Empowering leadership and knowledge sharing: moderating role of employee's exchange ideology.

Author:Cheong, Minyoung

    Knowledge management has become a source of competitive advantage and one of the most critical issues in the operation of an organization (Small & Sage, 2005). Knowledge sharing has been recognized as an essential factor for the success of knowledge management (Jackson, Chuang, Harden, Jiang, & Joseph, 2006). Recently, Wang and Noe (2010) noted that, despite its importance, the effect of leadership on individual knowledge sharing had not yet been explored sufficiently. Knowledge sharing does not happen automatically, and leader has an important role to play in making it come about (Srivastava et al., 2006). Recognizing this issue, this study examines the effects of empowering leadership on employee's knowledge sharing behavior. In addition, following interactionist perspective we suggest that the effects of empowering leadership on knowledge sharing differ depending on employee characteristics, specifically employee's exchange ideology.


    2.1 Knowledge Sharing Behavior

    The essential factor to ensure successful knowledge management in the organization is knowledge sharing (Hendriks, 1999). Knowledge sharing refers to "the provision of task information and knowhow to help others and to collaborate with others to solve problems, develop new ideas, or implement policies or procedures" (Cummings, 2004). Argote (1999) noted that if knowledge is not shared, the cognitive resources available within organization remain underutilized. Thus, it is important to investigate factors that are engaging employees to share their knowledge, since individuals are the initiating point of knowledge transfer in the organization (Wang & Noe, 2010). Although various factors such as individual characteristics (e.g., personality), motivational factors (e.g., attitudes, trust) and cultural characteristics (e.g., collectivism) have been studied as the antecedents of knowledge sharing behavior (Wang & Noe, 2010), we do not have enough understanding of the effects of leadership on individual knowledge sharing behavior. In the present study, we suggest that empowering leadership would increase employees' knowledge sharing behavior.

    2.2 Empowering Leadership

    Empowering leadership refers to the set of leader behaviors that entails sharing power or allocates more responsibilities and autonomy to his or her employees (Kirkman & Rosen, 1999; Sims et al., 2009). Empowering behaviors of leader are originally intended to encourage subordinates to take initiatives. Empowering leader supports employees to voice their thoughts actively and also offers more opportunities to share their knowledge in order to search for the solutions by themselves (Arnold et al., 2000; Yun et al., 2006). There are several evidences relating empowering leadership with employee's positive performance-related criterion (e.g., Yun et al., 2006; Zhang & Bartol, 2010).

    2.3 Exchange Ideology

    As one of individual characteristic, exchange ideology refers to "the degree of an employee's belief that work effort should depend on treatment of the organization (Eisenberger et al., 1986)." Employees with a higher exchange ideology are predisposed to be more responsive to their perception of how favorably they are being treated by the exchange partner (e.g. leader, organization, coworkers). Thus, exchange ideology has been treated as a moderator of the relationships between perceptions of the exchange and employees' reciprocal attitudes or behaviors. Several findings suggest that such relationships are stronger for those...

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