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Influencing knowledge workers: the power of top management

Sharmila Jayasingam (Faculty of Business and Accountancy, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Mahfooz A. Ansari (Faculty of Management, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada)
Muhamad Jantan (Corporate and Sustainable Development Division, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia)

Industrial Management & Data Systems

ISSN: 0263-5577

Article publication date: 2 February 2010




The purpose of this paper is to identify the key leadership characteristics (in the form of social power) needed in a knowledge‐based firm that can influence knowledge workers (KWs) to participate actively in creating, sharing, and using knowledge.


Data measuring top leaders social power and knowledge management (KM) practices is gathered from 402 KWs representing 180 Multimedia Super Corridor status firms in Malaysia.


The analysis indicates that expert power has a positive influence on the extent of knowledge acquisition and dissemination practices. Legitimate power is found to impede knowledge acquisition practices. Furthermore, reliance on referent power no longer works in a knowledge‐based context. Finally, the paper found the impact of coercive, legitimate, and reward power to be contingent on the organizational size.

Research limitations/implications

Besides leaders potential to influence, there may be other factors that could influence the extent of KM practices in organization. Further, this paper explores the power of top management, which could not be generalized to leaders from middle or lower level management. Future research should address these limitations.

Practical implications

The paper implies that knowledge leaders need to enhance certain bases of power that have the potential to improve the extent of KM practices in organizations.


This paper provides useful insights about the significance of leaders' power bases with emphasis on new approaches needed in knowledge‐based organizations.



Jayasingam, S., Ansari, M.A. and Jantan, M. (2010), "Influencing knowledge workers: the power of top management", Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 110 No. 1, pp. 134-151.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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