Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Business Administration

Major Professor

Moez Limayem, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard Plank, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Anand Kumar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul Spector, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard Will, Ph.D.


Stakeholder Theory, Shareholder Theory, Theory of the Firm, Business in Society, Governance


The research’s intent is improvement in governance and strategic management initially by comparing Shareholder Theory and Stakeholder Theory and making results useful for both Practitioner and Academic audiences. A conceptual model for how a society establishes and evolves the roles it legitimizes for a business to support reasoning about those roles and the process originating the expectations, responsibilities, obligations, contributions and freedom to act in the roles is proposed. Understanding this process would enable better governance and strategic management of a firm while avoiding unintended consequences when fulfilling the role and consequences for failing the role. The model becomes a basis for comparing Shareholder and Stakeholder Theories.

Context for the model comes from practitioner narratives around changes occurring in business and their themes around the relationship of a business with its ecosystem. To incorporate both the societal and business relationship components, the model building process was based upon concepts and ideas from General Systems, Economics, Sociology, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Evolution, Complexity and Complex Adaptive Systems, Semiotics, as well as Business. This was an iterative abductive, inductive, deductive process with each iteration compared to relevant theory, integrated across the subject domains, then tested against other academic research on the issue, evidence of the model in practice, and a culturomics study across social and industry literature.

These results are exploratory, descriptive, directional, and suggestive for future research opportunities. Problems with Stakeholder Theory are identified but potentially addressed with the conceptual model, in turn suggesting a systemic approach to governance and strategic management. It was determined that Shareholder Theory results in many unintended consequences detrimental to society and the firm. The conceptual model provides points of intervention in the process and suggests potential tooling for governance and strategic management.

A side effect of the research was a perspective on the practitioner / academic divide as the research grappled with the “wicked problem” nature and transdisciplinary nature of process being described. By introducing systems and complexity paradigms in the model, potential ways to address the divide are suggested, such as 3 level analysis (micro, meso, macro).