Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore and explain the links between knowledge management (KM) and leadership in knowledge-intensive firms. Design/methodology/approach – This study employs an instrumental case-based study on four knowledge-based firms to explore KM and leadership approaches, and the links between them. Data were primarily collected through qualitative interviews with firm managers and direct observations, as well as quantitative data by questionnaire from the firm employees. Findings – The study identified two combinations of KM and leadership systems. These combinations are personalization-distribution and codification-centralization; which are explained within the theoretical framework of this paper. Other theoretically possible combinations were discussed and argued to be non-viable or non-economical. Research limitations/implications – As with most qualitative case-based research papers, this research was focused on study of a small number of cases; a limitation that does not allow the authors to claim a statistical generalization but nevertheless allows analytical generalization to be made. Limitations of this paper include the fact that all cases were located in one country and all were more or less involved with the field of information technology.
Practical implications – Practical implications of this paper for managers and company strategists involve alignment of their KM strategy with a relevant leadership system. Originality/value – There has been little research aimed at finding links between KM and leadership in firms, and how this link may lead to increased knowledge exploitation capability for the firm. The present study addresses this issue and presents an evidenced and theoretically supported explanation for this link.
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