Leadership and Social Responsibility

Leadership and Social Responsibility

1920 1185 EssayPolymath


The practice of leadership has proven to an essential factor towards influencing the success of companies in different sector. Decisions made by the parties holding the senior leadership positions in various organizations play a role in influencing the course of action. One similar areas of application of such leadership practices is the sustainability. More precisely, the ethics and corporate social responsibility is greatly influenced by the leadership process. This essay aims at discussing the statement Practices of Leadership contribute to managing Sustainability (Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility) with the advance of post-bureaucratic approaches. This is achieved through the review of literature and presentation of the practical application of some of the major companies such as Apple, Google and Interface. The focus is to generate the specific ways in which the theoretical perspectives discussed are demonstrated in the practical business setting.


Traditionally, there has been a belief of the role of the leaders was that they are aimed at ensuring that the operations in organizations are as per the expectations of the key stakeholder. This included the monitoring and control of the issue regarding the staff with the organizations. Nonetheless, with the gradual changes in the concept of post-bureaucracy, new styles have emerged (Kippenberger, 2002). This has contributed to emphasis on the contribution of leadership in participation, satisfaction and transformation of the employees within organization.

Initially, such changes in the leadership context were welcome. However, a more dynamic approach focusing on contingency was postulated. This approach to leadership emphasized that leadership practices should be shaped by the prevailing situation. Such perspective has greatly popularized the contingent theory approach which is shaped by the prevailing situation. This school of thought brought forward the contingency theory of leadership in the post bureaucratic era. According to Weber’s approach to leadership, the key transaction under focus should be the key factor influencing the practices adopted (Adeniyi, 2007). The autocratic style of leadership was coined with the aim of strict adherence on the rules that have been laid out (Wray-Blis , 2012). To this extent, deviating from such rules and policies was considered inappropriate and not as per the leadership perspective (Clegg, Kornberger, & Pitsis, 2016). Still, this leadership dimension laid great focus on the ability of the leaders to make complex decisions and perform the laid out duties effectively and efficiently (Schein, 2004). Ultimately, there is no room for errors to be made by the leaders.

While the strict style of leadership may prove to work in some situation, it may fail terribly in other. Contingent theory of leadership was adopted post bureaucracy in influencing the success of companies in various aspects (Cameron, 2011). One of the key areas that such has been evident is in the adoption of sustainability in organization (Verissimo, 2015). In some instances, the situations require that leaders adopt policies that are flexible so as to advance corporate social responsibility sustainability (Fernando, Dharmage, & Almeida, 2008). Decisions made by the parties holding the senior leadership positions in various organizations play a role in influencing the course of action (Giuliani & Kurson, 2012). One similar areas of application of such leadership practices is the sustainability. Google’s sustainability in the corporate social responsibility is one of the approach portaging contingency theories of leadership. The innovations that have been made by the company in terms of sustainability have been influenced by the situations such as the needs of customers in the market.

At Google, the approach that has been adopted is “distributed leadership” (Manimala, Poornima, Wasdani, & Wasdani, 2013). The key decisions made are done in consultation of the senior leaders within the company. This has influenced the reshaped focus on sustainability (Benn, 2010). One of the main areas of focus by the company is renewable energy. While the initial energy was on environmental conservation, it has enhanced overall operations. As of 2016, the company has become the largest buyer of renewable energy (Lazonava, 2016). It has invested in more than twenty renewable energy projects as part of the model of sustainability. Over time, this has greatly shaped corporate social responsibility and sustainability model within the company.

Also, the situational leadership has been applied at Apple Inc. In the context of such perspective, one of the companies that have demonstrated this element is Apple. This has been achieved under the leadership of Tim Cook (Baker, 2016).  Through his individual leadership, Cook has inspired a culture of commitment towards sustainability in terms of the corporate social responsibility. He has adopted various changes within the company which have shaped his approach towards contingent leadership. For instance, he has instituted a policy where there are regular audits internally in terms of the commitment of the company towards sustainability (Sisodia, 2011). Also, he has been effective in terms of addressing the key challenges that have been identified in the supply chain.

Earlier, Apple was accused of failing in terms of sustainability especially in relation to secrecy regarding the working conditions in factories. Therefore, this is one of the situations that made Cook adopt such style of leadership though earlier approach of company secrecy had been adopted. However, under his leadership, Cook has embraced the approach of sustainability and ensured levels of transparency are high (Baker, 2016). This has been achieved even with the resistance from some of the shareholders on the resource allocation towards environmental sustainability. The moral standing and strong commitment of Cook towards sustainability also led to him hiring a new senior manager, Lisa Jackson to be in charge on the environmental policies within the company. To this extent, the values of sustainability towards ethics and corporate social responsibility have been evident through the strong commitment of the managers.

Yet another post-bureaucratic style of leadership is the authentic approach. It has also been applied in influencing the sustainability decisions in ethical corporate social responsibility (Maak, 2016). This involves a situation where a leader has the qualities that contribute towards the influence they have on the followers (Sisodia, 2011). The knowledge they have coupled with the high moral standing makes them respectable and role models in their organization (Schwartz, 2000). Any decisions they make tend to be followed by the followers (Stubbs, 2008). In such undertaking, such leaders focus on transforming the operations of the organization (Wray-Bliss E. , 2007). The transformative leaders may have change ideas that others in the organization and industry have not been exposed to in the past (Verissimo, 2015). They stand with their resolve and commitment towards making the ideas successful.

