Knowledge-Oriented Leadership, Psychological Safety, Employee Voice, and Innovation

Uzoma Heman Ononye, Ikechukwu Maduemezia

The truism is that leadership fosters or restricts innovation behaviours in organisations, but the extent to which it does depends on the leadership style in practice. This study focuses on one of the contemporary leadership styles, knowledge-oriented leadership [KOL], which has received scant attention in research. In doing so, the contextual factors of psychological safety [PS] and employee voice [EV] were applied to determine how KOL influences are channeled to innovation at the individual level.

Data were collected from 347 academic staff in public universities in Southern Nigeria and subjected to a partial least square [PLS] analytical procedure for data treatment and hypotheses testing using the SmartPLS 3 software for variance-based structural equation modelling.

The study formed an integrated research framework that links knowledge-oriented leadership and innovation by accounting for the contextual mechanisms of psychological safety and employee voice.

The PLS results demonstrated that the knowledge-oriented leadership and innovation relationship was positive and significant, and this relationship was partially mediated by two variables, namely, PS and EV. Furthermore, the two mediating variables channeled KOL’s influence on innovation in a sequence.

Organisations need to consider the practical application of KOL to improve innovation outcomes considerably. By this, leadership training programs should include modules, courses, or topics on KOL to engender the formation of requisite managerial skills. More so, they should consider the criterion of demonstrable KOL abilities for leadership selection and recruitment. As a personal development initiative, managers can attend leadership development programmes as well as obtain certification in knowledge management to improve their KOL abilities. This initiative should be encouraged and supported by organisations. In all, the human resource management framework should be responsive to the dynamics of the knowledge economy regarding leadership. Given that PS and EV function as mediators, organisations should actively cultivate an environment enabling interpersonal risky behaviours founded on trust, respect, and cooperation and encourage/support employees who demonstrate such behaviour accordingly. In this line, they should create and sustain a supportive environment that positively reinforces voice decisions and behaviours.

The study only determined the links between KOL, PS, EV, and innovation in public universities in Southern Nigeria. Other studies may examine the linkages in other knowledge-intensive organisations as well as expand the geographic scope to make for better generality of findings. Future studies should look at other underlying mechanisms that can affect the KOL-innovation relationship, such as psychological capital, work engagement, work commitment, etc. The role of moderators can be identified and introduced to this integrative framework to demonstrate the conditions affecting the linkages.

employee voice, knowledge-oriented leadership, knowledge sharing, innovation, psychological safety
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