Responsible leadership: A behavioural perspective

Joseph Flocy, Singapore Management University


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A review of the existing theories on various leadership styles clearly point to the lack of two critical aspects - ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’ in their characterisation. It is imperative in this era to focus on those breed of leaders who can respond collectively with credible actions for their businesses while accepting the full responsibility of their actions. This has given rise to `Responsible Leadership (RL)’ as a new leadership construct for leaders in the twenty first century. Still in its infant stages of discussion, literature on RL lack a clear definition and the kind of behaviours that are manifested in responsible leaders This study attempts to contribute to RL literature by (i) offering a refined definition for RL (ii) identifying the behaviours that are manifested in responsible leaders (iii) the creation and validation of a scale for responsible leader behaviours.

A multi-phase method approach was adopted for this study. Such an approach provided this study with a strong foundation, allowing for an in-depth and comprehensive review on the behavioural aspects of responsible leaders. The items for the scale was developed from the interviews conducted with CEOs holding Asia Pacific responsibilities. The interviews followed a survey that was distributed to senior executives in the corporate world in 3 phases which described behaviours demonstrated by leaders. Using Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) the data from the survey was analysed to identify three factors

influencing RL thereby reducing the initial pool of 48 items to 30 items. These 30 items were relaunched in a final survey to perform the Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA). The results from the CFA showed the emergence of a 3 factor outcome for RL. We characterised these factors under 3 categories of behaviours which were (i) including & consulting with all stakeholders for decisions that impact the business (ii) engaging with the employees at a personal level & concerned about their progress (iii) advancing the cause of business and society by integrating the two. We also conducted further tests to examine the Convergent and Discriminant Validity to the construct of RL. We found that RL was positively correlated with Transformational Leadership and Transactional Leadership. Though the correlation showed some form of convergence between RL and Transformational Leadership, they were not strong enough to establish Convergent Validity. Similarly, the values between RL and Transactional Leadership also did not establish Discriminant Validity thus bringing in `conceptual redundancy’ of RL as a stand-alone construct.