An inquiry into responsible leadership – III

8.8.2017

An inquiry into responsible leadership – III

In exploring responsibility integration, I have discovered that leaders should realise how important it is to involve others in the leadership process. They would need to position themselves in the middle of the leadership space. Within this space, the role of listening and understanding the leadership context becomes critical.

By looking beyond the immediate and obvious roles of leadership, responsibility integration in different contexts can be approached, and various possible ways become available by which leaders can enhance it. One such way is through developing and enriching cooperation among stakeholders within and outside the focal organisation. It is critical that this process allows for the opening up especially towards external stakeholders, the surrounding environment and the community. In other words, the context is particularly well-suited to opening up the leaders role towards responsibility.

However, contexts are quite different from family-owned companies to multi-national corporations. Therefore, also responsibility integration becomes different, and leaders must be aware of the sensitivity of responsibility integration into different contexts. It is not the question of individual skills and competencies of the leader, but narrative and often rather informal resources matter.

In addition to that  responsibility is not a phenomenon that is confined to the specific boundaries of an organisation, its integration disseminates also across the everyday work of leadership. It becomes the production of co-creation and engagement by many participants and stakeholders. For this reason also business schools would need to reach beyond their class structures, so that contextual and informal aspects would form part of responsibility learning.

This can be gained, in practice, for example through discussion set-ups that delve informally but deeply into exchange. The informal context to leadership is vastly different from our conventional understandings of leadership skills and competencies. Yet, without widening the perspective responsibility integration understanding and actions will remain vague.  The role of individuals in leveraging responsibility integration should also receive recognition, changes can and often do start from individuals.

There is still the prevailing concept of hard business with expectations as to when and how leaders should perform. Because time is often required to build a basis for responsible leadership, challenges for conventional quarterly-reporting systems can be introduced.  Another issue is the lack of  seeing meaningful responsibility perspectives. In a fast-growing business they might be much overlooked. These problems can be responded to through learning and creating a common attitude that is open to discussion and culture, and through making the business an integral part of the society.

Perhaps the core point is still that responsibility integration should be taken as a process. There are various new aspects to responsible leadership, such as responsibility as a social-technological-community complex, that resonate with the processual view. What stood out for me in this was especially the community as a winning resonating factor in responsible leadership integration.

Through the community, it becomes easier to steer responsible leadership to the right direction. Moreover, this feeds back to a tangible way of approaching everyday leadership.

Dr. Anne Keränen, Martti Ahtisaari Institute

Anne.Keranen[at]oulu.fi

(Based on an article published in Global  Responsibility, The GRLI Partner Magazine, no. 16, 2017, Photo: Pirjo Jaukkuri)