The Wise Leader: Where did the roads pave by Nonaka and Takeuchi lead to?

Raysa Rocha*, Florian Kragulj, Paulo Pinheiro

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Chapter in book/Conference proceedingContribution to conference proceedings


Ikujiro Nonaka’s contribution to the knowledge management (KM) field over the last decades is remarkable. His research has heralded major paradigm shifts (e.g., emphasis on tacit knowledge). In this regard, we can consider his widely received article – The Wise Leader in Harvard Business Review (May 2011) – as an attempt to develop KM towards a new direction. In it, Nonaka and Takeuchi introduce phronesis, i.e., practical wisdom, as a complementary source of knowledge and emphasize its importance for responsible leadership. A decade after its presentation, we aim to understand how their work has influenced subsequent research. Using VOSviewer software, we develop a bibliometric analysis of the research that follows the paths laid out by Nonaka and Takeuchi. Therefore, we searched the studies citing The Wise Leader on the Scopus database. The outcomes comprise 119 documents. We scrutinized the metadata – papers, journals, institutions, countries, authors, and keywords – applying a comparative approach – authorship, bibliographic coupling, citation, co-citation, and co-occurrence analyses. The results reveal that the concepts of phronesis and practical wisdom link knowledge management and leadership, supporting Nonaka and Takeuchi’s stance on knowledge management as a primarily social endeavor whose success depends on personal capabilities and the enactment of (tacit) knowledge, both of which are mirrored in phronesis. We also find that the concept has hardly spread beyond the boundaries of knowledge management, leadership, and business ethics, although it has become interwoven with other concepts. Of these connections, those to non-rational forms of knowledge and values (e.g., spirituality, emotions, virtue ethics) may be of particular relevance to the further development of the knowledge management field. This is also reflected in the recently started discussion on responsible knowledge management. Moreover, we set an agenda for future research and offer contributions to theory and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 23rd European Conference on Knowledge Management (ECKM 2022)
EditorsPiera Centobelli, Roberto Cerchione
Place of PublicationReading
PublisherAcademic Conferences International Limited
ISBN (Electronic)9781914587474
ISBN (Print)9781914587467
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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