How to Be a Responsible Leader?

Being a leader requires great skill; being able to guide and direct people or an organisation in a way that offers influence, commands authority, encourages disruptive innovation and exercises charm, this is an art form in its own right.

Leadership is not a person as such, but it is vital form of ‘action’ taken by a person, an action that affects and manifests itself throughout the workplace in order for the institution/company to work seamlessly.

Leadership we have defined is about taking action, so what is it to be a responsible leader? This should not be a tricky question but quite simple, a responsible leader is someone taking ‘responsible action’. In a business sense this is making decisions that takes into account stakeholders, such as workers, clients and suppliers, the environment, the community and future generations.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, frames conscience clearly in relation to responsible action. He said:

“Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom…The power to choose, to respond, to change.”

Responsible leadership starts with being responsible ourselves, to lead authentically, up-holding ethical and moral stand points. Negative stress reduces the capacity to perform at our best. When people don’t act in line with their conscience it is more difficult for everyone else to do so.

The opposite of a responsible leader isn’t to be an irresponsible leader, but it is ‘inaction’ which results in talented people not performing and leaders not leading. This can create a toxic culture within organisations, which affects staff morale and company performance. A responsible manager is in charge and therefore responsible for the growth of the company, ensuring it aligns with the expectations of stakeholders, employees and customers/clients.

While responsibility can and should permeate through a whole company it should underpin and influence every business action. How should we define what responsible leadership really is? The problem is that the term can appear vague and mean different things to different people. How can you become a responsible leader without having a clear definition of responsible behaviour to guide you?

Relevant attributes that seem important for responsible leadership in the 21st century include:

1) Being able to make informed ethical judgments about existing norms and rules

2) Displaying moral courage and aspiring to positive change

3) Engaging in long-term thinking and in perspective taking

4) Communicating effectively with stakeholders, staff and clients

5) Participating in collective problem-solving.

Business leaders have little excuse not to adhere to a logic that promises much. It is time they accept that what may have previously been viewed by many as a fad is now a necessary and desirable cultural change.

At Kent Business School, we celebrate students and staff who champion sustainable and responsible management, we aim to develop innovative and sustainable approaches to management that address organisational societal challenges in order for individuals to become accustomed to what may occur within the working environment and how they can tackle it.

For those looking to enhance their career in leadership please view our MBA program which incorporates; responsible leadership, innovative mindset and sustainability.



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