Responsible Leadership in a Stakeholder Society – A Relational Perspective

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Armstrong D. M. (1999) Managing by Storying Around. Armstrong Intl, Three Rivers, MI

    Google Scholar 

  2. Badaracco J. L. Jr. (2001) We Don’t Need Another Hero. Harvard Business Review 79(8):121–126

    Google Scholar 

  3. Barber B. R. (1999) The Discourse of Civility. In: Elkin S.L., Soltan K.E. (eds) Citizen Competence and Democratic Institutions. Penn State University Press, University Park, PA, pp. 39–47

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bass B. M. (1967) Some Effects on a Group of Whether and When the Head Reveals His Opinion. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 2:375–382

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bass B. M. (1990) Bass & Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership. 3rd ed. The Free Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bass B. M., Steidlmeier P. (1999) Ethics, Character, and Authentic Transformational Leadership Behavior. Leadership Quarterly 10:181–217

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bennis W., Nanus B. (1985) Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. Harper & Row, New York

    Google Scholar 

  8. Berger P. L., Luckmann T. (1966) The Social Construction of Reality. Doubleday, Garden City, NY

    Google Scholar 

  9. Black J. S., Morrison A. J., Gregersen H. B. (1999) Global Explorers: The Next Generation of Leaders. Routledge, New York/London

    Google Scholar 

  10. Blake R. R., Mouton J. S. (1985) The Managerial Grid III. Gulf, Houston, TX

    Google Scholar 

  11. Block P. (1993) Stewardship. Choosing Service over Self-Interest. Berrett-Koehler, San Francsico

    Google Scholar 

  12. Boje D. M. (1991) The Storytelling Organization: A Study of Performance in an Office-Supply Firm. Administrative Science Quarterly 36:106–126

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Brundtland G. H. (ed.) (1987) Our Common Future: The World Commission on Environment and Development. University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  14. Burns J. M. (1978) Leadership. Perennial, New York

    Google Scholar 

  15. Ciulla J. (1995) Leadership Ethics: Mapping the Territory. Business Ethics Quarterly 5(1):5–28

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Ciulla J. (eds) (1998) Ethics, The Heart of Leadership. Praeger, Westport, CT, London

    Google Scholar 

  17. Ciulla J. (2004) Ethics and Leadership Effectiveness. In: Antonakis J., Cianciolo A.T., Sternberg R.J. (eds) The Nature of Leadership. Sage, Thousand Oaks/London/New Dehli, pp. 302–327

    Google Scholar 

  18. Ciulla J. (2006) Ethics. The Heart of Leadership. In: Maak Th., Pless N.M. (eds) Responsible Leadership. Routledge, London/New York

    Google Scholar 

  19. Cole, M., Bruch, H. and Vogel, B. (2005) Development and Validation of a Measure of Organizational Energy. in: K. M.Weaver (ed.) Proceedings of the Sixty-fifth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (Honolulu, HI)

  20. Collins J. (2001) Good to Great. HarperCollins, New York

    Google Scholar 

  21. Conger J. A. (1999) Charismatic and Transformational Leadership in Organizations: An Insider’s Perspective on these Developing Streams of Research. The Leadership Quarterly 10(2):145–179

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Conger J. A., Kanungo R. N. (1987) Towards a Behavioral Theory of Charismatic Leadership in Organizational Setting. Academy of Management Review 12:637–647

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Cox T. Jr. (2001) Creating the Multicultural Organization. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  24. Dachler H. P. (1992) Management and Leadership as Relational Phenomena. In: Cranach M.v., Doise W., Mugny G. (eds) Social Representations and the Social Base of Knowledge. Hogrefe & Huber Publishers, Lewiston, NY/Toronto/Bern/Göttingen

    Google Scholar 

  25. Dagger R. (1997) Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship, and Republican Liberalism. Oxford University Press, New York/Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  26. Dalton M. A. (1998) Developing Leaders for Global Roles. In: McCauley C.D., Moxley R.S., Van Velsor E. (eds) The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp. 379–402

