Responsible leadership development – crucible experiences and power relationships in a global professional services firm

Karen Blakeley, Malcolm Higgs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

There is increasing consensus that Human Resource Development (HRD) has a central role to play in promoting the principles and practices of corporate responsibility (CR). An important HRD intervention involves developing responsible leaders able to attract support for CR throughout the organisation, but empirical research is lacking in this area. This article contributes to the theoretical and practical knowledge of responsible leadership development (RLD) by addressing two questions: first, how does RLD engender learning that goes beyond basic cognitive awareness? Second, what affects participants’ abilities to manifest this learning in the workplace? A review of the RLD literature reveals a ‘knowing-doing gap’, which, it is posited, may be linked to a lack of theorisation around power. This issue is investigated by means of a case study on a responsible leadership development programme run by a professional services firm. Drawing on Bourdieusian concepts of language and power, the study reveals some of the mechanisms that inspired new socially responsible values whilst also demonstrating some of the contextual barriers inhibiting their manifestation in the workplace. It is argued that HRD professionals need to engage with Bourdieusian ideas of language and power to promote deeper learning around responsible leadership, which can more easily be embedded into the workplace
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-576
JournalHuman Resource Development International
Volume17
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2014

Keywords

  • responsible leadership
  • leadership development
  • HRD
  • corporate social responsibility
  • corporate responsibility
  • Bourdieu

Cite this

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Responsible leadership development – crucible experiences and power relationships in a global professional services firm. / Blakeley, Karen; Higgs, Malcolm.

Vol. 17, No. 5, 25.09.2014, p. 560-576.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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AB - There is increasing consensus that Human Resource Development (HRD) has a central role to play in promoting the principles and practices of corporate responsibility (CR). An important HRD intervention involves developing responsible leaders able to attract support for CR throughout the organisation, but empirical research is lacking in this area. This article contributes to the theoretical and practical knowledge of responsible leadership development (RLD) by addressing two questions: first, how does RLD engender learning that goes beyond basic cognitive awareness? Second, what affects participants’ abilities to manifest this learning in the workplace? A review of the RLD literature reveals a ‘knowing-doing gap’, which, it is posited, may be linked to a lack of theorisation around power. This issue is investigated by means of a case study on a responsible leadership development programme run by a professional services firm. Drawing on Bourdieusian concepts of language and power, the study reveals some of the mechanisms that inspired new socially responsible values whilst also demonstrating some of the contextual barriers inhibiting their manifestation in the workplace. It is argued that HRD professionals need to engage with Bourdieusian ideas of language and power to promote deeper learning around responsible leadership, which can more easily be embedded into the workplace

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