Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 66, Issue 1, pp 99–115 | Cite as

Responsible Leadership in a Stakeholder Society – A Relational Perspective

  • Thomas MaakEmail author
  • Nicola M. Pless


We understand responsible leadership as a social-relational and ethical phenomenon, which occurs in social processes of interaction. While the prevailing leadership literature has for the most part focussed on the relationship between leaders and followers in the organization and defined followers as subordinates, we show in this article that leadership takes place in interaction with a multitude of followers as stakeholders inside and outside the corporation. Using an ethical lens, we discuss leadership responsibilities in a stakeholder society, thereby following Bass and Steidelmeier’s suggestion to discuss “leadership in the context of contemporary stakeholder theory” (1999: 200). Moreover, from a relational and stakeholder perspective we approach the questions: What is responsible leadership? What makes a responsible leader? What qualities are needed? Finally, we propose a so-called “roles model” of responsible leadership, which gives a gestalt to a responsible leader and describes the different roles he or she takes in leading stakeholders and business in society.


responsible leadership leadership stake- holder theory leadership roles relational intelligence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Business EthicsUniversity of St. GallenSt. GallenSwitzerland
  2. 2.INSEAD, PwC-Initiative on high-performing organizationsFontainebleau CedexFrance

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