Authentic leadership could be clearly illustrated in the case of Ray Anderson and the impact he had on changing the global mentality on environmental sustainability.  Ray was the founder of a carpet company known as Interface (Gies, 2011). As the company grew, it changes its operations towards becoming sustainable. The concept of sustainability in terms of corporate social responsibility was adopted by Ray in 1994. During this time, not many companies had adopted such practices. The vision of the company’s leader was to eliminate environmental impact completely by the year 2020 (Gies, 2011). The key challenge was that the employees and the CEO of the company could not comprehend the action plan and vision that Ray had. This in turn resulted into a decline of the company’s performance as some of the investor failed to understand the decision made by the leadership towards sustainability (Davis, 2014). However, with time, the changes proved effective in terms of enhancing the company’s operations. Consequently, Interface became one of the companies to successfully implement sustainability practices within the context of its operations. Today, such models have been employed by many companies across the globe.


From the analysis, it is evident that Practices of Leadership contribute to managing Sustainability (Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility) with the advance of post-bureaucratic approaches. The evidence presented suggest that approaches including the commitment and moral approach of leaders, collaboration between the leaders and the board and the expertise and leadership style  are factors that contribute towards this development. The findings suggest practical application of such concepts in major companies in the global market including Apple, Google and Interface. Therefore, such concepts and models could be applied by other companies in different sectors seeking to leverage on the role of leadership in the enhancement of the sustainability concepts in terms of corporate social responsibility.



Adeniyi, M. A. ( 2007). Effective leadership management : an integration of styles, skills & character for today’s CEOs. Bloomington, IN : AuthorHouse.

Baker, M. (2016). How Tim Cook brought corporate social responsibility to Apple. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from http://mallenbaker.net/article/clear-reflection/how-tim-cook-brought-corporate-social-responsibility-to-apple

Benn, S. (2010). Public Relations Leadership in Corporate Social Responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics Vol. 96 Issue 3 , 403-423.

Bolden, R., & Gosling, J. (2006). Leadership Competencies: Time to Change the Tune? Leadership (17427150); Vol. 2 Issue 2 , 147-163.

Cameron, K. (2011). Responsible Leadership as Virtuous Leadership. Journal of Business Ethics Vol. 98 , 25-35.

Clegg, S., Kornberger, M., & Pitsis, T. (2016). Managing & organizations : an introduction to theory and practice. Los Angeles : SAGE.

Davis, M. (2014). 20 years later, Interface looks back on Ray Anderson’s legacy. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/09/03/20-years-later-interface-looks-back-ray-andersons-legacy

Fernando, M., Dharmage, S., & Almeida, S. (2008). Ethical Ideologies of Senior Australian Managers: An Empirical Study. Journal of Business Ethics Vol. 82, Issue 1 , 145-155.

Gies, E. (2011). Interface Founder Ray Anderson Leaves Legacy of Sustainability Success. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericagies/2011/08/10/interface-founder-ray-anderson-leaves-legacy-of-sustainability-success/#429b05c8787c

Giuliani, R. W., & Kurson, K. (2012). Leadership. NY: Hyperion.

Kippenberger, T. (2002). Leadership Styles. Chichester: Capstone Pub.

Lazonava, S. (2016). How Google Became the World’s Largest Corporate Purchaser of Renewable Energy. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from http://www.triplepundit.com/2016/03/google-became-worlds-largest-corporate-purchaser-renewable-energy/

Maak, T. (2016). Business Statesman or Shareholder Advocate? CEO Responsible Leadership Styles and the Micro-Foundations of Political CSR. Journal of Management Studies Vol. 53 Issue 3 , 463.

Manimala, M. J., Poornima, K., Wasdani, K., & Wasdani, P. (2013). Distributed leadership at Google: Lessons from the billion-dollar brand. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from Ivey Business Journal: http://iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/distributed-leadership-at-google-lessons-from-the-billion-dollar-brand/

Schein, E. H. (2004). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.

Schwartz, M. (2000). Why Ethical Codes Constitute an Unconscionable Regression. Journal of Business Ethics Part 2, Vol. 23 Issue 2 , 173-184.

Sisodia, R. (2011). Conscious Capitalism: A BETTER WAY TO WIN. California Management Review Vol. 53 Issue 3 , 98-109.

Stubbs, W. (2008). Conceptualizing a “Sustainability Business Model.”. . Organization & Environment Vol. 21 Issue 2 , 103-127.

Verissimo, J. (2015). Does integrity matter for CSR practice in organizations? The mediating role of transformational leadership. Business Ethics: A European Review Vol. 24 Issue 1 , 34.

Wray-Bliss, E. (2007). Ethics in work. In D. Knights, & H. Willmott, Introducing organizational behaviour and management (pp. 506-33). London : Thomson Learning.

Wray-Bliss, E. (2012). Leadership and the deified/demonic: a cultural examination of CEO sanctification. Business Ethics: A European Review Vol. 21 Issue 4 , 434-449.


Leave a Reply