Responsible leadership in emerging markets: An ethical analysis of a conflict between an emerging market multinational enterprise and indigenous communities


  • N. Pless UniSA Business School, Australia
  • A. Sengupta UniSA Business School, Australia


In light of grand societal challenges there is a call for research on responsible leadership (RL). A significant gap exists in the understanding of RL in emerging countries, specifically how leaders could instead of should respond to social issues in their home country with weak institutional legal contexts and CSR norms. We use a stakeholder conflict situation experienced by the new CEO of an Indian aluminium company as a case study to expand the RL discussion to emerging markets. Following the introduction of wide reflective equilibrium as a case-based research approach, we first conduct an ethical analysis of contrasting RL responses to the crisis situation in light of central ethical orientations, and then provide a fine-grained discussion of the integrative RL approach. The article contributes to research on responsible leadership by examining how different responsible leadership approaches (instrumental and integrative) can influence a crisis management process and further specifying the differentiating characteristics of the two RL approaches. It also enriches research in international management (particularly emerging markets) by introducing an analytical approach with roots across cultural and religious traditions. It contributes to the discussion on grand societal challenges by providing micro-level insights into the roles and responsibilities of business leaders and the conflict-resolution potential of an integrative approach. By applying a ‘can do’ approach , we provide knowledge on how to apply an integrative responsible leadership approach in light of the intercultural problem of responding to local corporate social responsibility standards while adhering to global corporate social responsibility norms. Implications for future research and practice are highlighted.
Keywords: Grand societal challenges, emerging country multinational, wide reflective equilibrium, responsible leadership, business ethics, justice, corporate social responsibility, sustainable development, cross-sector collaboration, indigenous communities, India