zhang, J. L. (2011). Do CFOs have style? An empirical investigation of the effect of individual CFOs on accounting practices. Contemporary Accounting Research, 28(4), 1141–1179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Geiger, M. A., & North, D. S. (2006). Does hiring a new CFO change things? An investigation of changes in discretionary accruals. The Accounting Review, 81(4), 781–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goretzki, L. (2013). Management accounting and the construction of the legitimate manager. Journal of Management Control, 23(4), 319–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Goretzki, L., Strauss, E., & Weber, J. (2013). An institutional perspective on the changes in management accountants’ professional role. Management Accounting Research, 24(1), 41–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Guenther, T. W. (2013). Conceptualisations of ‘controlling’ in German-speaking countries: Analysis and comparison with Anglo-American management control frameworks. Journal of Management Control, 23(4), 269–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hambrick, D. C. (2007). Upper echelons theory: An update. Academy of Management Review, 32(2), 334–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hambrick, D. C., & Finkelstein, S. (1987). Managerial discretion: A bridge between polar views of organizational outcomes. Research in Organizational Behavior, 9, 369–406.Google Scholar
  20. Hambrick, D. C., Finkelstein, S., & Mooney, A. C. (2005). Executive job demands: New insights for explaining strategic decisions and leader behaviors. Academy of Management Review, 30(3), 472–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hambrick, D. C., & Mason, P. A. (1984). Upper echelons: The organization as a reflection of its top managers. Academy of Management Review, 9(2), 193–206.Google Scholar
  22. Hartmann, F., Naranjo-Gil, D., & Perego, P. (2010). The effects of leadership styles and use of performance measures on managerial work-related attitudes. European Accounting Review, 19(2), 275–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hiebl, M. R. W. (2013). Bean counter or strategist? Differences in the role of the CFO in family and non-family businesses. Journal of Family Business Strategy, 4(2), 147–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hilger, S., Richter, A., & Schäffer, U. (2013). Hanging together, together hung? Career implications of interpersonal ties between CEOs and top managers. BuR-Business Research, 6(1), 8–32.Google Scholar
  25. Huang, J., & Kisgen, D. J. (2013). Gender and corporate finance: Are male executives overconfident relative to female executives? Journal of Financial Economics, 108(3), 822–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. IFERA. (2003). Family businesses dominate: Families are the key players around the world, but prefer the backstage positions. Family Business Review, 16(4), 235–239.Google Scholar
  27. Judge, T. A., Piccolo, R. F., & Ilies, R. (2004). The forgotten ones? The validity of consideration and initiating structure in leadership research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(1), 36–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kyj, L., & Parker, R. J. (2008). Antecedents of budget participation: Leadership style, information asymmetry, and evaluative use of budget. Abacus, 44(4), 423–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lee, J., Elbashir, M. Z., Mahama, H., & Sutton, S. G. (2013). Enablers of top management team support for integrated management control systems innovations. International Journal of Accounting Information Systems. doi: 10.1016/j.accinf.2013.07.001.
  30. Li, C., Sun, L., & Ettredge, M. (2010). Financial executive qualifications, financial executive turnover, and adverse SOX 404 opinions. Journal of Accounting and Economics, 50(1), 93–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lucey, B. M., Plaksina, Y., & Dowling, M. (2013). CEO social status and acquisitiveness. Qualitative Research in Financial Markets, 5(2), 161–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Luft, J., & Shields, M. D. (2003). Mapping management accounting: Graphics and guidelines for theory-consistent empirical research. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 28(2–3), 169–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Malmi, T., & Brown, D. A. (2008). Management control systems as a package: Opportunities, challenges and research directions. Management Accounting Research, 19(4), 287–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mian, S. (2001). On the choice and replacement of chief financial officers. Journal of Financial Economics, 60(1), 143–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miller, C. C., Burke, L. M., & Glick, W. H. (1998). Cognitive diversity among upper-echelon executives: implications for strategic decision processes. Strategic Management Journal, 19(1), 39–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Naranjo-Gil, D., & Hartmann, F. (2006). How top management teams use management accounting systems to implement strategy. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 18, 21–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Naranjo-Gil, D., & Hartmann, F. (2007a). How CEOs use management information systems for strategy implementation in hospitals. Health Policy, 81(1), 29–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Naranjo-Gil, D., & Hartmann, F. (2007b). Management accounting systems, top management team heterogeneity and strategic change. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 32(7–8), 735–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Naranjo-Gil, D., Maas, V. S., & Hartmann, F. G. H. (2009). How CFOs determine management accounting innovation: An examination of direct and indirect effects. European Accounting Review, 18(4), 667–695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nielsen, S. (2010). Top management team diversity: A review of theories and methodologies. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(3), 301–316.Google Scholar
  41. Pavlatos, O. (2012). The impact of CFOs’ characteristics and information technology on cost management systems. Journal of Applied Accounting Research, 13(3), 242–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roussanov, N. (2010). Diversification and its discontents: Idiosyncratic and entrepreneurial risk in the quest for social status. The Journal of Finance, 65(5), 1755–1788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Speckbacher, G., & Wentges, P. (2012). The impact of family control on the use of performance measures in strategic target setting and incentive compensation: A research note. Management Accounting Research, 23(1), 34–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Strauß, E., & Zecher, C. (2013). Management control systems: A review. Journal of Management Control, 23(4), 233–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Waldman, D. A., Javidan, M., & Varella, P. (2004). Charismatic leadership at the strategic level: A new application of upper echelons theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 15(3), 355–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zander, K., Büttner, V., Hadem, M., Richter, A., & Schäffer, U. (2009). Unternehmenserfolg, Wechsel im Vorstandsvorsitz und Disziplinierung von Finanzvorständen. Zeitschrift für Betriebswirtschaft, 79(12), 1343–1386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zorn, D. M. (2004). Here a chief, there a chief: The rise of the CFO in the American firm. American Sociological Review, 69(3), 345–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Management Control and ConsultingJohannes Kepler University LinzLinzAustria

Personalised recommendations