We live in a time of permanent change. Many things are changing − economically, socially and politically. The major challenges of our time, such as climate change, global migration, inequality of distribution and poverty reduction, need solutions. The question of a fundamental change of attitude is increasingly coming to the collective consciousness. What we need are new leadership and mission statements as well as associated leadership concepts that include responsibility for society as a whole and look far beyond their own horizons.
Responsible leadership as a maxim
The classical understanding of management is about maximizing profits for your own company and its owners. Everything else is subordinated to the goal of shareholder value.
Responsible leadership spans a much broader range. It is about economic, social and ecological criteria that influence decisions. Responsibility does not end with the owner, but includes stakeholders, society and the environment in equal measure.
The assessment of conditions is extended to include an ethical component. The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDGs) provide a suitable framework for this. Responsible leadership means feeling committed to these goals and regularly reflecting on how the SDGs could be supported by one's own actions.
How do you recognize responsible leaders?
Responsible leaders act in a future-oriented manner, with a long-term horizon. They consider the interests of as many stakeholders as possible: owners, employees, customers, suppliers and business partners. To achieve this, they are in close contact with these stakeholders, focus on networking and cooperation and seek long-term win-win solutions. This also means, for example, checking whether minimum ethical and ecological standards are observed when selecting suppliers. Responsible leaders think holistically, learn with and from each other, inspire each other and others.
In concrete terms, responsible leaders act sustainably in a way that is good for themselves, for the society and for the environment. Responsible leadership has always existed. What is new about the current movement is the structured examination of one's own actions with regard to responsibility: regular self-reflection, networking meetings and increased awareness ensure a constantly growing sense of responsibility.
How do responsible leaders become active?
Specifically, a responsible leader acts at different levels. Individually, it is a matter of being aware of one's own action-guiding values and drivers, as well as working on personal development. Being aware of oneself and a certain degree of self-care are favourable prerequisites for constructive interaction with others. Work on one's own resilience and active health care are just as much a part of this as regular questioning of one's own behaviour patterns in coaching or by means of "journaling" - a kind of diary for self-analysis.
When dealing with stakeholders, responsible leaders act in a fair, appreciative and inspiring manner and try to achieve sustainable win-win solutions wherever possible. An example of this is the way we deal with employees: appreciative communication and constructive feedback serve both the person giving feedback and the person receiving it.
Within the company, they pay attention to a supportive corporate culture by emphatically representing and demanding their values and principles − even when things get unpleasant. They ensure transparency and openness and try to reduce negative influences on people, society and the environment wherever possible. Responsible leaders, for example, scrutinize new business or product ideas for their fit with the actual purpose of the company and the proclaimed values.
At the level of society and the environment, responsible leaders try to increase the positive impact their company has on society and the environment, while reducing the negative impact. For example, they regularly inquire about progress in the company's carbon footprint.
Everyone acts within the scope of their possibilities. Responsible leaders are those who are beginning to change the world in their sphere of influence, i.e. on a small scale. For some, this means the appreciative treatment of people they meet. For others, the focus is on the CO2 neutrality of their company. The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide responsible leaders with a broad field of action. They make their contribution and assume responsibility.