    Google Scholar 

  27. De George R. T. (1993) Competing with Integrity in International Business. Oxford University Press, Oxford/New York

    Google Scholar 

  28. DiPiazza S. A. Jr., Eccles R. G. (2002) Building Public Trust: The Future of Corporate Reporting. John Wiley & Sons, New York

    Google Scholar 

  29. Donaldson T. (1996) Values in Tension: Ethics Away from Home. Harvard Business Review 74(5):48–56

    Google Scholar 

  30. Donaldson T. (2000). Are Business Managers “Professionals”?. Business Ethics Quarterly 10(1):83–94

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Donaldson T., Dunfee T. (1999) Ties that Bind. Harvard Business School Press, Boston

    Google Scholar 

  32. Donaldson T., Preston L. E. (1995) The Stakeholder Theory of the Corporation: Concepts, Evidence, and Implications. Academy of Management Review 20(1):65–91

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Elkington J. (1998) Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC/Stony Creek, CT

    Google Scholar 

  34. Fiedler F. E. (1967) A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness. McGraw-Hill, New York

    Google Scholar 

  35. Freeman R. E. (1984) Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Pitman Publishers, Boston

    Google Scholar 

  36. Freeman R. E. (2004) Ethical Leadership and Creating Value for Stakeholders. In: Peterson R.A., Ferrell O.C. (eds) Business Ethics. M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY, London

    Google Scholar 

  37. Freeman R. E. (2005) The Stakeholder Approach Revisited. Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik 5(3):228–241

    Google Scholar 

  38. Freeman R. E., Gilbert D. R. (1989) Corporate Strategy and the Search for Ethics. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ

    Google Scholar 

  39. Freeman, R. E., Martin, K., Parmar, B., Cording, M. P. and Werhane, P. H. 2006, ‘Leading through Values and Ethical Principles’, in R. Burke and C. Cooper (eds), Inspiring Leaders (Routledge, London, New York) (in press)

  40. Freeman R. E., Wicks A. C., Parmar B. (2004) Stakeholder Theory and ‘the Corporate Objective Revisited’. Organization Science 15(3):364–369

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Foster W. F. (1989) Toward a Critical Practice of Leadership. In: J. Smyth (ed.), Critical Perspectives on Educational Leadership. Falmer, London, pp. 39–62

    Google Scholar 

  42. Gardner J. (1990) On Leadership. Free Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  43. George B. (2003) Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA

    Google Scholar 

  44. Gilbert J. A., Ivancevich J. M. (2000) Valuing Diversity: A Tale of Two Organizations. Academy of Management Executive 14(1):93–105

    Google Scholar 

  45. Gilligan C. (1982) In a Different Voice. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  46. Graen G. B., Uhl-Bien M. (1995) Relationship-based Approach to Leadership: Development of Leader–Member Exchange (LMX) Theory of Leadership over 25 Years: Applying a Multi-Level Multi-Domain Perspective. Leadership Quarterly 6:219–247

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Greenfield T. B. (1984) Leaders and Schools: Wilfullness and Nonnatural Order in Organizations. In: Sergiovanni T.F., Corbally J.E. (eds) Leadership and Organizational Culture. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL, pp. 142–169

    Google Scholar 

  48. Greenleaf R. K. (1977/2002) Servant Leadership. A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power & Greatness, 25th Anniversary ed. Paulist Press, New York/Mahwah, NJ

    Google Scholar 

  49. Hart S. L. (2005) Capitalism at the Crossroads. Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle River, NJ

    Google Scholar 

  50. Held V. (2005) Ethics of Care. Oxford University Press, New York/London

    Google Scholar 

  51. Helgesen S. (1990) The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership. Doubleday, New York

    Google Scholar 

  52. Hersey P., Blanchard K. (1988) Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources. 5th ed. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ

