Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility (LEAD 3030)
This reading reviews key themes and theories in the leadership literature, and draws out implications for sustainable leadership. It looks at: A) what motivates leaders and how they motivate others; B) leaders’ orientation as a “giver” versus a “taker;” C) how sustainable leadership can be facilitated; and D) how leaders can foster equity, diversity, and inclusion in their organizations (responsesdue Thursday, Oct 21).
A. What motivates leaders and how they motivate others1
As you would have learned in your Organizational Behavior course (GMGT 2070), research suggests that people are motivated by four basic factors, namely their desire (or need) for: 1) power; 2) accomplishment; 3) fairness; and 4) social relationships. This reading won’t describe those four factors in detail here (see your OB textbook), but as shown in the table and described in the text below, it will describe important differences in how these four factors are evident among: a) conventional leaders vs. b) sustainable leaders.
|THE Desire for:||A) Conventional leaders||B) Sustainable leaders|
|1. Power||Personalized power motive (power enables meeting one’s self-interests)||Socialized power motive (power enables making the world a better place)|
|2. Accomplishment- goal-setting- expectancy theory, reinforcement theory||Often measured in financial terms- via SMART goals- I can achieve goals and earn valued financial rewards||Often measured in socio-ecological terms- via SMART 2.0 goals- We can achieve goals and enhance valued socio-ecological well-being|
|3. Fairness||I want to be treated equitably||Everyone should be treated justly|
|4. Social relationships||I am motivated by (affiliational) relationships that provide me with the help/emotional support I need from coworkers to meet my goals||We are motivated by (community-nurturing) relationships to provide the help/emotional support others need to accomplish the overall goals of the firm|
1. Desire for power. Power can be defined as “the potential someone has to influence and/or control another person’s behavior, or to change the course of events.” Leaders tend to be motivated by the desire for power in one of two ways: a) “personalized power motive” (desire for power to enable people to serve the leader’s interests, which is emphasized in conventional leadership); or b) “socialized power motive” (desire for power to enable people to make the world a better place, which is emphasized in sustainable leadership). Research suggests that personalized power may appear to be more effective in the short-term, but socialized power is more effective in the long-term. For example, corporations led by CEOs who have an MBA perform better in the short term on financial measures of success (and their CEOs have higher salaries), whereas corporations led by CEOs who do not have an MBA perform better in the longer term.2
2. Desire for accomplishment. People are motivated by a desire to accomplish something, which may be measured in: a) financial terms (e.g., how much profit was achieved, which is emphasized in conventional leadership); or b) socio-ecological terms (e.g., how many overseas suppliers are earning a living wage, which is emphasized in sustainable leadership). Recall from your OB course the three popular theories that describe how a leader can motivate people using their desire for accomplishment: goal-setting theory, expectancy theory, and reinforcement theory.
First, goal-setting theory helps leaders to motivate others to improve:
a) productivity and financial well-being (e.g., by setting SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-based, Time-based) (emphasized in conventional leadership); or
b) overall well-being (e.g., by setting SMART 2.0 goals that are Significant, Meaningful, Agreed-upon, Relevant, Timely) (emphasized in sustainable leadership). Although SMART goals have been shown to maximize productivity, they are also known to reduce organizational citizenship behavior (e.g., people helping one another at work) and to reduce other significant and meaningful goals (especially if the goals are difficult to measure).
Second, expectancy theory helps leaders to motivate others to improve:
a) productivity and financial well-being via increasing their sense of self-efficacy (“I can achieve the goal”), appealing to their instrumentality (“I will get something if I achieve the goal”), and ensuring that they value their rewards (e.g., the valence of financial rewards is assumed to be especially high and relevant) (conventional leadership); or
b) overall well-being via increasing their sense of group-efficacy (“We can achieve the goal”), appealing to their instrumentality (“We will get something if we achieve the goal”), and ensuring that they value their rewards (e.g., the valence of socio-ecological well-being is assumed to be especially high and relevant) (sustainable leadership).
Third, reinforcement theory elaborates on how positive and negative reinforcements motivate people to exhibit and accomplish desired behaviors that increase their:
a) productivity and financial well-being (here the emphasis is on financial reinforcements such as pay, bonuses, and other financial incentives and penalties) (conventional leadership); or
b) overall well-being (emphasis on socio-ecological reinforcements such as meaningful work, work-life balance, positive effect on place, and so on) (sustainable leadership).
3. Desire for fairness. People’s motivation to accomplish desired organizational goals increases if they believe in the fairness of their organization with regards to: a) whether they individually are being treated equitably compared to coworkers (equity theory) (conventional leadership); or b) whether all the stakeholders associated with the organization (e.g., including suppliers, customers, neighbors, future generations) are being treated with dignity (justice theory) (sustainable leadership). The greater the perceived fairness, the higher the level of motivation.
4. Desire for social relationships. Finally, the level of motivation in the workplace can be increased by meeting member’s desire for interpersonal relationships that enable them to: a) receive the help and emotional support they need from coworkers to accomplish their task and to meet their desire for affiliation (conventional leadership); or b) give the help and emotional support others need to accomplish organizational tasks and to meet their desire for community (sustainable leadership). The next section will discuss in more detail the nature of social relationships that people are looking for at work.
