23 Feb 2023

The importance of leading responsibly during times of crisis


This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2023 Growth Through People campaign.

In the same way that the pandemic changed the way we work, it also changed the way we lead and our expectations of how a person should lead.

In this unprecedented period of uncertainty, we looked to our leaders - in our government and our workplaces - for guidance and support, and whilst we seem to be through the worst of it, the importance of responsible leadership remains.

There are many challenges that existed before COVID-19 and have only been exacerbated in recent years. Economic instability, the cost-of-living crisis, climate change, a mental health crisis, and political uncertainty have all forced businesses to adapt their approach to leadership.

In fact, we now sit firmly in what the United Nations has described as “the decade of action” which calls for “accelerating sustainable solutions to all the world's biggest challenges â€&rdquol ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the finance gap.”

Not only are these areas of concern for businesses, but they impact people on an individual level. To ensure that both businesses and individuals are supported through these crises, leaders need to act responsibly.

So, what is responsible leadership?

Unfortunately, there is no A-Z guide on how to be the perfect leader. However, there are a few things that someone on the path to responsible leadership can keep in mind:

  • Think about the bigger picture. How do your decisions affect employees, stakeholders, customers, or the wider community? Are you keeping them in mind when making important decisions?
  • Think about the long-term impact of your actions. Are you prioritising short-term financial gain to the detriment of long-term value?
  • Lead by example. To influence change and positive behaviours in the workplace or in the wider industry, leaders need to be paving the way for this change with their own actions.

Whilst demonstrating responsible leadership is beneficial for increasing trust with stakeholders and boosting an organisation's reputation, a misconception exists which suggests that leading responsibly can come at the expense of innovation and sustainable economic growth.

For example, if someone is leading with their heart over their head, it would imply that they were not thinking logically and were acting in an irrational manner. However, we believe that to lead responsibly is to combine strategy with empathy, innovation with sustainability, and action with trust.

A report by Accenture revealed that 72 per cent of CEOs surveyed believe that “trust will be critical to their competitiveness in the next five years.”

Accenture also reported that “companies that combine high levels of innovation, on one hand, and sustainability and trust, on the other, outperform their industry peers, with 3.1 per cent higher operating profits and greater returns to shareholders.”

With millennials and Gen-Z paving the way for an ever-growing conscience-driven workforce in this time of multiple crises - and with the combination of innovation and responsibility proving economically beneficial for businesses - now is the time to start implementing and demonstrating responsible leadership.

Growth Through People is the Chamber's annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. In 2023 this involves 4 free webinars and events sharing best practice advice and guidance taking place throughout March, and a Growth Through People conference on 10th May. In addition, throughout the campaign the Chambers will be publishing podcasts and blog content.

Thanks to our Headline Partners and Sponsors - Aston University, South and City College Birmingham and the West Midlands Combined Authority - all Growth Through People events and webinars are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more and register to attend here.