    Google Scholar 

  53. Hesse H. (1956) The Journey to the East. Picador, New York

    Google Scholar 

  54. Honneth A. (1996) The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  55. Howell J. M., Aviolo B. J. (1992) The Ethics of Charismatic Leadership: Submission or Liberation. Academy of Management Executive 6(2):43–54

    Google Scholar 

  56. Hunter J. C. (2004) The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader. Crown Business, New York

    Google Scholar 

  57. Johnson M. (1993) Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago/London

    Google Scholar 

  58. Kellerman B. (2004) Bad Leadership: What it is, How it Happens, Why it Matters. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA

    Google Scholar 

  59. Kets de Vries M. F. R., Florent-Treacy E. (1999) The New Global Leaders. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  60. Maak Th. (1999) Die Wirtschaft der Bürgergesellschaft. Haupt, Bern/Stuttgart/Vienna

    Google Scholar 

  61. Maak Th., Pless N. M. (2006) Responsible Leadership: A Relational Approach. In: Maak Th., Pless N.M. (eds) Responsible Leadership. Routledge, London, New York

    Google Scholar 

  62. Maccoby M. (2000) Narcissistic Leaders: The Increadible Pros, The Increadible Cons. Harvard Business Review 78(1):69–77

    Google Scholar 

  63. Mayer J. D., Salovey P., Caruso D. R., Sitarenios G. (2001) Emotional Intelligence as a Standard Intelligence. Emotion 1:232–242

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Merton R. K. (1957) The Role-Set: Problems in Sociological Theory. The British Journal of Sociology 8(2):106–120

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Mintzberg H. (1975) The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact. Harvard Business Review July–August:49–61

    Google Scholar 

  66. Nicoll D. (1986) Leadership and Followership: Fresh Views on an Old Subject. In: Adams J.A. (eds) Transforming Leadership. Miles River Press, Alexandria, VA, pp. 29–38

    Google Scholar 

  67. Noddings N. (1984/2003) Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. University of California Press, Berkeley

    Google Scholar 

  68. Pettigrew A. M. (1987) Context and Action in the Transformation of the Firm. Journal of Management Studies 24:649–670

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Phillips R. (2003) Stakeholder Theory and Organizational Ethics. Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  70. Pless N. M., Maak Th. (2004) Building an Inclusive Diversity Culture: Principles, Processes and Practice. Journal of Business Ethics 54:129–147

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Pless, N.M. and Maak, Th. 2005, ‘Relational Intelligence for Leading Responsibly in a Connected World’, in K. M. Weaver (ed.), Proceedings of the Sixty-fifth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (Honolulu, HI)

  72. Pless N. M., Schneider R. (2006) Towards Developing Responsible Global Leaders: The Ulysses Experience. In: Maak Th., Pless N.M. (eds) Responsible Leadership. Routledge, London, New York

    Google Scholar 

  73. Roddick A. (1991) Body and Soul: Profits with Principles. Crown Publishers, New York

    Google Scholar 

  74. Roddick A. (2000) Business as Unusual. Thorsons, London

    Google Scholar 

  75. Rooke and Torbert (2005) 7 Transformations of Leadership. Harvard Business Review 83:67–76

    Google Scholar 

  76. Rost J. C. (1991) Leadership for the 21st Century. Quorum, Westport, CT/London

    Google Scholar 

  77. Salovey P., Mayer J. D. (1990) Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality 9(3):185–211

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. Schön D. A. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Basic Books, New York

    Google Scholar 

  79. Schudson M. (1998) The Good Citizen. The Free Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  80. Smircich L., Morgan G. (1982) Leadership: The Management of Meaning. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 18:257–273

    Article  Google Scholar 

  81. Solomon R. C. (1998) Ethical Leadership, Emotions, and Trust: Beyond ‘Charisma’. In: Ciulla J. (ed.) Ethics, the Heart of Leadership. Praeger, Westport, CT/London, pp. 87–107

    Google Scholar 

  82. Solomon R. C. (1999) A Better Way to Think about Business. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  83. Spears L. C. (eds) (1998) Insights on Leadership: Service, Stewardship, Spirit, and Servant leadership. John Wiley & Sons, New York etc.

