Knowledge management: An evolving professional discipline

Michael Paul Williams, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to explore human resource executives' perceptions of knowledge management and to determine whether these perceptions are influenced by their leadership style, transformational or transactional. In the absence of empirical research in the field of knowledge management, this was a descriptive exploration to determine “what is.” No hypotheses were offered; rather, questions were raised. The qualitative research methodology used in this study drew upon interviews, observations, and document review for data collection. This triangulated approach helped to ensure validity. The constant comparison method was used for data analysis. The sample consisted of 10 human resource executives (director, vice president, and senior and executive vice presidents) in 10 companies with revenues of over 50 million dollars and a minimum of 500 employees. The study did not control for participants' location or type of industry. To determine human resource executives' leadership style preference, the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (Bass & Avolio, 1993, 2000) was administered. The questionnaire was found to not be useful in light of the finding that participants viewed it socially and politically undesirable to be identified as a transactional leader. Two groups emerged from the research differentiated by their knowledge of knowledge management practices, its applications, and familiarity with the literature. These two groups, Novice and Expert, held generally opposite views concerning adopting and using knowledge management practices, barriers to its use, and perceptions of their company's technological readiness, budgetary support, and management sponsorship. Recommendations for the Novice Group included awareness and knowledge building in knowledge management, increased internal collaborative activities, and partnering with external human resource executives at similar companies who have successfully implemented knowledge management practices. Recommendations for the Expert Group included expanding their existing knowledge of knowledge management, continued implementation of knowledge management strategies and involving organization-wide representation in developing technology requirements and preparing company budgets. Examining human resource executives' perceptions of knowledge management and how leadership styles influence their perceptions of knowledge management represents a critical step toward enabling organizations to more effectively manage organizational knowledge in order to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage in the 21st-century knowledge age.

Subject Area

Business education

Recommended Citation

Williams, Michael Paul, "Knowledge management: An evolving professional discipline" (2003). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3084918.