The 1st International Conference on Responsible Leadership

Posted on May 27, 2010

This conference brought together practitioners and theorists committed to advancing the case for more responsible leadership across the globe, in various sectors, on individual, organisational and collective frontiers. The conference was organised by the Centre for Responsible Leadership (CRL) at the University of Pretoria and sponsored by the Deutsche Gessellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ).
During the three highly stimulating days, the practitioners and theorists enjoyed the rare opportunity of interacting and learning from each other; discussing, clarifying, and codifying ideas to emerge from their disparate contexts and experiences; acknowledging obstacles to success, and sharing strategies for overcoming them.

The broad range of topics, as well as the diverse participation, reflected the complexity of the emerging responsible leadership field, and acted as a constructive platform for contributing to the further development of the responsible leadership field.

Topics in the academic streams ranged from capacity building of responsible leaders, to environmental leadership and leadership in community development. Other topics reflected accounts of leadership, as well as strategies for embedding sustainability in organisations, improving public sector leadership, as well as nurturing responsible leadership in organisations. The practitioner streams reflected a similar diversity, and included workshop sessions focused on promoting responsible and value-driven leadership. Specific applications included: non-financial accounting, health care and climate change.

Prof Derick de Jongh, Director of the CRL during the official opening of the conference, emphasised the important role leaders of the future will have in creating a new global society, characterised by a deep sense and appreciation for a sustainable future planet. He highlighted three qualities that are according to the CRL, emerging cornerstone elements of responsible leadership. These are reflection, courage and wisdom.

The diversity of topics was reflected by the diversity of keynote addresses, which included:

  • Mr Stephan Ohme who spoke about Corporate Social Responsibility and the Millennium Development Goals
  • Prof Mervyn King, Chairman of the King Committee on Corporate Governance and Chairman of the Global Reporting Initiative, who spoke about the challenge of developing the next generation of responsible leaders
  • Mr Jacko Maree CEO, Standard Bank Group, who reflected on leadership and corporate governance in Standard Bank
  • Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Pretoria, who reflected on the need for cultivating responsible leadership, and the specific role of universities in this regard
  • Ms Wendy Luhabe, Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, who reflected on business leadership with a special emphasis on the role of women
  • Prof Thomas Maak, Associate Professor Esade (Spain), who reflected on attributes and competencies of responsible leaders
  • Prof Pierre Tapie, Dean and President of Essec (France), who reflected on the role of business schools in developing the next generation responsible leaders

The CRL also hosted the First International PhD Colloquium in Responsible Leadership bringing together PhD students from SA and Africa. Rich debates resulted amongst peers through their sharing of ideas and experiences. Strong support for perusing research and practice in the field of responsible leadership was demonstrated amongst all PhD candidates participating in the colloquium.

Another constructive platform for discussion around leadership issues, included the ‘CEO roundtable’ which took place over breakfast during the last day of the conference. This platform utilised perspectives of three different CEO’s, to stimulate dialogue between delegates. CEO’s that took part in this roundtable, included Benjamin Mophatlane (CEO of Business Connexion), Mark Drewell (CEO of the Global Responsible Leadership Initiative in Brussels), and Russel Loubser (CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange).

The conference emphasised the importance of nurturing networks for developing the responsible leadership field further. This was perhaps best illustrated by the ‘holistic view of responsible leadership’ proposed by Philip Mirvis in a presentation on the last day, in which he emphasised the interconnectedness of individual (me), organisational (we) and societal (us) dimensions of leadership.

The hope is that the ideas and relationships that were developed and strengthened by this conference would be able to contribute to the spearheading of the responsible leadership field, in order to contribute to systems that help establish a new generation of responsible leaders.
Research Report

Prof Pierre Tapie, Prof Derick de Jongh, Ms Wendy Luhabe, Prof Mervyn King, Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Prof Stella Nkomo and Prof Carolina Koornhof.                 


Mr Peter Conze (GTZ), Prof Cheryl de la Rey(UP), Mr Stephan Klaus Ohme(the First Counsellor for Development Cooperation at the German Embassy Pretoria), Ms Doris Popp (GTZ) and Prof Derick de Jongh (CRL@UP).

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