With the current transition towards a “desirable”, more virtuous, social, and eco-friendly economy, the goal of leaders is now to transform the company TOWARDS responsibility. But to do so, they must also take a personal stance IN responsibility. Because responsibility is both a goal and a process. Indeed, companies have employees and suppliers, they act as the heart of an ecosystem. Taking this into account is essential for any transformation, even if it means that the transformation will be longer and less radical. Thus, if the goal is virtuous, the process must also be virtuous. This is the foundation for responsible leadership.

Responsible leadership is not a separate school of leadership that would challenge traditional models. Actually, it is a combination of knowledge, hard skills and soft skills that are vital to transform and create change, considering the major transition that companies are undergoing. It is centred around five key notions:

Awareness - Responsible leaders have three levels of awareness. First, they are aware of their company’s impact on its environment and its stakeholders, and of the challenges that come with transforming their company towards responsibility. Then, they are aware of themselves and of the impact of their own actions. Finally, they are developing their awareness and understanding in relation to others and increasing their empathy.


As a mission-driven company, the consultancy Kea & Partners is assisting leaders in their transition towards a desirable, sustainable, and solidarity-based economy. Active for 20 years in R&D focusing on management, transformation, and organization, the firm has been working for 3 years on the concept of responsibility, combining theory with practice.


Power - The road towards responsibility includes opening up and sharing governance. Due to the higher number of shareholders, it is necessary to build a new relation to power - one that is more inclusive and aims at empowering various parties. Exercising power with this co-construction mindset is more complicated and requires leaders to have real courage, as well as to take risks.

Collective - This new relation to power goes hand in hand with acting for and with the collective. Responsible leaders will develop their relational intelligence, their collective intelligence, and their capacity to act according to their values.

Time - Thinking on the long term is one of the main characteristics of responsibility and impact. But companies also have obligations in terms of productivity and performance today, which may be in contradiction with that vision. Transformations are slow processes. Responsible leadership aims at combining both short- and long-term visions - being visionary and thinking ahead, while managing day-to-day operations.

Transformation - In order to assist in the transformation of companies and in the transformation of others, responsible leaders must themselves develop a real ability for self-transformation and personal flexibility. They will also rely on tools such as influence strategies and ally strategies.

So, responsible leadership is a type of leadership allowing for the transformation of companies, of others, but also of oneself. It is impacting leaders in their individuality and in their way of doing their jobs. Once the vision and the mission of the company have been set, the ability of leaders to take every stakeholder by the hand and lead them towards the shared goal is a guarantee of their longevity within the structure. At the same time, this gives meaning to their actions, allowing them to have a real impact on society.
Faced with major environmental and social evolutions, both companies and private initiative clearly have an essential role to play alongside public entities. Choosing responsibility is a cultural shift, that can be achieved first by modelling leaders. Of course, profitability will always be the goal for companies. But it is possible to combine performance and innovation, while contributing to the common good!

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