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Knowing, but not enacting leadership: navigating the leadership knowing-doing gap in leveraging leadership development

Ahmadi, A. and Vogel, B. (2022) Knowing, but not enacting leadership: navigating the leadership knowing-doing gap in leveraging leadership development. Academy of Management Learning & Education. ISSN 1537-260X (In Press)

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5465/amle.2020.0534


What managers know about leadership (e.g. conceptual and procedural knowledge) does not necessarily predict what they do (applied knowledge) in organizations. This research explores the leadership knowing-doing gap, which we define as a discrepancy between managers’ leadership knowing and the extent to which they transfer it into leadership doing. Taking a phenomenological approach, we explore how and why managers experience the leadership knowing-doing gap, analyzing 65 critical incidents from interviews with 22 managers in leadership roles across various organizational levels in the United Kingdom. We present the leadership knowing-doing gap as a multifaceted, dynamic and complex experience involving cognitive, affective, and behavioral elements. We discuss how these elements interplay in influencing the dynamics of creating or widening the gap on the one hand, and preventing or closing the gap on the other hand. We shed light into factors that influence the leadership knowing-doing gap: motivation, prioritization, and confidence to enact leadership. We also highlight the role of the context in discrepancies between leadership knowing and doing. Our definition and proposed framework offer a conceptualization that advances the understanding of the leadership knowing-doing gap. We end with our theoretical contributions and practical implications for both management learning and leadership development.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > Leadership, Organisations and Behaviour
ID Code:107859
Publisher:Academy of Management

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