    Google Scholar 

  84. Spears L. C., Lawrence M. (eds) (2004) Practicing Servant Leadership. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  85. Strange J. M., Mumford M. D. (2002) The Origins of Vision: Charismatic Versus Ideological Leadership. Leadership Quarterly 13:343–377

    Article  Google Scholar 

  86. Strange J. M., Mumford M. D. (2005) The Origins of Vision: Effects of Reflection, Models, and Analysis. Leadership Quarterly 16:121–148

    Article  Google Scholar 

  87. Sullivan W. M. (2004) Work and Integrity: The Crisis and Promise of Professionalism in America. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  88. Svendsen A. (1998) The Stakeholder Strategy. Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  89. The Body Shop: 2004, What is community trade? Online. Available http://www.thebodyshopinternational.com/web/tbsgl/values_sct_what.jsp (accessed Nov. 1, 2004)

  90. Trevino L. K., Butterfield K. B., McCabe D. L. (1998) The Ethical Context in Organizations: Influences on Employee Attitudes and Behaviours. Business Ethics Quarterly 8(3):447–476

    Article  Google Scholar 

  91. Tronto J. C. (1993) Moral Boundaries. A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. Routledge, New York/London

    Google Scholar 

  92. Ulrich, P.: 1997, Integrative Wirtschaftsethik (Haupt, Bern/Stuttgart/Wien)

  93. Wade M. (2006) Developing Leaders for Sustainable Business. In: Maak Th., Pless N.M. (eds) Responsible Leadership. Routledge, London, New York, pp. 227–244

    Google Scholar 

  94. Weaver G., Trevino L. K., Cochran P. (1999) Corporate Ethics Programs as Control Systems: Influences of Executive Commitment and Environmental Factors. Academy of Management Journal 42(1):41–57

    Article  Google Scholar 

  95. Weick K. E. (1995) Sensemaking in Organizations. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA

    Google Scholar 

  96. Werhane P. (1999) Moral Imagination and Management Decision Making. Oxford University Press, New York/Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  97. Wheeler S., Sillanpää M. (1997) The Stakeholder Corporation. Pitman Publishing, London etc.

    Google Scholar 

  98. Wicks A. C., Gilbert D. R. Jr., Freeman R.E. (1994) A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Stakeholder Concept. Business Ethics Quarterly 4(4):475–497

    Article  Google Scholar 

  99. Wills S., Barham K. (1994) Being an International Manager. European Management Journal 12(1):49–58

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas Maak.

Additional information

Dr. Thomas Maak is a Research Director at the Institute for Business Ethics and Reader in Corporate Responsibility at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland). He earned his Ph.D. in Business Ethics, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of St. Gallen and held visiting appointments at Columbia University and Georgetown University. Currently, he is a member of the executive committee of the European Business Ethics Network EBEN.

Dr. Nicola Pless is a former Vice President of leadership development at a large financial services institution. Currently she is a Research Director at the Center for Public Leadership and Reader in Responsible Leadership at the University of St. Gallen. She holds a Ph.D. in organizational theory and social issues from the University of St. Gallen and a diploma in clinical organizational psychology from INSEAD.

 Both the authors are Visiting Senior Research Fellows at INSEAD, France, where they co-direct a research stream on “Developing responsible leadership for sustainable business” within the PwC-INSEAD initiative on high-performing organizations. They are the editors of “Responsible Leadership”, published by Routledge in 2006.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Maak, T., Pless, N. Responsible Leadership in a Stakeholder Society – A Relational Perspective. J Bus Ethics 66, 99–115 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-006-9047-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • responsible leadership
  • leadership
  • stake- holder theory
  • leadership roles
  • relational intelligence