To read this content please select one of the options below:

Leaders’ knowledge systems in strategizing communication in high-uncertain and low-uncertain crises: balancing operational and relational outcomes

Anjali Bansal (Department of Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Management Lucknow, Lucknow, India)
C. Lakshman (Department of Social Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, USA and Department of Social Sciences, Mount Marty University, Yankton, South Dakota, USA)
Marco Romano (Department of Economia e Impresa, University of Catania, Catania, Italy)
Shivinder Nijjer (Chitkara Business School, Chitkara University, Rajpura, India)
Rekha Attri (Department of Social Sciences, Jaipuria Institute of Management, Indore, India)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 30 April 2024




Research on leaders’ knowledge management systems focuses exclusively on how leaders gather and disseminate knowledge in collaboration with external actors. Not much is known about how leaders address the psychological aspects of employees and strategize internal communication. In addition, while previous work has treated high uncertainty as a default feature of crisis, this study aims to propose that perceived uncertainty varies in experience/meaning and has a crucial bearing on the relative balance of cognitive/emotional load on the leader and behavioral/psychological responses.


The authors contribute by qualitatively examining the role of leader knowledge systems in designing communication strategies in the context of the COVID-19 crisis by investigating communication characteristics, style, modes and the relatively unaddressed role of compassion/persuasion. In this pursuit, the authors interviewed 21 C-suite leaders, including chief executive officers, chief marketing officers, chief financial officers, chief human resource officers and founders, and analyzed their data using open, axial and selective coding, which were later extracted for representative themes and overarching dimensions.


Drawing from grounded theory research, the authors present a framework of knowledge systems and their resultant communication with employees in high uncertain and low uncertain crises. The authors highlight interactions of a set of concepts – leaders’ preparedness, leaders’ support to employees tailored communication adapted to perceived uncertainty, leading to enhanced trust – in the achievement of outcomes related to balancing operational and relational systems with employees. The findings suggest that a structured process of communication helps employees mitigate any concern related to uncertainty and feel confident in their leadership.


The research has implications for leaders in managing their knowledge systems, for human esources practitioners in designing effective internal communication programs, as well as for scholars in knowledge management, communication and leadership.



Conflict of interest : This research is the authors’ original work, and the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest with any other party or research study.

Financial disclosure statement: The authors do not have any personal/financial interest in this research.

Ethics approval: All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards stated by the journal, and informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

The authors are committed to making an ethical submission.


Bansal, A., Lakshman, C., Romano, M., Nijjer, S. and Attri, R. (2024), "Leaders’ knowledge systems in strategizing communication in high-uncertain and low-uncertain crises: balancing operational and relational outcomes", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles