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University of Exeter Business School

Responsible Leadership

Module titleResponsible Leadership
Module codeBEMM495Z
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Andreas Wihler (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Module description

Responsible leadership is a human imperative. Anyone who currently leads or manages organisations, people or movements knows that there are many complex, interconnected challenges that demand investment, collaboration, action and change on a global scale. These challenges affect the survival of organisations, the wellbeing of their workforces, wider society and the natural world. We need a model of leadership that embraces the interrelated nature of these challenges, envisions systemic solutions and puts these into action. This module will examine the changing mission and purpose of organisations, and explore how we, as leaders, can unlock sustainable and responsible progress. Together we will critically analyse the nature of contemporary leadership, allowing you to build a personal approach to leadership that can help you shape a more sustainable and equitable future.


Module aims - intentions of the module

Responsible leadership draws together debates on corporate responsibility, ethical decision making, sustainable business and the value created by our organisations and the work we do. By considering the impact of business and the role of leaders, and questioning our shared responsibility to stakeholders outside organisational boundaries, this module critiques existing debates on corporate responsibility and sustainability and draws forth practical and accessible ways that leaders can enable a future where growth and profitability create more equitable prosperity. This module will equip you with the knowledge and skills to be able to more confidently manage the complexity of the modern workplace and to lead others, and yourself, in a world where change is necessary and unavoidable. You will develop your own leadership style and adopt new relational and behavioural skills that prepare you to face the challenges we analyse together.


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. critically discuss the origins of responsible leadership
  • 2. apply the principles of responsible leadership to current management and leadership challenges faced by organisations globally
  • 3. assess your leadership experiences and style through the application of reflective practice
  • 4. critique academic arguments on the key themes influencing responsible leaders

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. critically appraise the impact of responsible practices in organisations
  • 6. evaluate the role and responsibilities of organisations in responding to the social and economic problems faced by societies

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. synthesise academic evidence in order to present balanced arguments and make measured recommendations
  • 8. design and undertake an independent research task
  • 9. present written work to a high standard, adhering to conventions for academic writing and referencing
  • 10. develop balanced arguments drawing on a diverse range of evidence

Syllabus plan

Indicative content for this module includes:

  • Why do we need a responsible leadership approach?
  • Responsible to whom? The stakeholder perspective
  • Beyond CSR – purpose, mission and value creation in organisations
  • Leadership in, and of, communities
  • Feeling the heat – the role of business in the Climate Crisis
  • Social cohesion – divided we fall (cultural leadership; leading diverse teams; equality and diversity at work)
  • Health and wealth – lessons from the pandemic
  • The future of work – what we want and need from our leaders as we face the future
  • Collaboration and partnership (inter-relational + inter-organisational)
  • Cognitive, relational and behavioural competencies for responsible leaders
  • The practice of ethics – ethical decision making in leadership

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities 120Asynchronous online learning activities
Guided independent study180Including preparation for online content, reflection on taught material, wider reading and completion of assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflective Learning Log12 hours1-10Summary feedback on ELE at points during the term

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual Assignment552,000 words or equivalent 1, 2, 4-10Final grade & written feedback posted on BART
Individual Reflective Report351,500 words or equivalent3, 4, 7-10Final grade & written feedback posted on BART
Module Reflection10500 words or equivalent1-10Individual Feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual AssignmentIndividual Assignment (55%)1, 2, 4-10Reassessment Period
Individual Reflective ReportIndividual Reflective Report (35%)3, 4, 7-10Reassessment Period
Module ReflectionModule Reflection (10%)1-10Reassessment Period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Badaracco, J. L. (2013). The good struggle: Responsible leadership in an unforgiving world. Harvard Business Review Press.
Bazerman, M. H. (2020). A new model for ethical leadership. Harvard Business Review, 98(5), 90–97.
Ladkin, D. (2020). Rethinking leadership: A new look at old questions (2nd ed.). Edward Elgar.
Pless, N. M., & Maak, T. (2011). Responsible leadership: Pathways to the future. Journal of Business Ethics, 98, 3–13.
Woods, W. (2017, October). The business benefits of doing good [Video]. TED@BCG Milan.

Further specific readings will accompany each topic and will be posted alongside the weekly online activities. Examples include:
D'Auria, G., & De Smet, A. (2020). Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges. McKinsey & Company.
Mazzucato, M. (2020). Walk the talk of stakeholder capitalism [Video]. Harvard Business Review.
Wheatley, M. J. (2017). Who do you choose to be? An invitation to the nobility of leadership. Leader To Leader, 2017(85), 37-41.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

McKinsey insights:
MIT Sloan Review:
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD):
World Economic Forum:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Relevant Academic Journals:
Harvard Business Review
Human Relations
Journal of Business Ethics
Journal of Cleaner Production
Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies (JLOS)
Leadership Quarterly
Sustainable Development

Key words search

Responsible, Leadership, Ethics, Ethical Leadership, Corporate Responsibility.

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date