Responsibility beyond the board room? A systematic review of responsible leadership: Operationalizations, antecedents and outcomes

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Sustainability (Switzerland)


For more than two decades, researchers have aimed to measure responsible leadership. This has resulted in several survey instruments and parallel streams of research, making it difficult to carve out the core. We systematically review 28 studies measuring responsible leadership (RL). A qualitative content analysis of RL survey instruments is conducted to identify the core aspects across measures, as well as synthesizing the evidence, mapping antecedents, and mapping the outcomes of RL. Findings show that 24 studies in the sample were published during the last two years, indicating a growth spurt in the field. Most survey instruments on RL measure leadership of the individual direct leader, while a few have a wider focus, such as leadership of the organization. Four themes were identified across RL survey instruments: accountable role model, inclusive facilitator, inventive planner and benevolent value creator. Our review contributes to the establishment of a joint platform for future research. In addition to providing a systematic account of evidence, our analysis points at research gaps and gives a basis for a critical discussion on nature as a stakeholder. Avenues for future research are outlined.

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