Building Responsible Leaders in Switzerland: RECOL 2014




What really shifts leadership behaviour to embrace responsibility?

Close to 30 participants from 15 companies were looking to answer that on 24. April in Zurich, at the second annual RECOL Forum hosted by RECOL Circle, supported by Credit Suisse & Swisscom and initiated by MyImpact.

As an incubator of organisational change, RECOL aims to develop responsible corporate leadership as core to business, within business.  But what does that mean in practice?  Joanna Hafenmayer Stefanska looked to demystify as an opening session.  It’s all about decision making.RECOL defines ‘responsible leaders’ as people who contribute to their organisation’s success by making business decisions that:




Bringing responsible leadership to life

Throughout the Forum, there was lot of discussion on what really changes behaviour and what does not although we expect it to in the future.

Participating companies are on board with the idea of responsible leadership, but now seek ways to implement.

They continuously struggle with the tension between the aspirational vision and today’s reality: it will really take some intrapreneurial stamina to drive initiatives forward. The Forum addressed exactly this tension with two speakers:


– Katrin Muff, Dean of Business School Lausanne, Steering Board member of “50+20: Management Education for the World.”: The four dimensions of Responsible Leadership – suggestions for business.

– Gerhard Fehr, Behavioral Economist, CEO FehrAdvice & Partners AG: The right incentives for balancing short- and long-term behaviour of leaders


Fabian Etter, our moderator and Head of CSR at Swisscom, skilfully navigated the various perspectives – while Katrin presented a normative model of responsible leadership developed for business schools within the 50+20 initiative.

Gerhard explained why – based on newest empirical research – it was so hard to comply with this vision today within large organisations.

“If a behaviour is not sanctioned, it’s not part of a company’s culture” Gerhard Fehr

He reminded the forum that ethics are lived through awareness and willingness at the moment of decision making.  The single most impactful trigger of non-ethical behaviour is the statement in a critical situation: “colleagues, it’s a business decision”. Food for thought.

We’re pleased that Karen and Gerhard have both agreed to do a guest post, with their views on the sessions and subject, starting today with Karen Muff.


Katrin Muff: 50+20– Normative leadership model meets behavioural economics

I recently spoke at RECOL Switzerland about our vision for responsible leadership and presented our normative model developed as part of the 50+20 Vision


Interestingly, my presentation was followed by an in-depth analysis by Gerard Fehr, who together with his nobel-prize winning brother works on ways to apply behavioural economics to the real world.

He gave examples of their existing research to evaluate if and how our ideal leadership vision is reflected in the current realities of leaders. The discussion that followed couldn’t have been more inspiring: Are we really unable to be empathic? Are sanctions really the only way to maintain employee compliance? Is breaking down of cooperation really the norm and not the exception?

The hand-picked, high calibre audience first experienced their own gaps in their behaviour compared to their intention, through a smart real-time survey game operated by Gerard and his lovely assistant, Katharina Kaiser.

The Human Resources, Sustainability, and Compliance Directors of top Swiss firms contributed to a rich and controversial discussion, about the tension between the somewhat sad, actual state of the elements of responsible leadership and its ideal vision.

In a last segment, as Gerhard and I jointly discussed avenues of action and possibility to move towards the envisaged ideal state, we found insightful new options.

In conclusion, I must say that I was delighted to have been part of such a rich and thought-provoking experience and I hope that normative and quantitative research meet again in such inspiring settings.

Thanks to Joanna Hafenmayer Stefanska & RECOL for having orchestrated such a miraculous event!


Learn more about seeing through the jungle of responsible leadership and other relevant initiatives.


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