Responsible Leadership

Responsible Leadership works with the idea that leadership contributes to “building social capital, sustainable business and the common good” (Maak, 2007). This is leadership that is “the art and ability involved in building, cultibating and sustaining trustful relationships to different stakeholders, both inside and outside the organisation, and in co-ordinating responsible action to achieve a meaningful, commonly shared business vision” (Maak, 2007: 334). 

The reputation economy, underpinned by an emerging global stakeholder society, requires responsible leadership. 

This is leadership that:

1. Is based on multiple complex relationships with a diverse range of stakeholders.

2. Enables social capital building.

3. Weaves networks of relationships, rich in ties to otherwise unconnected individuals or groups.

4. Results in the creation of value networks of multiple stakeholders.

Responsible leadership has to be considered in the context of the leader as a responsible “person”, the “roles” the leader fulfils, the stakeholder “relationships” and the ethics of what a leader does in terms of “responsibilities” (Maak & Pless, 2006). 

The challenge for those of us working within the field of leadership and organisational development is to truly understand the concept of the ‘responsible leader’. Once we have this understanding, we need to see leaders emerging who act with integrity, consistency, transparency and accountability. 


Maak, T., & Pless, N.M. 2006. Responsible leadership. London: Routledge

Maak, T. 2007. Responsible leadership, stakeholder engagement, and the emergence of social capital. Journal of Business Ethics, 74, 329-343