Knowledge Management vs. Knowledge Leadership — What’s the Difference and Why Is it Important?

Quite often the Knowledge Management related posts that flow through online forums focus on how KM can be effective, how to “do it,” as well as focusing on the concepts, strategies, and implementing practices that comprise the discipline. By itself, these discussions are often inadequate beyond answering specific questions related to these focus areas. The conversation MUST include shared learnings around Knowledge Leadership. Knowledge Leadership is a key determinant of sustainable success in Knowledge Management (concepts strategies, implementing practices).

I want to be clear about what I mean when I use the term “Knowledge Leadership.” Knowledge Leadership is much more about getting things accomplished through peers and colleagues because they see value in what you are offering or demonstrating rather than directing specific actions (though some of that is necessary). I suggest the following:

“Leadership” is:

  1. “…a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”
  2. “…the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational … goals.”


“Knowledge Leadership” is the ability of an individual or group of individuals:

  1. “to create value from knowledge held by an organization within an environment that recognizes and rewards knowledge capture, knowledge retention, knowledge reuse and collaboration
  2. “to make this behavior a part of the organization’s processes, practices, and culture so that it is not viewed as an extra task…it is “part of the way work gets done”
  3. “to address the challenges of creating a high performing and knowledge enabled organization.

Bottom Line: Knowledge leadership is not a specific job description or position, and it most definitely is not confined to management or leadership positions. Rather, it is a “shared accountability and responsibility” in any organization that can and should be seen in practice or exercised at all levels of the organization. I also can understand how people often argue that “one cannot manage the knowledge of the organization.” What one can do is to help move knowledge across and organization and enable or facilitate the ability of individual, teams, and the organization to “connect, collect, and collaborate” in order to achieve both mission and personal performance goals.