Original Research

Constructive interpersonal leadership relations in knowledge-based organisations: A theoretical framework

Marianne Louw, Rachel Barker
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 19 | a1636 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v19i0.1636 | © 2021 Marianne Louw, Rachel Barker | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 April 2021 | Published: 17 December 2021

About the author(s)

Marianne Louw, Department of Human Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, Corner Stone Institute, Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa
Rachel Barker, Department of Communication Science, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: Acknowledging the need for a deeper understanding of interpersonal communication as part of interpersonal leadership in knowledge-based organisational contexts.

Research purpose: This study aimed to propose a theoretically based definition of constructive interpersonal leadership relations (ILRs) and a generic model of ILR with guidelines for fostering constructive ILR in knowledge-based contexts.

Motivation for the study: Emerging trends showed knowledge-based organisations presented unique sets of challenges for constructive ILR in South Africa.

Research approach/design and method: We conducted a qualitative study using the interpretivist research paradigm. Two convenience samples were used for the data collection: semi-structured in-depth interviews with eight experts in the field, and 31 questionnaires were sent to leaders or followers that examined the micro-perspective in knowledge-based organisations in South Africa. The data analysis and interpretation were performed by thematic analysis.

Main findings: We established that the leader–follower dyad is the locus of interpersonal leadership, and that in constructive ILR, leaders or followers actively and mutually nurture the leader–follower dyad, that leaders oversee these relationships without using a formal hierarchy and that the leader–follower interaction has meaning on informational and relational levels.

Practical/managerial implications: The findings can be used by leaders in knowledge-based organisations as useful guidelines to create and maintain an organisational environment that is supportive of constructive ILR.

Contribution/value-add: This study provides insight into personal attributes relevant for ILR in knowledge-based organisational contexts.


interpersonal leadership relations; interpersonal leadership communication; knowledge-based organisations; leader-follower dyad; symbolic interaction


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