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Issue of the Month

Knowledge Management
and Leadership Development: A Primer


The most important shift in the leadership development agenda in the past decade has arguably come from innovations in knowledge management, an often overlooked activity. This paper (by Robin Root, PhD) offers an introduction to the concepts and, more importantly, relevant tools as they relate to leadership development at all levels and across sectors.


  • How do you make knowledge tangible, actionable and profitable?
  • How do you collect, catalogue, evaluate, update, and disseminate the knowledge of an organization for the purposes of increased efficiency and/or innovation?
  • How do you make it an integral part of leadership development?


A case study in which leadership development under rapidly changing conditions, knowledge management, and organizational effectiveness were bound up in one.

Challenge: Accelerate Culture Change

A major bank was expanding rapidly through a series of acquisitions and becoming a world leader in financial services. Executives realized that the critical link in the culture was to develop its first-line leaders: the 30,000 people whose behavior most influences the 100,000+ associates who have day-to-day contact with customers.

Unique Solution: Design a large-group leadership development activity that introduces a company's new leadership model to 30,000 front-line managers.

(One of many offered on website,


  1. Take a self-assessment (to distinguish between a reaction versus a strategic response to organizational challenges and change) ( with website delivery format)
  2. Conduct an organizational assessment (to determine what the organization?s employees know and how)
  3. Identify the gaps (e.g. information no longer applicable)
  4. Document best practices and identify the users of this information
  5. Make these practices accessible
  6. Document how ?new? processes invigorate the organization and add to the bottom line (financial and/or social)



First generation inputs: What does each department know? ? How do they know this? ? How does what they know fit with the firm/organization's mission? ? Who uses this knowledge, when and how?

Process: Whether in company-wide or inter-department roundtable formats or over a company intranet, submit this "knowledge" for comment by other departments. Test the question inter-departmentally, what do you believe other departments know? ? How does that knowledge relate to what you do? ? If you need that information, how do you currently access it and how do you use it? ? Are there obstacles? What are they?

First generation outputs: A better understanding of current knowledge flows and obstacles; relative knowledge strengths and weaknesses of different departments; draft of template for selecting a technology system for improving the cataloguing, sharing, and commentary on organizational knowledge.

Principles of a Knowledge Management Framework

Seven Principles of a Knowledge Management Framework

  • Openness ? setting the tone which allows learning to happen
  • Uncertainty ? expecting uncertainty and making it an acceptable state of mind
  • Complexity ? Acknowledging complexity to avoid the rush to the quick fix
  • Relationships ? Learning is a fundamentally social activity; value the expanding and deepening of purposeful relationships (internally and externally with constituencies, customers and clients)
  • Reflection ? Build and maintain processes that make reflection a values activity in the organization to heed the maxim: "Know what we know"
  • Reframing ? Reinforce efforts to think across departments, outside of silos
  • Restoration ? As new knowledge is cultivated, retain insights and experiences gleaned in earlier iterations


  • Definition and more detailed information:
  • Updates, ideas and guidance:
  • The authoritative on-line resource for knowledge management, leadership and technology ? an excellent place to begin educating oneself and making contacts:
  • Side-by-Side ( is a community of business leaders who base their team-work/leadership development strategies on Side-By-Side leadership development processes. Its site notes that the program's evidence-based approaches to knowledge management and leadership development have drawn hundreds of adherents to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenues and cost savings to its clients, which include Fortune 500 companies and non-governmental, religious, and educational organizations equally (
  • Resources for understanding the relationships between leadership development, emotional intelligence, and intellectual capital:
    • Human Dimensions, Inc.:
    • Kesslin Associates:
    • Lead Well Institute:
  • For more information on technology fundamentals of KMS: see "Eight Things That Training and Performance Improvement Professionals Must Know About Knowledge Management."
  • An authoritative resource on knowledge management research:
  • On-Purpose Leadership, Inc.: offers learning and leadership development curricula for corporate and non-profits sectors. Also offers on-line assessment tool.
  • Instructive leadership development and knowledge management case studies:
  • A starting point for those thinking about the technology of knowledge management:

With appreciation and special thanks

We acknowledge that this article was contributed by Robin Root, Phd. This is a sampling of the article. The complete article is available here.

Talk about this issue in our Peer Learning Community Chat Room and Message Board.


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