Capturing leadership tacit knowledge in conversations with leaders

Purpose – The paper seeks to capture leadership tacit knowledge mechanisms built throughout leaders' careers. Learning to be a leader involves developing the tacit knowledge to give confidence in one's decisions. Most of the knowledge required cannot be acquired from explicit documents – rather, it is built through action, experience and reflection. This research focuses on leadership in the innovation context where learning potentially occurs through a variety of knowledge building processes. Design/methodology/approach – Narratives from 31 leaders who have achieved success in innovation leadership were collected piloting a tacit knowledge articulation methodology. From the narratives, a model is proposed which is embedded in the leadership career pathways of these innovation leaders. Findings – The findings suggest that leadership tacit knowledge mechanisms evolve with organisations' life cycle. A bi-focal (developmental and “locus of knowledge“ factors) model was assembled to explain how successful leadership involves balancing “locus of learning” from internal and external sources and facilitating mind-shifts (e.g. collaboration and communication paradigms underlying relationship and networking processes). Research limitations/implications – The study sample size was relatively small – further replications with a larger number of subjects and in different contexts are planned or under way. Practical implications – This research has implications relevant to both leaders interested in bringing their organizations to their next developmental level and to practitioners because leverage points are identified at which interventions designed to share the lessons learned from successful leaders will be most effective. Originality/value – Tacit leadership knowledge is not easily transferred into explicit “how-to” instructions for consumption by a prospective innovation leader, yet it is a major source of competitive advantage. It is more appropriate to view innovation leadership development as a tacit knowledge building process in individuals and groups, rather than a knowledge transfer from knowledgeable leaders to wannabe leaders. A developmental model is proposed that integrates the changes occurring in learning patterns while firms expand their loci of knowledge.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Janson, A. & Mcqueen, R. (2007). Capturing leadership tacit knowledge in conversations with leaders. Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 28(7), 646-663.
Emerald Group
Publisher version