RCA Corp. Chairman Thornton Bradshaw, who has been credited with bringing new order and strength to a previously unsettled situation, is expected to step down today from day-to-day management of the company.

RCA's board is expected to name President Robert R. Frederick as chief executive of the company at its meeting today. Bradshaw, 67, will retain the title of chairman and assume a sort of "elder statesman's" role in the company's hierarchy, sources said. Bradshaw had indicated a year ago that he would step down this spring.

A company source said Bradshaw, who is from the Washington area, probably will spend a lot of time here in his new role, lobbying the many government interests with which RCA is involved.

The company whose reins Bradshaw will hand to Frederick is in many ways very different from the RCA that Bradshaw took over in 1981. It has pared its operations to focus on broadcasting, electronics and home entertainment; its NBC television subsidiary has emerged from the ratings cellar; and Bradshaw has assembled a management team that includes a qualified successor in Frederick, whom Bradshaw lured from an executive position at General Electric Co.

RCA was in turmoil when Bradshaw took over. The former president of oil giant Atlantic Richfield Co. and long-time RCA board member was brought in to RCA to right the company after it had experienced several years of uneven management and had made a number of ill-fitting, expensive acquisitions.

In a recent interview with Across the Board, a publication of the Conference Board, a business group, Bradshaw said that, by the time he took over, RCA "had drifted off in all different directions. It had no consistency of approach. It did not know what it was -- or what it wanted to become. It was an extraordinarily diverse conglomerate, which made no sense. It was in the carpet business, in the frozen-food business, in the finance business, the car-rental business, the consumer and commercial electronics business, and the broadcasting business. It was just extraordinarily diverse. What was the company? What were its directions? If someone came in offering us a hat company, should we buy a hat company? There was no concentration on what kind of company it was, or where its future would lie."

Under Bradshaw, RCA has shed its huge CIT financial services subsidiary and several smaller operations, such as ventures in frozen foods and book publishing, in favor of companies that fit with RCA's strong tradition of high-technology research and development -- although the Hertz Corp. car rental business remains an RCA subsidiary.

Sixty percent of the company's top management has been replaced, and one of the most important newcomers, Grant Tinker, is credited with moving NBC into second place in television's prime-time ratings wars.

"The company had to be reorganized, restaffed and redirected in its goals, and morale had to be rebuilt," Bradshaw told Across the Board. "It all had to be done in a very brief period of time. It has taken about three years to do that. I find it difficult to believe -- I am rather amazed -- that it was done in that time. But it has been done."

Bradshaw has met other challenges as well. He gained a great deal of renown for facing down Bendix Corp. Chairman William Agee three years ago after Bendix had bought a 5 percent stake in RCA as a possible first step to a takeover. Bradshaw mounted a bitter personal attack on Agee, and Bendix later sold its RCA stock.