Exploring the paradoxical nature of responsible leadership

Arménio Rego, Miguel Pina e Cunha, Stewart R. Clegg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter argues that, while leaders with a responsible leadership mindset are more likely to adopt a responsible leadership style, two leaders’ characteristics (a paradox mindset and practical wisdom) operate as boundary conditions. This argument is based on two interrelated observations: (1) responsible leadership implies engaging in dialogue with a plurality of stakeholders; (2) considering that stakeholders’ identities, claims, and interests are frequently conflicting, managing the stakeholders’ network is fraught with contradictions and tensions. Therefore, only leaders energized by a paradox mindset and endowed with practical wisdom are able to turn their responsible leadership mindset into a responsible leadership style. Although a paradox mindset predisposes leaders with a responsible leadership mindset to accept contradictions and tensions and feel energized by them, it is practical wisdom that allows leaders to devise ways to address such contradictions and thus act wisely. The chapter thus departs from a normative approach (i.e., responsible leadership is morally good and thus must be adopted) to suggest a descriptive one (i.e., how, why, and when a responsible leadership style unfolds), and encourages other scholars to empirically test its conceptual model.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResponsible leadership
EditorsNicola Pless, Thomas Maak
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781003248415
ISBN (Print)9780367321017, 9780367321000
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Multi-stakeholder dialogue
  • Paradox mindset
  • Practical wisdom
  • Responsible leadership mindset
  • Responsible leadership style
  • Stakeholder tensions


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