Management and Its Historical Evolution

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The assessment of the historical evolution of management can help identify relevant concepts and approaches that originated in different eras and influenced the formation of modern principles of control and interaction with personnel in organizations. The goal is to analyze the achievements of various thinkers, sociologists, and economists regarding adequate employer-employee communication mechanisms. As the periods for evaluation, several milestones will be considered, including BC, early centuries during the Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity, medieval ideas of enlightenment, and findings from the last century. The value of this research is determined by the ability to identify the dynamics of management thought and the variety of concepts that have laid the background for leadership control rules and principles in modern enterprises.

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Management theory has always been dynamic, and the flexibility of its approaches was noted by ancient philosophers. The emphasis on human labor, as the main resource for achieving the set goals and objectives, has always been key in the formation of ideas for productive control. Earlier concepts were based on stimulating a departure from traditional monopolistic models and assumed the importance of independence in the conduct of business, including the absence of constant supervision by the authorities. Further, additional criteria for successful governance were highlighted, and such concepts as rationalism, utilitarianism, and bureaucracy emerged. Later theories included detailed recommendations for the development of management in organizations and listed the basic principles that were to be adhered to for effective and strategically competent work. The research carried out can help compare a number of concepts to obtain an objective picture of the evolution of management thought and assess the dynamics of its transformations over the centuries.


Professional management, despite the relative historical brevity of the period, has undergone an intensive and radical evolution. In this development, several stages can be distinguished, and the basis for them can be a simple but clear and effective criterion – the factors affecting performance. Having originated several thousand years ago in ancient civilizations, the management background was laid on the basic principles of controlling and stimulating work activity. Over time, approaches to control have evolved and improved, leading to the emergence of management theories and models. Individual innovators made personal contributions to the development of management thought and identified actionable concepts that defined successful governance. Changes in success factors and management technologies have always been associated with flexible conditions of interaction with subordinates.

Early Prerequisites for the Evolution of Management

Socrates was one of the first authoritative thinkers to define the characteristics of management. According to Wren and Bedeian (2020), the philosopher “believed in the transferability of managerial knowledge,” which meant a departure from the ideas of monopolizing power and the possibility of building flexible models for controlling labor (p. 13). His follower, Plato, developed the ideas of Socrates and introduced the concept of labor division. As Wren and Bedeian (2020) note, Plato was one of the first to propose an emphasis on human diversity, and based on this principle, appropriate tasks were offered to workers depending on their qualifications and training. This management principle runs counter to ancient management models based on complete employer dominance and employee subordination.

Roman rulers made a special contribution to the evolution of management thought. The spread of Christianity became the prerequisite for the emergence of the idea of ​​centralized power and the unification of individual communities into integral groups obeying a single apparatus (Wren & Bedeian, 2020). At the same time, conflicts occurred intermittently, caused by disagreements over distinctive views on governance doctrine. As a result, by the Middle Ages and the birth of the ideas of enlightenment, there were many disagreements regarding the principles of labor organization and the need to centralize power.

Managerial Thought in the Age of Enlightenment

During the enlightenment age, a number of relevant theories and models of management developed due to the active work of eminent sociologists and economists. In particular, Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham became the founders of the concepts of rationalism and utilitarianism, respectively (Cristofaro, 2017). Smith insisted that the work of organizations was not to be subordinate to the state apparatus and dependent on governments. According to Cristofaro (2017), Adam Smith emphasized that capital was not based on money but on production and real human labor. Economic competition and free movement of goods could exist only in conditions of the liberation of the economy from state regulation and the ability of organizations to conduct economic activities independently. These ideas laid the foundation for a market economy and opened up opportunities for the creation of enterprises with individual management teams.

Bentham’s concept of utilitarianism also became a significant step towards the development of management thought. As Cristofaro (2017) states, Bentham’s ideas of control were based on creating conditions for maximum productivity. Labor was seen as a tool to achieve the ultimate goal, and interaction with subordinates was considered a prerequisite for stimulating productivity, for instance, by ensuring the greatest employment. Such ideas are reflected in some modern management models when the continuity of the work process is explained by a strategic approach to planning. The considered doctrines played a significant role in the formation of management ideas and became the background for their further evolution.

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Theory of Management During the Last Century

Understanding the evolution of management is important due to the need to compare classical approaches with modern concepts and highlight the development steps that have formed modern models of manager-subordinate relationships. Over the past century, many new ideas emerged in this field. For instance, Henry Ford, being one of the outstanding managers and entrepreneurs, proposed an approach of assessing the target audience to effectively control it (Bodrožić & Adler, 2017). In line with this idea, successful control could be achieved by understanding the needs of the staff and creating the conditions for productive work. Another prominent figure was Max Weber, who developed the bureaucracy theory and defined the hierarchical model of the business structure (Khorasani & Almasifard, 2017). Henri Fayol was one of those who identified specific approaches to successful governance and “defined his management theory as a collection of principles, rules, methods, and procedures” (Khorasani & Almasifard, 2017, p. 135). All these concepts confirm the dynamics of management thought and prove that understanding its evolution is crucial for the formation of sustainable and effective strategies for interacting with subordinates.


The historical evolution of management can be explained by the desire to continuously improve performance and search for new success factors. In different periods, from BC to the 20th century, new approaches and concepts appeared. Among the outstanding theorists who influenced the emergence of a number of management theories, one can single out Socrates, Plato, Smith, Weber, Fayol, and some others. Understanding the evolution of management is essential for determining optimal control principles and identifying strategically valuable mechanisms of interaction with subordinates.


Bodrožić, Z., & Adler, P. S. (2017). The evolution of management models: A neo-Schumpeterian theory. Administrative Science Quarterly, 63(1), 85-129.

Cristofaro, M. (2017). Herbert Simon’s bounded rationality: Its historical evolution in management and cross-fertilizing contribution. Journal of Management History, 23(2), 170-190.

Khorasani, S. T., & Almasifard, M. (2017). Evolution of management theory within 20 century: A systemic overview of paradigm shifts in management. International Review of Management and Marketing, 7(3), 134-137.

Wren, D. A., & Bedeian, A. G. (2020). The evolution of management thought (8th ed.). John Wiley & Sons.

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