Strategic Leadership for Organizational Learning: A Multi-Level Approach

Strategic Leadership for Organizational Learning: A Multi-Level Approach

Junghwan Kim (University of Oklahoma, USA), Soo Yeon Park (University of Oklahoma, USA) and Jieun You (The Ohio State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch105


In the relationship between organizational learning and supportive leadership, the role of leaders in knowledge management, including the transfer of new insights among individuals, groups, and organizational levels, is greatly concerned with the workplace practice. The purpose of this chapter is to examine how strategic leadership contributes to organizational learning, specifically the process of knowledge transfer using the 4I organizational learning model developed by Mary Crossan and colleagues as a theoretical framework. By reviewing empirical and theoretical studies, this study's findings provide knowledge of effective strategic leadership for organizational learning. In specific, several roles of strategic leadership for feedforward and feedback learning respectively were suggested. The study's findings have implications for researchers and practitioners, discussed at the end of this chapter.
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Organizational learning and supportive leadership play a pivotal role in ensuring the sustainable development of diverse organizations. The success of an organization depends on the transfer of new knowledge and insights between or among individuals and groups in order to achieve organizations’ goals. In particular, the role of leaders in knowledge management, including the transfer of new insights among individuals, groups, and organizational levels, is greatly interested in the workplace practice (Crossan, Lane, & White, 1999; Swart & Harcup, 2012). The interest is based mainly on the fact that the behavior and management of leaders are critical to encouraging organizational learning through knowledge management. This type of management helps overcome several challenges that organizations confront in their ongoing quest for innovation in the globalized and competitive environments (Nemanich & Vera, 2009). To ensure both individual and organizational performance, leaders need to provide effective strategies to enhance organizational learning by enhancing effective transfer of knowledge between employees and their organizations (Berson, Nemanich, Waldman, Galvin, & Keller, 2006; Ireland & Hitt, 1999). That is why strategic leadership for organizational learning including both transformational and transactional approaches has received much attention in academic fields.

Although many researchers have examined the relationship between strategic leadership and organizational learning, not many studies have delved into the impact of strategic leadership on knowledge transition in organizations. Instead, they focus on a leadership approach as a part of organizational learning and/or do not provide enough knowledge on how strategic leadership can influence the process of knowledge transfer (Berson et al., 2006; Crossan & Berdrow, 2003; Crossan et al., 1999). Moreover, existing studies do not provide an expanded and/or balanced viewpoint of strategic leadership for organizational learning, and they focus too much on the transformational leadership of top management (Bryant, 2003; Huang & Shih, 2011; Jansen, Vera, & Crossan, 2009; Vera & Crossan, 2004).

By reviewing both theoretical and empirical studies, the purpose of this chapter is to examine how strategic leadership contributes to organizational learning focused on the process of knowledge transfer. For this purpose, we adopt the 4I (intuiting, interpreting, integrating, and institutionalizing) organizational learning model (Crossan et al., 1999) as a theoretical framework. The 4I model allows researchers to investigate how strategic leadership can be related to the process of knowledge transition among individuals, groups, and organizational levels (Berson et al., 2006). Specifically, the chapter investigates an inquiry as follows: How does strategic leadership effectively facilitate organizational learning in the process of both feed-forward and feedback learning?


This chapter is based on researching on a wide range of literature from the diverse electronic journal databases. When researching, the key words were mainly the combination of the strategic leadership and organizational learning. In order to be more specific with detailed information, there were several key words used, such as 4I learning model, transformational and transactional leadership, feed-forward and feedback learning, and top management. There were more than 40 studies discovered, and among them, 17 studies were applied, which are closely relevant to the strategic leadership for organizational learning using a multi-level approach.

In specific, the most relevant theoretical studies were Berson et al. (2006), Bryant (2003), Crossan et al. (1999), Crossan, Vera, and Nanjad (2008), Ireland and Hitt (1999), and Vera and Crossan (2004). In addition, qualitative and quantitative studies strongly connected to the chapter’s topic are Crossan and Berdrow (2003), Jansen et al. (2009), and Nafei, Khanfar, and Kaifi (2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

4I Organizational Learning Model: A conceptual framework of organizational learning process proposed by Crossan et al. (1999) . 4I organizational learning process consists of intuiting, interpreting, integrating, and institutionalizing within individual, group, and organization level.

Transactional Leadership: The ability to accomplish organizational goals by provision or promise of extrinsic rewards. Transactional leadership is characterized by contingent reward, active management by exception, passive management by exception, and laissez-faire.

Feed-Forward Learning: Learning flows from individual, group, to organization related to explorative innovation.

Organizational learning: A process of change by acquiring, transferring, creating the knowledge in individuals, groups, and organizations.

Strategic Leadership: The ability to envision, motivate, and facilitate followers to create exploitive and explorative innovation for the organizational competitiveness. Strategic leadership includes transformational leadership and transactional leadership.

Transformational Leadership: The ability to accomplish extraordinary performance and change with intrinsic involvement of followers. Transformational leadership is characterized by charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration.

Knowledge Transition: The movement of knowledge from individual, group, or organization to individual, group or organization and vice versa.

Feed-Back Learning: Learning flows from organization, group, to individuals related to exploitative innovation.

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