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


  • Raysa Geaquinto Rocha NECE Research Center in Business Sciences and University of Beira Interior
  • Florian Kragulj WU Vienna University of Economics and Business
  • Paulo Pinheiro NECE Research Center in Business Sciences, University of Beira Interior



Leadership, Practical wisdom, wise leader, responsible knowledge management


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.

Author Biographies

Florian Kragulj, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business

Florian Kragulj (PhD) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Data, Process and Knowledge Management at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. His research is on organizational learning and knowledge-based management. He received a PhD in Social Sciences and holds a master's degree in Cognitive Science.

Paulo Pinheiro, NECE Research Center in Business Sciences, University of Beira Interior

Paulo Pinheiro (PhD) is a Professor of Beira Interior University (UBI), Business & Economics Department and a researcher at the Research Group on Business Science (NECE). His teaching activities are mainly on knowledge management and comprehend undergraduate, master and doctoral students. He is Ph.D. of Management and author of several publications.