Academic journal article Journal of Management and Organization

A Theoretical Model of Transformational Leadership and Knowledge Creation: The Role of Open-Mindedness Norms and Leader-Member Exchange

Academic journal article Journal of Management and Organization

A Theoretical Model of Transformational Leadership and Knowledge Creation: The Role of Open-Mindedness Norms and Leader-Member Exchange

Article excerpt


Considerable research attention has been devoted to understanding the importance of knowledge creation in organisations over the last decade. Research suggests that leadership plays an important role in knowledge-creation processes. Nonetheless, there is an important omission in knowledge creation research; namely, what are the underlying processes that underpin the implications of leadership for knowledge creation? This article aims to develop a theoretical model of leadership and knowledge creation by drawing on two contrasting leadership perspectives; that is transformational leadership and leader-member exchange (LMX), and the research on open-mindedness norms. Specifically, we argue why transformational leadership is related to knowledge creation, and also theorise how open-mindedness norms and LMX quality serve as underlying mechanisms to underpin the effect of transformational leadership on knowledge creation. We conclude with a discussion of implications of the model for theory and practice, and also suggest potential avenues for future research.

Keywords: transformational leadership; leader-member exchange (LMX); open-mindedness norms; knowledge creation; teams

Recently there has been an upsurge of interest in exploring factors that influence knowledge creation in organisations (see McFadyen & Cannella, Jr 2004; Un & Cuervo-Cazurra 2004). This pervasive research interest results from the fact that knowledge creation is characterized as a product and function of social capital that is critical to organizational development and effectiveness (e.g., Amabile 1998). A review of research demonstrates that leadership has been regarded as one of the most important factors to determine organisational learning and creativity (e.g., Berson, Nemanich, Waldman, Galvin & Keller 2006; Bryant 2003; Shin & Zhou 2003, 2007). Little research attention, however, has been given to further our understanding of the implications of leadership for effective knowledge-creation and its underlying processes (e.g., Jung, Chow & Wu 2003). We know little about the type of leadership that facilitates knowledge creation, and the mechanisms through which such leadership operates effectively.

Tsoukas (1996) and Berson et al. (2006) proposed that organisations are characterised as distributed knowledge systems, meaning that they are composed of knowledge that is embodied in individuals' relationships and their social interactions in a larger social collective network. According to this perspective, the process of knowledge creation is based on the generation of ideas through the assimilation of previously disconnected component knowledge into integrated knowledge among individuals at work (Tenkasi & Boland 1996). Theoretically, when individuals communicate and interact as members of a team, they can play a boundaryspanning role by assimilating diverse knowledge. However, the knowledge-creation process is often hampered by lack of interpersonal trust and lack of explicit knowledge-sharing routines (Burt 2001, 2003). With respect to this, transformational leadership has been identified as an effective approach to facilitate knowledge-creation processes because such leadership draws on the assumption that certain leader behaviours can arouse followers to a higher level of thinking, enhance commitment to a well-articulated vision and inspire followers to develop new ways of solving problems (Bass 1985, 1998; Avolio & Bass 1994).

According to Bass (1985, 1998) the basic premise of transformational leadership is that the motivational effects of transformational leadership are transmitted through follower perception and reactions to the leader. This suggests that there are underlying psychological processes to underpin why and how individual effectiveness can be facilitated and enhanced by the effects of transformational leadership. Several studies have shown that transformational leadership effects are explained by how followers come to feel about themselves or their group in terms of self-efficacy and group potency (e. …

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