What Is A Responsible Leader?


Responsible Leadership Requires the Long Term View

I recently read a number of articles on leadership traits. Each article pointed out traits that seemed appropriate such as tough mindedness, empathy, charisma and so on. On a recent LinkedIn discussion traits discussed included being a visionary, having humility and the ability to build trust and confidence.

A couple of the articles pointed out that leaders are not born but are created by situations and positions in which they are placed.
A leader then could probably be described as someone having the traits necessary to move an organization toward its desired goals effectively.
I think there are those who thought Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling were great leaders before the downfall of Enron. For a time I am certain that Bernard Ebbers was considered a good leader at Worldcom.
What is missing from most descriptions of leaders, leadership traits and leadership in general is the impact leaders have on the larger universe.
If you consider most of the regulations governing business today, they exist because at some point an individual or organization acted irresponsibly. After the regulations are put in place there are plenty of complaints about how much the regulations constrict freedoms, business activity and the free market in general.
I am certain we are all aware of the impact Enron had on business activity since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was a direct result of Enron’s misguided leadership.
Responsible Leadership should consider desired outcomes while considering the organization’s role in the community and in society as a whole.
Traits for responsible leadership should include:
1)    Ability to recognize the organization’s impact on the community by its:
a.    People – Employees that live and are involved in the community. Is the organization in sync or in conflict with the community? Products and services – Do the products and services enhance the community’s quality of life and safety?
b.    Relationship - Does the location of the organizations outlets improve the community while improving the organization’s viability?
c.     Focus - Does the business strategy provide good returns and solid financial foundation for its stakeholders?
2)    Another trait of responsible leadership is the ability to take a leadership role when the community is in need. In times of crisis does the organization step in to provide needed goods and services?
3)    Responsible leadership should consider the future of the organization and the society in which it operates. Does the organization help develop people internally to lead in the future? Does the leadership make the decisions that are focused on the long-term benefit to the community at large, stakeholders and employees?
4)    Responsible leadership should have research and development and investment strategies that will insure the organization’s ability to survive for the long term.
5)    Responsible leadership requires a view that can discern whether an action that brings positive ROI in the short run is in the best interest for the long term. Would responsible leaders create a financial boom based on loans to individuals that likely could not repay the debt?
A leader of a responsible organization would have all the traits that are described in the many articles and studies on leadership attributes but would also consider the organization as a subset of the community and society as a whole.
Organizations that have recognized its responsibilities to the community and have these traits ingrained in their culture have a better chance of guiding leaders along the path of responsible leadership.
We are all familiar with organizations that demonstrate responsible leadership. They are from all industries and they work to build their business by being a positive force in their communities and are a source of pride for their employees. They are at the forefront when the community is in need and they support ongoing community programs such as museums, theatre and youth programs. They encourage their employees to participate in community affairs. They build their business and the community.
The community does not forget a responsibly led organization. It supports and identifies with the organizations that contribute and work to benefit the community.
Being a leader and having leadership traits is only the first step in being a responsible leader.

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