By Meike Beckford
This edition comes to you on deadline day, so I’ll be keeping it fairly short, but wanted to share a theory on Responsible Leadership with you.
This is a fairly new development in leadership studies, which tries to relate the significant global challenges we currently face, with each of our roles as leaders in organisations that can have an influence. It balances the ‘romanticism’ of creating a better world, being hopeful, idealistic and leading change, with a ‘realism’ that recognises the huge complexity of the challenges we face and is sceptical of grand statements and new initiatives. It calls for a collaborative, leader-stakeholder approach (rather than leader-follower), fit for a complex interconnected world (those wicked problems I talked about in my last post).
Steve Kempster and Brigid Carroll, leading authors of this new theory, set out ten principles for it:
- An attention and commitment to social responsibility and CSR
- Multiple levels of responsibility – to other people, teams, organisations and the wider society
- A stakeholder (not just shareholder) perspective
- Ethical duties (see my post on giving voice to values):
- do no harm and do good
- duty of care (not just for those in ‘caring’ professions)
- duty of assistance
- duty of justice
- Global intercultural sensitivity, cosmopolitanism and world leadership
- An outcome orientation: not just financial but the ‘triple bottom line’ to balance financial, societal and environmental outcomes
- Sense-making and sense-giving, that is how we all, through our interactions, continually create meaning, give and make sense of things for ourselves and others within a context. We can do this consciously with a sense of purpose
- Shared responsibility, requiring a collective, connected approach
- Conscious of our use of resources of all kinds: people, money and natural
- Short-term and long-term balance of responsibilities
So, this responsible leadership perspective doesn’t give us the answers, but calls on us to recognise that each of us has a role in shaping how the world develops and whilst we cannot fix it all, we can create significant change by taking an approach that recognises our duties to multiple stakeholders and our ability to influence them and wider conversations across society. Whether it is in the board room, or round the dining table, the way you approach a challenge as a leader can promote a more responsible approach. Perhaps this post can help you to stop and think next time you are making a decision for your organisation, family, community or self:
- Who are you involving and who will be impacted?
- What factors are you considering short-term and long-term?
- What outcomes are you seeking for each stakeholder involved?
It doesn’t give you the answers, but might help you be more conscious and reflective as you move forward as a leader.
For more reading on this see: Steve Kempster and Brigid Carroll (2016) Responsible Leadership: Realism and Romanticism London: Routledge.
With thanks to Lancaster University Management School, Randall Zindler, Steve Kempster and the whole Executive MBA team and cohort.