Additional Key Elements Of Leadership: Theory Of Knowledge And Psychology

 Basic Business Cents


The fourth component of leadership is Theory of Knowledge. Leaders need to understand how people learn.


Deming was fond of saying, “Experience by itself teaches you nothing. You must have a theory.  A statement devoid of rational prediction does not convey knowledge.” Learning requires comparison of results with the original prediction or theory.


Measurements or observations are the basis for prediction and theory. Control charts are analytical tools that help us understand the capability of our processes and what to expect in the future. If we are not satisfied with the nominal position or the amount of variation around the average, then we must change or improve the process.


The lead article in a major U.S. newspaper recently reported on the results of the secondary school students. They were shocked to find that half were below average.  This is not news. It is reasonable to expect that about half will always be below average (or technically speaking, the median). The article went on to say that those schools that were below average three years in a row are suspect and put on probation. Statisticians know that they are probably victims of normal variation. A school would have to be below average for seven periods in a row to be considered outside the norm. The leadership of this particular educational system apparently did not understand this and may be making matters worse by pressure to “do better”.


Leaders lead. Everyone is learning so much so fast today that the leaders must never sit back and think they know enough. Leaders must learn at a faster pace than their employees and that is a challenge. You cannot lead what you do not understand; you cannot understand what you have not done.


The fifth component of leadership is Psychology. Generation gaps, attitudes, work habits, independence, are examples why the leaders of today need to have a working knowledge of psychology.


A manager must have some knowledge of psychology to better understand people to optimize their abilities. Management too often operates under the supposition that people are all alike. Deming said that in fact, they are quite different from each other, having different ways of learning and different values. In other words, there is variation between people as well as processes. There are some basic premises about the psychology of people that we need to understand:


  • Everyone is born with a natural inclination to learn and be innovative.
  • Everyone in the organization needs to understand the need for harmony and cooperation.
  • The most elusive edge in the new global competition is the galvanizing pride of excellence.
  • Workers must be treated with respect.
  • One inherits a right to enjoy his work.
  • Fear must be driven out of the workplace in order to empower employees at every level to work toward performance improvement.


To get everyone involved in the quest to improve productivity, we need:

–       Commitment by everyone

–       Ownership of the work and organization

–       Feedback, up, down, and across the organization.  Information keeps the sense of commitment and ownership alive.