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“Leadership for Sustainability” by Metcalf & Benn

The review is based on the article by Louise Metcalf and Sue Benn, entitled “Leadership for sustainability: An evolution of leadership ability.” The article was published in print in vol. 112, no. 3 of Journal of Business Ethics in February 2013. The article was published by Springer, and it could also be accessed in the digital form by purchasing it on the Springer website.

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First of all, it is essential to generally overview the scope of the paper and the issues, which are studied by the authors. The article under consideration aims to discuss the issues related to sustainability, corporate social responsibility, complexity of systems, and organizational leaderships. These enlisted aspects could be considered to be the key concepts, which are elaborated in the article, and they also constitute the primary scope of the authors’ writing. The initial premise, which serves as the foundation for further reasoning, is the following statement: an evident confusion exists over various leadership styles in the context of efficient implementation of corporate social responsibility policies and sustainability in organization (Metcalf & Benn, 2013). Among the key issues, which are discussed in the paper, it is possible to identify three primary elements. Firstly, the authors argue that sustainability has a considerably complex nature. The second assumption is that organizations are complex adaptive systems, which interact with wider complex adaptive systems. Accordingly, the third premise is that the complexity of these systems and their interrelation imposes significant demand on leaders and their ability to implement sustainability.

Thus, since the primary focus of the article is on the role of leaders in organizations, the authors propose several key characteristics, which an extraordinary leader should possess. In their opinion, one of the primary aspects of an efficient organization leadership is that leaders “can think through complex problem” (Metcalf & Benn, 2013, p. 370). Due to the identified complexity of organizations, this characteristic appears to be immensely important. Further, the authors argue that an extraordinary leader should be able to engage large groups of people into dynamic organizational change. Thirdly, Metcalf and Benn (2013) state that another highly important characteristic of an effective leader is his or her level of emotional intelligence. This ability is determined by the necessity to deal with personal emotions and considerably high level of stress associated with complexity of organizational systems. Since the primary scope of the paper is discussed, it is possible to investigate the main focus of the article, which is the analysis of various leadership styles in the context of their application to organizational change and sustainability.

As it was previously stated, the article investigates the confusion over the application of various leadership styles to the issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. The authors indicate that this confusion and controversy, which surround this issue, originate from a considerably long history of developing the theoretical basis for organizational leadership. It is apparent that the problem under discussion is widely recognized and elaborated by numerous scholars, However, Metcalf and Benn (2013) point out that little attempt is made in order to investigate the impact of leaders’ personal qualities, such as values, ethics, and style, on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Therefore, the authors strive to analyze the existing leadership frameworks, aiming to develop a more profound understanding of the influence of leaders on the organization’s sustainability. Metcalf and Benn (2013) conduct an immensely comprehensive literature research in order to identify which leadership styles are theorized and employed in the current organizational environment.

It is considerably difficult to profoundly overview each leadership style, which is mentioned in the article because the authors mention numerous frameworks. However, it is possible to describe several key leadership styles and their core characteristics. Among the frameworks that are not sufficiently discussed in the context of CSR, the authors mention the following: authentic leadership, ethical leaderships, and transformational leadership. Authentic leaders tend to be emphasize the importance of honesty, openness, and integrity. Ethical leaders are preoccupied with the desire to do the right thing, and also they tend to use punishment as a tool of making followers to comply with leader’s moral standards (Metcalf & Benn, 2013).

A more broad aspect of the ethical leadership is the consistency with one’s moral standards and resistance to pressure. Transformational leaders are described by Metcalf and Benn (2013) as people who are charismatic, inspiring, intellectually stimulating, and responsibility delegating. Transformational leadership seeks to encourage the followers to be leaders to a possible extent. Finally, the authors mention autocratic leadership, which is, according to the article, is the first leadership style to be directly linked to CSR. According to numerous studies, which are mentioned in the article, autocratic leader is able to efficiently solve social and ethical dilemmas, and it is found that the followers are willing to compromise with their lack of freedom in exchange with the solution of these problems.

Further, it is appropriate to discuss recommendations and implications for further implementation and research on the topic, observed by the authors. It should be stated that Metcalf and Benn (2013) efficiently interpret and elaborate on Hazy’s theory in order to develop a system of leadership characteristics, which are directly linked to the the organizational measures and outcomes in terms of sustainability. First of all, to improve the system resource flow (including financial and human capital), an efficient leader should effectively use money and time as primary resources along with elimination of waste. Further, to improve system strength, it is essential to match the production with the market demand.

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Considering such outcomes as system capacity and system growth, the authors recommend that leaders should be creative, adaptive, and flexible. These characteristics are significantly important for the implementation of various policies, which might be required by different situations. Regarding one of the primary areas of concern of the article, system sustainability, it should be stated that Metcalf and Benn (2013) recommend that leaders develop an ability to read, predict, and adapt to the marketplace. These are primary recommendations, which are provided by the authors. It is possible to observe that these findings have considerable implications for the implementation of efficient leadership in organizations.

It is also important to mention that the article under discussion has some limitations, which could be considered as the gaps to be addressed in future research. First of all, it is of high importance to investigate how complex adaptive systems in the organization might extend to other stakeholders of shareholders (Metcalf & Benn, 2013). Secondly, the article does not sufficiently discuss the question of the emergence of leadership styles in the organizations, which endeavour to be sustainable (Metcalf & Benn, 2013). In overall, it is possible to state that the article under discussion does not have any serious drawbacks since it is a profound analysis of the current state of organizational leadership and sustainability.

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StudyCorgi. 2020. "“Leadership for Sustainability” by Metcalf & Benn." December 12, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) '“Leadership for Sustainability” by Metcalf & Benn'. 12 December.

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