Exploration and Exploitation are two facets of leadership not often discussed in academic circles. Exploration in leadership is a process that leads to new creative breakthroughs and knowledge while exploitation is the process of using that new knowledge in a way that creates the most effective outcomes. Well rounded leaders should be able to explore new ideas and then develop strategies to capitalize on their findings.
Exploration makes possible the understanding of new information and gathering knowledge on key issues. Exploitation is the ability implement sound strategies that can meet and achieve organizational objectives. People who are able to expand their current knowledge and then put that knowledge to good use are an asset to the organization.
According to Keller & Weibler (2014) both exploration and exploitation comes with certain personality traits. For example exploration is associated with open to experience and environmental dynamism while exploitation are closely tied to conscientiousness and transactional behaviors. Without an open mind it is difficult to learn new ideas and without conscientiousness it can be hard to create effective policies.
Leaders should be good managers and managers should strive to be better leaders. Leadership is based in part on our personality traits and our ability to rise above current processes to explore and implement new ideas. These ideas cannot be haphazard or unfounded but should be goal directed and effective. Leaders will need to be good managers to be effective.
Exploration is leader’s process of learning that allows them to tap into new ideas, find different associations, and improve existing processes by trying something new. Exploitation is the ability effectively and efficiently maximize that learning to find concrete results. Leaders who have both the ability to experiment with new ideas and the knowledge to implement new strategy effectively will do well in leading their organizations through change to higher levels of performance.
Keller, T. & Weibler, J. (2014). Behind managers ambidexterity-studying personality traits, leadership and environmental conditions associated with exploration and exploitation. Schmalenbach Business Review, 66 (3).