Question #1. For each of the four motivating factors described above (power, accomplishment, fairness, and social relationships), rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 where: 1 = very conventional; 2 = somewhat conventional; 3 = halfway between conventional and sustainable; 4 = somewhat sustainable; 5 = very sustainable. Describe why you responded the way you did. What do the results tell you about yourself?
B. Leadership orientation: The give and take of leadership3
People often draw on some variation of “exchange theory”4 when trying to make sense of interpersonal social relationships in the workplace. In social “exchanges”—that is, in the give-and-take of relationships5—there are three kinds of people in organizations: 1) givers (people who contribute time and effort to others without seeking anything in return); 2) takers (people who receive help from others while guarding their own time and expertise); and 3) matchers (people who seek to balance giving and taking).6
According to the conventional assumption that people are naturally inclined to get as much as they can (self-interested), it makes sense that people will desire and be motivated to develop relationships where the benefits they receive are greater than (or at least equal to) the time and energy they invest in the relationship.7 Moreover, from a conventional exchange perspective, people will seek interpersonal relationships that offer instrumental value. Thus, from a conventional perspective, it is not surprising to find out that research shows that “givers” are over-represented among low-performing employees. This lends support to the adage: “Nice guys finish last.” However, in contrast, research also shows that “givers” tend to be over-represented among top-performing employees, which lends support to the adage: “It is better to give than to receive.” Hmm.
Question #2: Taken together, research suggests that there are two types of “givers:” one way of giving enhances their performance, and the other decreases their performance. What differences do you think there might be between these two types of “givers”? Are some ways of giving more instrumentally-advantageous than other ways?
C. Facilitating sustainable leadership
Most people are naturally inclined to be “givers,” but they downplay their natural tendency because they (falsely) believe that their peers don’t share (and may take advantage of) a natural desire to give. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where people feel pressured into becoming “takers” in order to prevent becoming “taken-advantage-of”.8 Similarly, when business schools and leadership theories teach us to assume people are self-interested profit-maximizers, then we tend to become more materialistic and individualistic.9
What can be done to encourage and develop leaders who are givers (e.g., sustainable leaders who have a socialized power motive and who seek to treat others with justice and dignity10)? How can self-fulfilling prophecies be developed that promote giving instead of taking? Imagine that you are Dean at Harvard University, and are told about a recent study where incoming students ranked “compassion” to be one of their top personal values, but ranked “compassion” low in what they thought were the values promoted at Harvard. What would you do?
In response to these findings, the Dean invited first-year Harvard students to sign a pledge that they would serve society and would make their school “a place where all can thrive and where the exercise of kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment.”11 In terms of the triple loop learning model, the Dean seemed to be seeking to change students’ worldview about what Harvard was like (e.g., to align it with its kindness pledge), expecting that this would change subsequent behavior accordingly (a self-fulfilling prophecy). In addition, in order to motivate students to be accountable to this pledge, he proposed framing their signed pledges and hanging them on the walls of dorm hallways. Does this sound like a good plan?
It turns out this idea was dropped in light of research showing that, compared to people who go public “with their intentions to engage in an identity-relevant behavior,” people who keep their intentions private are more likely to actually engage in that behavior.12 More generally, the conventional approach of trying to change people’s attitudes or worldview, and then expecting that these will in turn change their subsequent behavior, may be wrong-headed.13 The influence of leaders is far more powerful in the opposite direction: first offer people opportunities to voluntarily change their behavior (or, perhaps, change structures and systems), and then their worldviews will change accordingly.14
Question #3: Given this knowledge about factors that can influence giving and taking, what advice would you give to the Dean at Harvard who wants to counteract the self-fulfilling prophecies at his school that seem to favour instrumental “taking” (associated with conventional leadership) rather than compassionate15 “giving” (associated with sustainable leadership)? What advice do you have for classmates who are naturally givers, but are starting jobs where they are expected to be takers?
D. Advice for the Asper School of Business
How would you go about ensuring that the organization where you are a leader is characterized by equity, diversity, and inclusion? Well, first you might want to define what those terms mean.16
“Equity is the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement of all students, faculty, and staff, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.
Diversity: Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics (e.g., ideas, perspectives, and values) that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance.
Inclusion: Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.”
Last year the Asper Student Association Presidents and Dean made a commitment to foster EDI at Asper:17
“The overwhelming degree to which systemic racism pollutes institutions worldwide has made us, at the Asper School of Business, stop and think about what we can do to improve.
Students at many Canadian business schools have expressed discomfort with the ongoing management of, as well as the response to, issues concerning Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). It would be naïve to think that the Asper School of Business is immune to this issue; we have received some helpful feedback from students and alumni regarding discriminatory incidences experienced on and off campus.
We, as a community, can do better. To support our commitment to this issue, the School has formed an EDI taskforce, which aims at proactively addressing discrimination head-on.
