Leader personality, managerial attention, and disruptive technologies: the adoption of the battlecruiser concept in the Royal Navy, 1904–1918

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Managerial attention to the leader’s strategic designs has been identified as a key prerequisite for success in the adoption of new technologies. The purpose of this study is to describe and analyze how the battlecruiser concept as an organizational gestalt was developed, adopted, and assessed in the British Royal Navy (RN) in 1904–1918 from the perspective of the top leader’s personality and managerial attention. The battlecruiser was a pet project of the controversial Admiral Sir John Fisher, who instituted a thorough technological, organizational, and cultural turnaround in the RN before the First World War (WWI). The battlecruiser, ‘The Greyhound of the Sea’, was the largest and most expensive type of capital ship in the WWI era. It was developed to hunt down enemy commerce-raiding cruisers all around the globe, and to act as a powerful scouting arm of the Grand Fleet. In action, however, it proved more vulnerable than expected. The contribution of the article is threefold. First, it explicates the key personal characteristics and effectuation mechanisms of top leaders in persuading the organizational adoption of a novel concept such as the battlecruiser. Second, it describes the process of adoption and change when the technology is gradually proving less efficient than predicted. Finally, it posits that the evolving organizational gestalts strongly moderate the process of adoption and correction.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-75
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • Admiral John Fisher, attention-based view, battlecruiser, Leadership, organizational gestalt, the Royal Navy

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