A Process Theory of Responsible Leadership

ELLIS, Mark (2020). A Process Theory of Responsible Leadership. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00295


Modern capitalism is a success for some, but not for all. The examples of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, Nike’s sweatshops and the demise of Enron and Arthur Anderson show how irresponsible leaders prioritise corporate needs and profit ahead of society’s wider interests. As a result, there is an increasing interest in higher purpose forms of leadership such as Responsible Leadership (RL) with its concern for the wider stakeholder community and ethically informed governance and management decision making. This thesis presents new empirical findings from an inductive thematic analysis of Responsible Leadership as practiced within seven organisations. The findings and subsequent conclusions were developed from a cross case analysis of twenty one interviews with the responsible leaders and their organisations’ stakeholders. A process theory of responsible leadership was developed from the findings. This process details the journey of the RL participants from their early life to establishing and then growing their organisation whose primary aim was social betterment. The participant RLs studied came to responsible leadership as a result of experiences in their formative years where they had become sensitive to the plight of others less fortunate than themselves. This ultimately led to their activation in creating an organisation with the explicit aim of improving the lives of these individuals/communities. The interpretations of the constituent themes of what it is to be a responsible leader indicate that the personal moral values (e.g. universalism and benevolence) of each of the RLs studied were the cornerstone of why they had become a RL and that these values prioritised social concerns above profit. These personal values also underpinned the aims and mission of their organisation and their leadership approach. It is this personal value set that the RLs recruited employees against and where they were not present actively excluded applicants, presenting as a dichotomy with the RL espoused values of inclusivity. Other findings that emerged from the study include an emergent theory of responsible leadership that differentiates it from responsible management and further insights into the boundary of RL stakeholder inclusion. This study also expands our understanding of responsible leadership, provides insights for practice and suggests productive avenues for further investigation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Ridley-Duff, Rory
Additional Information: Director of studies: Rory Ridley-Duff
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00295
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2020 15:23
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 13:54
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/26935

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