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A Theory Exploring How Expert Leaders Influence Performance in Knowledge-Intensive Organizations

Abstract

Leadership has been deemed, by some earlier scholars, to be less necessary in organizations that are knowledge-intensive. It has been assumed that because experts and professionals are driven largely by intrinsic motivation, extrinsic management and leadership factors are less important. We believe this assumption is wrong. Leaders have been shown in recent studies to have a considerable influence on organizational performance in universities, research institutes, hospitals and in high-skill sports settings. What matters, we argue, is the kind of leader. Experts and professionals need to be led by other experts and professionals, those who have a deep understanding of and high ability in the core-business of their organization. Our contribution will summarize the literature on the relationship between expert leaders and organizational performance, and then we will present a theory of expert leadership in a new model that outlines the possible transfer processes through which expert leaders generate better organizational performance.

Keywords

  • Expert Knowledge
  • Organizational Performance
  • Knowledge Worker
  • Core Business
  • Professional Manager

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

The work presented in this chapter draws on earlier work by Goodall (2012) and Goodall (2014), among other non-technical articles.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    It is notable that despite popular belief cats are a social species and they adhere to hierarchies.

  2. 2.

    The core business is defined here as the primary or underlying activity; it is that which is considered to be the most important or central endeavor in an organization, and it generates the most attention and income.

  3. 3.

    This is captured in a statement attributed to André Weil, a French mathematician from the mid-twentieth century, in his ‘Weil’s Law of university hiring’: ‘First rate people hire other first rate people. Second rate people hire third rate people. Third rate people hire fifth rate people.’ Likewise, the American writer Leo Rosten is cited as having said, ‘First-rate people hire first-rate people; second-rate people hire third-rate people.’ In interviews with university presidents (Goodall 2009a), a number of heads commented on the need to put the most outstanding scholars on hiring panels to ensure that the best academics are hired.

  4. 4.

    These are the most common critiques raised by those attending presentations of this work and also in media interviews.

  5. 5.

    Bäker and Goodall began a new study of leadership and scientific productivity in March 2014.

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Goodall, A.H., Bäker, A. (2015). A Theory Exploring How Expert Leaders Influence Performance in Knowledge-Intensive Organizations. In: Welpe, I., Wollersheim, J., Ringelhan, S., Osterloh, M. (eds) Incentives and Performance. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09785-5_4

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