The concept of responsible leadership has garnered increased attention in recent years. Indeed, irresponsibility on the part of organizational leaders appears to represent an area of growing concern to the greater public. Accordingly, it is appropriate that increased scholarly attention be devoted to an understanding of this concept. But with that said, the purpose of this article is to identify three caveats about which researchers and practitioners should be concerned as work in this area proceeds. These caveats pertain to: (1) definitional issues, (2) the importance of theory and research that is not ideologically driven or biased, and (3) the positioning of responsible leadership within the greater body of leadership theory and research. Additional concerns are considered including the measurement of responsible leadership and research strategies.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bakan, J. (2004). The corporation: The pathological pursuit of profit and power. New York: Free Press.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Barbuto, J. E., & Wheeler, D. W. (2006). Scale development and construct clarification of servant leadership. Group and Organization Management, 31, 300–326.
Bass, B., & Avolio, B. (1997). Multifactor leadership questionnaire manual. Palo Alto, CA: Mindgarden.
Bass, B. M., & Steidlmeier, P. (1999). Ethics, character, and authentic transformational leadership behavior. The Leadership Quarterly, 10, 181–217.
Brown, M. E., & Trevino, L. K. (2006). Ethical leadership: A review and future directions. The Leadership Quarterly, 17, 595–616.
Brown, M. E., Trevino, L. K., & Harrison, D. A. (2005). Ethical leadership: A social learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 97, 117–134.
Ciulla, J. B. (2004). Leadership ethics: Mapping the territory. In J. B. Ciulla (Ed.), Ethics, the heart of leadership (pp. 3–24). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Davis, J. H., Schoorman, F. D., & Donaldson, L. (1997). Toward a stewardship theory of management. Academy of Management Review, 22, 20–47.
Day, D. V., Gronn, P., & Salas, E. (2004). Leadership capacity in teams. The Leadership Quarterly, 15, 857–880.
Donaldson, T., & Preston, L. (1995). The stakeholder theory of the corporation: Concepts, evidence, and implications. Academy of Management Review, 20, 65–91.
Finkelstein, S., Hambrick, D., & Cannella, B. (2009). Strategic leadership: Top executives and their effects on organizations (2nd ed.). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing.
Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Boston, MA: Pitman.
Friedman, M. (1970). The social responsibility of business to increase its profits. New York Times, September 13, pp. 122–126.
Garriga, E., & Melé, D. (2004). Corporate social responsibility theories: Mapping the territory. Journal of Business Ethics, 53, 51–71.
Gerstner, C. R., & Day, D. V. (1997). Meta-analytic review of leader-member exchange theory: Correlates and construct issues. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 827–844.
Ghoshal, S. (2005). Bad management theories are destroying good management practices. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 4, 75–91.
Gini, A. (2004). Moral leadership and business ethics. In J. B. Ciulla (Ed.), Ethics, the heart of leadership (pp. 25–43). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Harris Interactive. (2009). http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Harris-Interactive-Poll-Research-FT-2009-Business-leaders-4.pdf.
Hillman, A. J., & Keim, G. D. (2001). Shareholder value, stakeholder management, and social issues: What’s the bottom line? Strategic Management Journal, 22, 125–139.
Husted, B. W., & de Jesus Salazar, J. (2006). Taking Friedman seriously: Maximizing profits and social performance. Journal of Management Studies, 43, 75–91.
Jensen, M. C. (2001). Value maximization, stakeholder theory, and the corporate objective function. European Financial Management, 7, 297–317.
Jensen, M. C., & Meckling, M. (1976). Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure. Journal of Financial Economics, 3, 305–360.
Jones, T. M., Felps, W., & Bigley, G. A. (2007). Ethical theory and stakeholder-related decisions: The role of stakeholder culture. Academy of Management Review, 32, 137–155.
Judge, T. A., & Piccolo, R. F. (2004). Transformational and transactional leadership: A meta-analytic test of their relative validity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 755–768.
Kozlowski, S. W. J., & Ilgen, D. R. (2006). Enhancing the effectiveness of work groups and teams. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 7(3), 77–124.
