Introducing ‘Knowledge’

“It is often said that ‘knowledge is power’; More accurately, ‘knowledge is influence'”.

Epistemology represents our body of knowledge and, from a leadership perspective, it is about applying this knowledge to the practice of leadership and, ultimately, practical wisdom. Knowledge alone will be insufficent in and of itself; knowledge needs to be both managed and led.

Knowledge management is about getting knowledge from those who have it to those who need it in order to improve organisational effectiveness”

In terms of leading knowledge, this is akin to the black box of leadership. We have previously explored the need to know what is currently known but equally to recognise and understand what is presently unknown. The role of leadership is to close the gap between what is known and what is unknown and then to create the conditions to enable collective others to innovate in achieving the organiational or network effectiveness that the leadership desires.

It is in this respect (both organisational and networked effectiveness) that knowledge needs to be shared and this is the most important element of intelligent leadership.

Knowledge ‘as influence’ (rather than knowledge ‘as power’) is thus about creating the widest possible impression through the sharing of relevant knowledge.

We will use the Oxford English Dictionary of ‘Knowledge’ – “The faculty of understanding or knowing; intelligence or intellect”.

Make an Impression in Sharing Knowledge

In developing evidence-based leadership, knowledge needs to be shared across organisations and networks.

share knowledge

Making an Impression in Sharing Knowledge

How can we ensure that appropriate knowledge is shared in seeking to achieve impact for the important outcomes that underpin the collective vision?

Let us ask some important questions in testing the effectiveness of the leadership of intelligent network activity:

Ensuring that decisions are based on the widest possible range of viewpoints within the constraints of problem integrity.

Balancing information of ‘the heart’ and that of the ‘head’ in guiding decisions.

Creating ways to engage, share and communicate effective innovation in developing wisdom;.

Keeping up to date with current thinking and best practice to ensure that leadership and its development impacts on the key purpose of the organisation or its networks and the public interest

Is space created for integrated problem solving based on shared knowledge?

To what extent do organisations and networks show commitment to the development of a shared knowledge hub for the purposes of knowledge management and leadership?

Shared knowledge is thus the foundation of intelligent leadership. The first stage of intelligent leadership is to create the space to align the leadership purpose (context), with its leadership practice and learning (pedagogy) (mechanisms) in the creation of practical wisdom; respectively, this represents the context, mechanisms and outcomes of an evidence-based approach to leadership based on a realist evaluation framework.

Inevitably, this will not be plain sailing and leaders will need to anticipate the barriers that are likely to be encountered. Tackling these barriers will critical to the actual transformation of signals and data sets to intelligence and knowledge and finally through to wisdom. We will briefly explore some of the potential barriers (or the gratuitous gremlins that will nagg away at us as we deliberate our leadership of knowledge


Outside sources of innovation are an important part of shared knowledge but this creates huge challenges, not least of which is the need to shift company attitudes from the “’not invented here’ to enthusiasm for those ‘proudly found elsewhere’” (Huston and Sakkab 2006) or, as John Stevens1 described as ‘borrowing with pride’.

The reasons for not wanting to use the work of others are varied. Two examples concern patent infringement or lack of understanding, but it is often related to a much less rational reaction of an unwillingness to acknowledge or value the work of others through turf-wars, cultural differences and – more often than not – jealousy and ego!

So, how do we encourage an approach to shared learning that encourages “borrowing with pride?” The benefits are immense. As Huston and Sakkab argue using the example of Proctor and Gamble (P&G), for every 1 researcher in P&G there were some 200 experts elsewhere in the world who were just as good “a total of perhaps 1.5 milion people whose talents we could potentially use” (p.61).

1Lord Stevens, Former HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis from 2000 until 2005

Philosophical debate abounds in relation to what constitutes kwowledge and ultimately, evidence. You can read more about our thinking in relation to a twenty-first century theory of knowledge for leadership elsewhere but for the purposes of this section, it is enough to say that the meaning of ‘knowledge’ is complex but a clear understanding is possible. Once understood, this will affect how leaders frame the leadership problem.