Through the EDI task force, we endeavor to foster a more inclusive learning environment for every single student that attends and/or interacts with the Asper School of Business. The taskforce will launch a series of workshops and online tools, designed to promote equal opportunity practices; host EDI training for all faculty, staff, and students; and create new EDI contact points for all Asper stakeholders, including a recently launched dedicated messaging option: email@example.com.
We, at the Asper School, are extremely committed to welcoming, involving and mutually learning from, as well as with, all members of our community: we take great pride in the diversity of our students, our faculty and our staff. Together, with the help of our community – our friends – we move forward, better than we were before.
The EDI Task Force recently published an interim report18 that recommended the following (among other things) for “In-class experience, teaching and learning:” using a random process to select groups; ensuring that grades for participation are based on multiple forms of participation; writing mini-assignments; requiring every student to make a presentation to the class; adding EDI-related course content; and holding people accountable if they make comments or jokes that could be perceived as insensitive to certain groups.
Question #4: Given what you have learned in this reading—and possibly from the triple loop learning model and the “2050” class exercise with Paul Loewen—what advice would you give to the Dean and other leaders at the Asper School regarding how to further enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion? Which of the current recommendations do you find particularly helpful (or not)?
1 This section and parts of the next section draw from and build upon material from Dyck, B., Caza, A., & Starke, F. (2018). Management: Financial, social, and ecological well-being. Winnipeg, Canada: Sapajo Publishing.
2 Miller, D., & Xu, X. (2019). MBA CEOs, short-term management and performance. Journal of Business Ethics, 154: 285-30.
3 The material in this section draws heavily from Adam Grant’s (2013) Give and Take: A revolutionary approach to success. UK: Hachette.
4 Some of the material in this section is taken verbatim from Dyck et al. (2018: 474-475).
5 Blau, P. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New York: Wiley; Blau, P. (I964). Justice in social exchange. Sociological Inquiry, 34: 193-206; Homans, C. G. (1958). Social behavior as exchange, American Journal of Sociology, 62: 597-606; Thibaut, J., & Kelley, H. H. (1959). The Social Psychology of groups. New York: Wiley.
6 See Grant, A. (2016) Are you a giver or a taker. TedTalk https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_grant_are_you_a_giver_or_a_taker
7 Though note that such “negative reciprocity” is typically not functional in the long-run between on-going exchange partners. Sparrowe, R. T., & Liden, R. C. (1997). Process and structure in leader-member exchange. Academy of Management Review, 22(2): 522-552.
8 “When people assume that others aren’t givers, they act and speak in ways that discourage others from giving, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy” (Grant, 2013: 243)
9 This point is from Dyck, B., Walker, K., Starke, F., & Uggerslev, K. (2011). Addressing concerns raised by critics of business schools by teaching multiple approaches to management. Business and Society Review, 116 (1): 1-27.
10 The hallmarks of best practices for “givers” are more consistent with sustainable leadership than conventional leadership. For example, research suggests that givers excel when they assertively and compassionately seek to promote and serve the interests of other stakeholders who have little power. Whereas givers are often not good at (or interested in) maximizing their own salaries, they are often good at arguing on behalf of others, so that others are treated with dignity (Grant, 2013).
11 Grant (2013: 246).
12 Also, being told to talk about being a giver may undermine giving. In one study a group of students was directed to write about themselves using “giving” words (e.g., kind, generous, caring) while a second group was directed to write about themselves using “neutral” words (e.g., house, books, keys). Afterwards students were asked if they would like to donate money to a charity of their choice. Students in the second group donated on average 2.5 times more money than students in the first.
13 Robinson, J. (2018, Sept 26). “Normalizing sustainability: Beyond behavior change.” Public lecture, University of Manitoba.
14 Note also that this doesn’t seem to work if the change in behavior is imposed by managers and is related to instrumental rewards (e.g., such as earning a promotion). For example, in a study where bank tellers knew that they were being observed for three months prior to some of them being chosen for promotion, some tellers went out of their way to help out their colleagues. However, even after three months of exhibiting such “giving” behavior (for instrumental goals), that behavior stopped for about half of the tellers after they had been promoted. In contrast, if the behavior change is voluntarily chosen (even if this is for instrumental reasons), then it can result in a change of attitudes and worldview. Research shows that people in business firms who voluntarily decide to help co-workers and customers beyond the scope of their job description will, over time, come to see themselves as “givers.” For example, in one study people who chose to do volunteer work in order to advance their own careers began, over time, to view their volunteering activity as part of their identity and started “to experience a common identity with the people they are helping” (Grant, 2013: 248).
15 It may be better for givers to act out of compassion (i.e., support others who are suffering) that out of empathy (e.g., feeling the pain of others who are suffering). Research suggests that empathetic givers may be more vulnerable to being manipulated, can get too emotionally involved (which can burn them out), and may create unhealthy dependencies for the people they are trying to help (Grant, 2013).
16 Definitions taken/adapted from UM website: https://umanitoba.ca/admin/human_resources/equity/5804.html
17 Excerpts from “Our Commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” Found at https://news.umanitoba.ca/aspers-commitment-to-diversity-equity-and-inclusion/
18 Asper School of Business Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Interim Report to the Dean, Presented to Faculty Council September 2021.