Using current literature on leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility, Christensen, Mackey and Whetten (164) investigate the manner in which leaders influence corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their organisations. This article aims at filling the gap between leadership and CSR literatures, while at the same time offers a way in which both these fields can evolve. The results of the article agreed with the hypothesis, as the study reveals that leadership theories explain the manner in which managers adopt or disregard corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
The article first considers various leadership theories and their relationship with CSR outcomes. After this, the article looks at definitional disputes surrounding CSR and their impact on leadership scholarships. Finally, the article looks at new models of leadership with a special focus on servant leadership, and what effects these new models pose to the future of both leadership and CSR fields.
Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility
Christensen, Mackey and Whetten (164) first look at literature on leadership, and what different leadership theories state about the influence of leaders on Corporate Social Responsibility. The study looks at three areas of leadership scholarship: trait theory, behavioural theories and distributed leadership.
The article looks at the leader as an individual. Here, the article analyses the impact of the leader’s personality traits on corporate social responsibility outcomes. According to the article, it is imperative to understand the various individual values, traits and distinctive characteristics of top managers and leaders in order to understand the antecedents to Corporate Social Responsibility (Christensen, Mackey and Whetten 168). The assumption behind this is that leaders mould the tactical practices of an organisation, and that leader decisions are a reflection of their personal values and personality.
The article argues that leaders imprint organisations with their personal values, in the process, influencing the decision processes that control the level to which managers prioritise conflicting claims by stakeholders. This means that leaders are the main force that influences the social performance of any organisation.
The article also found out that several personal values, such as job experience and educational background of CEOs, have a large impact on corporate social responsibility processes within organisations (Christensen, Mackey and Whetten 168). In addition to this, the study also found proof that early life experiences have the ability to impel the leaders and founders of a given organisation into imprinting CSR identities into their organisations. The article notes that all the previous studies on the subject agree that individual characteristics of the leader predict the adoption or lack thereof corporate social responsibility initiatives in any organisation.
The article next looks at leadership scholarships that focus on behavioural theories and corporate social responsibility. The study posits that while leaders shape CSR practices of an organisation, these practices occur not due to the individual traits of the leader, but due to a particular leader behaviour (Christensen, Mackey and Whetten, 169). Behaviours such as commitment to CSR influence the frameworks that organisations enact to respond to their surrounding political and social environment.
One of the main arguments in this section is that transformational leadership offers great opportunities in the advancement of CSR initiatives. According to this study, transformational leadership entails raising the aspirations of workers and motivating advanced ethical principles, such that workers associate with the leader and their vision, workers have better feelings about what they do, and workers strive to accomplish beyond regular transactions and simple outlooks.
According to the article, shared leadership involves situations where influences and behaviours attributed to leaders appear from any level within the firm. According to the article, leadership is not an individual aspect, but entails a multifaceted relationship between many interacting forces. Shared leadership describes the collaborative influence process among group individuals designed to guide each other to the accomplishment of organisational or group objectives (Christensen, Mackey and Whetten, 170)
The article posits that shared leadership may result in the formation of a checks and balance the system, that may lead to greater social responsibility in the organisation. The study argues that corporate irresponsibility is a function of centralised leadership as it lacks the checks and balances inherent in shared leadership.
After reviewing and presenting the relationship between CSR and leadership, the article then looks at the various issues relating to the definition of CSR. The article also investigates servant leadership and its impact on CSR initiatives.
The article identifies two definitions of CSR: altruistic and instrumental CSR. The instrumental outlook describes CSR by what it costs and what it can bring to the organisation. According to this view, CSR offers a sound business opportunity, and as such, organisations should strive to engage in the practice. The article however argues that this view is inadequate and may influence leaders to adopt CSR initiatives only if they are advantageous to the organisation (Christensen, Mackey and Whetten, 171).
On the other hand, the altruistic outlook defines CSR as the activities carried out by an organisation in order to promote some social good beyond the interests of the shareholders. The study concludes that it is possible to reconcile both these views, such that a leader adopts CSR both due to the fact that it is right and also due to the fact that it has the potential to be profitable.
After reviewing different emerging forms of leadership, the article concludes that servant leadership holds the most promise in the field of CSR. Servant leadership is an emerging model of leadership in which leaders strive to serve as well as lead (Christensen, Mackey and Whetten, 173). These types of leaders empower and improve their workers, embody modesty and authenticity, offer guidance, and act as agents who strive for the good of everything. This type of leadership is unique as it is the only one in which CSR is both the driving force and the outcome.
Possible Lessons to Authorities in the UAE
As the economy of the UAE grows at a remarkable rate, CSR initiatives are a major concern for authorities and corporations in the UAE. There is a marked departure from the established business philosophy of profit maximisation to social responsibility. As such, authorities and managers of PLCs in the UAE may derive several lessons from the article above.
First, according to the trait theory, authorities and the top managers of corporations in the UAE should select leaders who have traits that positively influence CSR initiatives. These leaders should portray positive traits such as conscientiousness, cognitive ability, job experience, high responsibility disposition, and task knowledge in relation to CSR.
Secondly, according to behavioural theories, authorities should seek those leaders whose actions favour CSR. Top managers as well as relevant authorities should commit to CSR, and engage in behaviours that promote CSR. Top managers should also strive to be transformational leaders and select divisional leaders who are transformational. They should be able to invoke ideals, encourage motivation, and stimulate their employees intellectually. It is through this that corporations in the UAE can successfully enact CSR initiatives. Top managers can also adopt distributed leadership by encouraging employees to voice their opinions and as such create a system of checks and balances that encourage social responsibility.
Another lesson to authorities and leaders is whether an organisation should embark on altruistic or instrumental CSR. As companies are choosing to adopt CSR initiatives, most have embarked on engaging in CSR only if it is advantageous to their end goals. However, this is a limited view that has a high probability of failing and as such UAE-based corporations should instead embark on CSR over truly altruistic reasons. This creates goodwill in the society as well as sets a long-lasting system that embraces CSR.
Finally, authorities and top managers in the UAE should strive to transform themselves into servant leaders. They should seek to serve in addition to leading. They should at every moment of their careers seek to improve the world around them as well as the organisation they work in.
Various debates exist on the position of Corporate Social Responsibility in the business world. Literatures on the subject are however scarce and those that exist rarely deal with the subject of leadership and its impact on corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Christensen, Mackey and Whetten (2014) look at the gaps in existing knowledge and present an exploratory study that explores corporate social responsibility initiatives through a leadership perspective. Looking at the various arguments presented in the article, we find that authorities and top managers in the UAE can draw many lessons. The most important lesson however is that by seeking to serve, one can effectively lead.
Christensen, Lisa Jones, Alison Mackey, and David Whetten. “Taking Responsibility for Corporate Social Responsibility: The Role of Leaders in Creating, Implementing, Sustaining, or Avoiding Socially Responsible Firm Behaviors.” The Academy of Management Perspectives 28.2 (2014): 164-178.