Posted by: Melissa De Lyser | April 26, 2014

Defining and narrowing “stakeholder”

There are many definitions of the word “stakeholder.” Some definitions – like R. Edward Freeman’s – are broad and all encompassing. Others are narrow, focusing on specific areas of an organization’s or business’ influence. Here’s a short, cute video discussing stakeholder importance:

After reading through numerous articles on stakeholders and stakeholder analysis, it appears the real question isn’t “who is a stakeholder?” but rather “who isn’t a stakeholder?” Regardless of the industry, when viewing stakeholder theory in its broadest sense, the pool of possibilities is pretty deep. Strategic management theory would argue that it’s essential to pay attention to, and provide value to, all stakeholders. But regardless of how large your organization and how substantial your resources, addressing all potential stakeholders simply isn’t feasible.

The Mitchell, Alge, and Wood, 1997, Dynamic Theory of Stakeholder Salience attempts to refine the definition of stakeholders by categorizing them into three main categories: Power, legitimacy and urgency. Those categories are fluid, and there is significant overlap. The Dynamic Theory attempts to address that overlap by identifying seven additional stakeholder categories. While this theory provides tools for management to identify/prioritize stakeholders, the researchers stressed the importance of developing managerial skills to increase perception, awareness and general leadership skills as it relates to both identifying, prioritizing and increasing value for stakeholders.

Does the Dynamic Theory of Stakeholder Salience narrow the definition of stakeholder analysis sufficiently? How can it be further refined? Dynamic theory aside, what other tools can managers use to help them prioritize stakeholders?


  1. Thank you, Melissa, this is a helpful precursor to the readings this week.

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