Seeing through the jungle of Responsible Leadership




The topic of “Responsible Leadership” is becoming more and more common across the global corporate community.  But it comes in many different guises; responsibility, employee engagement, CSR, resilience, compliance or similar.  Of course, it is a label and labels are there to serve a purpose: to help categorise or understand.


What is Responsible Leadership in your organisation?

Whatever the label in your organisation, Responsible Leadership is starting to stir.  It’s growing through different channels (labelled or not) and is front of mind for many leaders.  

While we do not want to come up with a definition – yet – we would like to point to a few international and Swiss initiatives and organisations who are addressing the topic from different angles.


Why is it relevant?

There are a small but growing number of companies actively engaged in fostering ‘responsible leadership’ and getting to the core issues at play.

The business case is emerging and the data is becoming clearer. Outside initiatives are gaining publicity on a global and authoritative scale.

  • Corporations feel the need to employ leaders that behave in a responsible way and influence their development through various innovative cross-sector collaborations and programmes
  • Talent on various levels are increasingly looking for meaning and impact in their work
  • Business cases today are frequently based on employee engagement, corporate reputation, business innovation, leadership development, and societal impact/CSR
  • The integration of HR/Leadership development & CSR/Sustainability agendas and effort is challenging, but also key to success with executive level support


So, who else is thinking about it?


RL Diagram

  • Öbu, the Swiss association for business and sustainability, is celebrating its 25th anniversary by looking into the “Business for and with a future”, see annual conference (G)
  • The Responsible Corporate Leadership (RECOL) group is organising the RECOL Forum in the spring in Zurich to discuss just what responsible leadership could and should mean


In Conclusion

If we were to define responsible leadership right now, taking into account the perspectives above, it would look something like this.

Responsible leaders contribute to their organisation’s success by making business decisions that:

  • Reach beyond personal and shareholders’ interest
  • Take into account stakeholders, employees, clients, suppliers, the environment, the community and future generations
  • Live and foster the company’s values and mission
  • Create frameworks and conditions in which employees thrive                                                (Source: RECOL Circle)

Whatever the exact focus – whether the macro-level global responsibility or the micro-level responsibility of a team leader – all approaches make it clear that profit is no longer the only responsibility of a company or its leaders.

Let’s watch out to how the discussion evolves and let us be part of it.


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