The article is structured as follows: In the next section, we consider the conceptual roots of responsible leadership, and identify the strengths and challenges associated with its nascent body of research. Next, we outline core elements of responsible leadership; then, we discuss the various leadership theories and constructs that are relevant to responsible leadership, and provide a summary of current thinking in the field. We conclude with a final section of ideas that could help us continue to advance our understanding of responsible leadership.
The concept of leadership responsibilities also extends to the definition of what responsibilities leaders should take on. From a moral perspective, this extension can be argued to be justified, as the responsibilities of leaders extend into the moral realm, and beyond the realm of their position, into society at large. In the business world, a broader responsibility should include the goal of becoming a role model for one’s subordinates (Schmidt and Agyepong 2004). It also extends to the area of social responsibility, which has been identified as a corporate imperative (Hofstede 2001). However, the term “responsibility” is not itself a word that is consistently used in the current literature on leadership, and as we will discuss, it is also a central element of other leadership theories. The absence of a consistent and robust use of terminology may serve to limit the understanding of responsible leadership.
When discussing responsible leadership, the idea of “role” is a key theme (Maak 2007; Pless 2007; Schrage 2003). In a moral sense, the word “role” connotes that people can actively choose to play or not to play certain roles in a particular situation, and not be bound by their role. In the leadership context, this would imply that people can choose to play or not to play certain leadership roles, and that people can reject certain leadership roles (a la King). There are different facets to this conceptualization of a leadership role, however. It can be considered in terms of the implied responsibilities of the role, such as leadership roles that help people find meaning at work, and/or roles that may contribute to the achievement of social objectives. In each case, the role is played.
Before we turn to those issues, we will outline some key leadership theories and models, starting with leadership as relationships. The concept of leadership as a relationship can be traced back to sociologist Émile Durkheim, who explored how social structure and social relations shape the way we are leaders.
In order to explore the various perspectives, we will start by outlining current research on leadership in health and social care, and then provide a framework for understanding leadership. We will outline some important issues concerning the changing context in which we live, and the implications this has for the way we define and understand leadership.
1. The sociodemographic paradigm , which examines leadership attributes and behaviours to determine if they are more common in one population or ethnic group, such as men, the elderly, or people with disabilities. 827ec27edc