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Journal cover: Corporate Governance

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Online from: 2001

Subject Area: Business Ethics and Law

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Developing leaders for sustainable business

Document Information:
Title:Developing leaders for sustainable business
Author(s):Patricia Hind, (Director based at Ashridge Business School, Berkhamsted, UK), Andrew Wilson, (Director based at The Corporate Citizenship Company, London, UK), Gilbert Lenssen, (President of EABIS, Brussels, Belgium)
Citation:Patricia Hind, Andrew Wilson, Gilbert Lenssen, (2009) "Developing leaders for sustainable business", Corporate Governance, Vol. 9 Iss: 1, pp.7 - 20
Keywords:Abilities, Economic sustainability, Leadership, Management development
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/14720700910936029 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Acknowledgements:Received: 21 March 2007 Revised: 21 October 2007 Accepted: 5 November 2007. This paper draws from an extensive research study undertaken with the support of the European Academy of Business in Society (EABIS), as part of its Research, Education and Training Partnership Programme on Corporate Responsibility. This Programme has been made possible due to the financial support of EABIS' founding corporate partners, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Shell and Unilever.

PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to explore how organisations can develop leaders who have the competences necessary to ensure the sustainability of the company. It considers how the understanding and practice of responsible leadership can be enhanced by defining the competencies for integrating social and environmental considerations into business decision-making processes.

Design/methodology/approachThe research comprised two phases. An initial questionnaire surveyed a sample of managers operating in the public and private sectors in Europe (n=108). A second stage of the research used in-depth interviews with 11 leading European-based multinational companies.

FindingsResults indicate that, whilst the qualities and skills of responsible leadership can be identified, a further mediating concept deemed to be “reflexive abilitites” is posited as required to explain their translation into individual managerial behaviours. The paper describes the nature of these reflexive abilities.

Research limitations/implicationsA key limitation of the research is the small sample size, both for the survey and for the interviews. Further research is needed to develop a clearer understanding of the nature and functioning of the “reflexive abilities” and to establish the robustness of these concepts.

Practical implicationsThe results of the research support the current awareness amongst management educators that the development of successful business leadership requires more than training in “hard” business functions. Although the importance of experientially learned “soft skills” has been acknowledged, the paper suggests that the development of responsible leadership needs a third dimension to be incorporated into management education.

Originality/valueThe paper suggests that “reflexive abilities” should be developed as core competencies in management development. For the development of responsible leadership it is necessary to foster the intellectual capacities to reflect upon, synthesise and integrate local and global business information in a way that leads to a new interpretation of both factual and emotional data. These abilities may enable leaders to develop new ways of thinking and new business models which will ensure the sustainability of their businesses. The paper explores the implications for those responsible for designing and delivering management development programmes.

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