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The Roles of Leadership Styles in Corporate Social Responsibility

Abstract

This research investigates the interplay between leadership styles and institutional corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. A large-scale field survey of managers reveals that firms with greater transformational leadership are more likely to engage in institutional CSR practices, whereas transactional leadership is not associated with such practices. Furthermore, stakeholder-oriented marketing reinforces the positive link between transformational leadership and institutional CSR practices. Finally, transactional leadership enhances, whereas transformational leadership diminishes, the positive relationship between institutional CSR practices and organizational outcomes. This research highlights the differential roles that transformational and transactional leadership styles play for a firm’s institutional CSR practices and has significant implications for theory and practice.

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Correspondence to Adam Lindgreen.

Appendix: Measurement Instrument

Appendix: Measurement Instrument

Transformational Leadership (IS = Intellectual Stimulation, CHI = Charisma/Inspiration)

In our firm, managers… (5-point scale, 1 = “never,” 5 = “frequently, if not always”)

  1. (1)

    re-examine critical assumptions to question whether these are appropriate (IS)

  2. (2)

    seek differing perspectives when solving problems (IS)

  3. (3)

    get others to look at problems from many different angles (IS)

  4. (4)

    suggest new ways of looking at how to complete assignments (IS)

  5. (5)

    talk about their most important values and beliefs (CHI)

  6. (6)

    specify the importance of having a strong sense of purpose (CHI)

  7. (7)

    consider the moral and ethical consequences of decisions (CHI)

  8. (8)

    emphasize the importance of having a collective sense of mission (CHI)

  9. (9)

    talk optimistically about the future (CHI)

  10. (10)

    talk enthusiastically about what needs to be accomplished (CHI)

  11. (11)

    articulate a compelling vision of the future (CHI)

  12. (12)

    express confidence that goals will be achieved (CHI)

  13. (13)

    instill pride in others for being associated with them (CHI)

  14. (14)

    go beyond self-interest for the good of the group (CHI)

  15. (15)

    act in ways that build others’ respect for me (CHI)

  16. (16)

    display a sense of power and confidence (CHI)

Transactional Leadership (MBEA = Management by Exception-Active, CR = Contingent Reward)

In our firm, managers… (5-point scale, 1 = “never,” 5 = “frequently, if not always”)

  1. (1)

    focus attention on irregularities, mistakes, exceptions, and deviations from standards (MBEA)

  2. (2)

    concentrate their full attention on dealing with mistakes, complaints, and failures (MBEA)

  3. (3)

    keep track of all mistakes (MBEA)

  4. (4)

    direct their attention toward failure to meet standard (MBEA)

  5. (5)

    provide others with assistance in exchange for their efforts (CR)

  6. (6)

    discuss in specific terms who is responsible for achieving performance targets (CR)

  7. (7)

    make clear what one can expect to receive when performance goals are achieved (CR)

  8. (8)

    express satisfaction when others meet expectations (CR)

Institutional CSR Practices

Our firm systematically attempts to… (7-point scale, 1 = “strongly disagree,” 5 = “strongly agree”)

  1. (1)

    incorporate the interests of the communities where we operate in our business decisions

  2. (2)

    financially support education in the communities where we operate

  3. (3)

    stimulate the economic development in the communities where we operate

  4. (4)

    help improve the quality of life in the communities where we operate

  5. (5)

    give money to charities in the communities where we operate

  6. (6)

    financially support activities (arts, culture, sports) in the communities where we operate

  7. (7)

    voluntarily exceed government-imposed environmental regulations

  8. (8)

    incorporate environmental concerns in our business decisions

  9. (9)

    incorporate environmental performance objectives in our organizational plans

  10. (10)

    financially support environmental initiatives

  11. (11)

    measure our organization’s environmental performance

  12. (12)

    minimize the environmental impact of all our firm’s activities

Stakeholder-Oriented Marketing Practices

(5-point scale, 1 = “never,” 5 = “always”)

  1. (1)

    Our marketing activities are intended to coordinate activities between ourselves, customers, and other parties in our wider marketing system (e.g., key suppliers, service providers, and other firms with which we interact through our marketing activities).

  2. (2)

    Our marketing planning is focused on issues related to the network of relationships between individuals and organizations in our wider marketing system.

  3. (3)

    When dealing with our market(s), our purpose is to form relationships with a number of firms in our market(s) or the wider marketing system.

  4. (4)

    Our firm’s contact with our primary customers is from impersonal to interpersonal (e.g., involving one-to-one interaction between people) across firms in the broader network.

  5. (5)

    The type of relationship with our primary customers is characterized as contact with people in our organization and the wider marketing system that is ongoing.

  6. (6)

    Our marketing resources (i.e., people, time, and money) are invested in developing our firm’s network relationships within our market(s) or the wider marketing system.

  7. (7)

    Our marketing communication involves senior managers networking with other managers from a variety of firms in our market(s) or the wider marketing system.

  8. (8)

    When people from our firm meet with our primary customers it is at both a formal business level and informal social level in a wider organizational system/network.

  9. (9)

    Overall, our firm’s general approach to our primary customers involves positioning our organization in a wider organizational system/network.

Organizational Outcomes

This year, how has your firm performed relative to expectations for… (5-point scale, 1 = “much worse,” 5 = “much better”)

  1. (1)

    improving relations with environment (e.g., people in the community)

  2. (2)

    improving relations with stakeholders in general

  3. (3)

    improving corporate image/reputation

  4. (4)

    gaining national and international visibility.

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Du, S., Swaen, V., Lindgreen, A. et al. The Roles of Leadership Styles in Corporate Social Responsibility. J Bus Ethics 114, 155–169 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1333-3

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Keywords

  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Transformational leadership
  • Transactional leadership
  • Stakeholder-oriented marketing
  • Organizational outcomes