Levy, O., Beechler, S., Taylor, S., & Boyacigiller, N. A. (2007). What we talk about when we talk about ‘global mindset’: Managerial cognition in multinational corporations. Journal of International Business Studies, 38, 231–258.
Maak, T., & Pless, N. M. (2006). ‘Responsible leadership in a stakeholder society–A relational perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 66, 99–115.
Mackey, J. (2009). The Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare, Wall Street Journal, August 11. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204251404574342170072865070.html.
Margolis, J. D., & Walsh, J. P. (2001). People and profits? The search for a link between a company’s social and financial performance. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Margolis, J. D., & Walsh, J. P. (2003). Misery loves companies: Rethinking social initiatives by business. Administrative Science Quarterly, 48, 268–305.
McArdle, M. (2009). Boycotting Whole Foods, theatlantic.com, August 17. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/08/boycotting-whole-foods/23348.
McWilliams, A., & Siegel, D. (2000). Corporate social responsibility and financial performance: Correlation or misspecification? Strategic Management Journal, 21, 603–609.
McWilliams, A., & Siegel, D. (2001). Corporate social responsibility: A theory of the firm perspective. Academy of Management Review, 26, 117–227.
Novak, M. (1982). The spirit of democratic capitalism. New York: Simon & Schuster.
NowPublic.com. (2009). John Mackey Health Care Views Launch Whole Foods Boycott, August 14. http://www.nowpublic.com/health/john-mackey-health-care-views-launch-whole-foods-boycott.
Orlitzky, M., Schmidt, F. L., & Rynes, S. (2003). Corporate social and financial performance: A meta-analysis. Organization Studies, 24, 403–411.
Pearce, C. L., & Conger, J. A. (2003). All those years ago: The historical underpinnings of shared leadership. In C. L. Pearce & J. A. Conger (Eds.), Shared leadership: Reframing the hows and whys of leadership (pp. 1–18). Sage: Thousand Oaks, CA.
Rasmussen Reports. (2009). Just 53% Say capitalism Better than Socialism, April. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/april_2009/just_53_say_capitalism_better_than_socialism.
Reason. (2005). Rethinking the social responsibility of business: A Reason debate featuring Milton Friedman, Whole Foods’ John Mackey, and Cypress Semiconductor’s T. J. Rodgers’, October. http://www.reason.com/news/show/32239.html.
Siegel, D. S. (2009). Green management matters only if it yields more green: An economic/strategic perspective. Academy of Management Perspectives, 23(3), 5–16.
Smith, A. (1937). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. New York: Modern Library.
Sully de Luque, M., Washburn, N. T., Waldman, D. A., & House, R. J. (2008). Unrequited profit: How stakeholder and economic values relate to subordinates’ perceptions of leadership and firm performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 53, 626–654.
Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvery, B. (2007). Complexity leadership theory: Shifting leadership form the industrial age to the knowledge era. The Leadership Quarterly, 18, 298–318.
Waddock, S., & Graves, S. (1997). The corporate social performance—Financial performance link. Strategic Management Journal, 18, 303–319.
Waldman, D. A., & Galvin, B. (2008). Alternative perspectives of responsible leadership. Organizational Dynamics, 37(4), 327–341.
Waldman, D. A., & Siegel, D. (2008). Defining the Socially Responsible Leader. The Leadership Quarterly, 19, 117–131.
Waldman, D. A., Siegel, D., & Javidan, M. (2006). Components of transformational leadership and corporate social responsibility. Journal of Management Studies, 43, 1703–1725.
Waldman, D. A., & Yammarino, F. J. (1999). CEO charismatic leadership: Levels-of-management and levels-of-analysis effects. Academy of Management Review, 24, 266–285.
Walsh, J. P., & Seward, J. K. (1990). On the efficiency of internal and external corporate control mechanisms. Academy of Management Review, 15, 133–152.
Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Waldman, D.A. Moving Forward with the Concept of Responsible Leadership: Three Caveats to Guide Theory and Research. J Bus Ethics 98 (Suppl 1), 75–83 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-011-1021-8
- Social responsibility