Leader's reflections on knowledge, knowing and not knowing: an analysis of change over time

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Cooper, Patrice
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University College Cork
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One commonality across the leadership and knowledge related literature is the apparent neglect of the leaders own knowledge. This thesis sought to address this issue through conducting exploratory research into the content of leader’s personal knowledge and the process of knowing it. The empirical inquiry adopted a longitudinal approach, with interviews conducted at two separate time periods with an extended time-interval between each. The findings from this research contrast with images of leadership which suggest leaders are in control of what they know, that they own their own knowledge. The picture that emerges is one of individuals struggling to keep abreast of the knowledge required to deal with the dynamics and uncertainties of organisational life. Much knowledge is tacit, provisional and perishable and the related process of knowing more organic, evolutionary and informal than any structured or orchestrated approach. The collective nature of knowing is a central feature, with these leaders embedded in networks of uncontrollable relationships. In view of the indeterminate nature of knowing, the boundary between what is known and what one needs to know is both amorphous and ephemeral, and the likelihood of knowledge-absences is escalated. A significant finding in this regard is the identification of two critical points where not-knowing is most likely (entry and exit from role) and the differing implications of each. Overtime the knowledge that is legitimised or prioritised is significantly altered as these leaders replace the dogmas that were previously held in high esteem with the lessons from their own experience. This experience brings increased self-knowledge and a deeper appreciation of the values and morals instilled in their early lives. In view of the above findings, this study makes theoretical contribution to a number of core literatures: authentic leadership, role transition and knowledge-absences. In terms of leadership development, the findings point to the necessity to prepare leaders for the challenges they will encounter at the pivotal stages of the leadership role.
Leadership , Personal knowledge
Cooper, P. 2013. Leader's reflections on knowledge, knowing and not knowing: an analysis of change over time. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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