Becoming and staying talented: a figurational analysis of organization, power and control

Stephen Swailes, John Lever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite long traditions of management and leadership development it is only recently that organizations have become attracted to the notion of ‘talent’, to talent’s apparent impact on organizational performance, and to the best ways of finding and deploying talent. In the context of organizational talent management, this article illustrates how the processes and politics of becoming and staying talented can be understood using insights from figurational sociology. We first discuss the features of talent status that figurational sociology helps to illuminate. Second, we apply figurational analysis to two aspects of exclusive talent management: maintaining organizational order and control, and being seen as talented. This is followed by a discussion of how figurational analysis can be used to explain individual performance in exclusive talent programs, and how talent programs can be treated as a means by which the holders of elite power can thwart dissent in order to maintain ‘civilized’ organizational order and control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-84
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Early online date21 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


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