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The increasingly widespread concern sustainability creates among organisations worldwide makes management exercise of leadership in organisations, to boost corporate sustainability performance a major real-world, contemporary problem. This paper set out to provide a foundation for subsequent empirical studies of sustainability leadership, by summarising existing literature on top management and leadership antecedents of corporate sustainability performance. Pursuant to the aim and review question, the paper used a combination of keywords, backward and forward search techniques to explore a wide variety of academic databases and libraries as well as professional libraries for pertinent literature. Based on the literature, the paper established management exercise of leadership in organisations, to boost corporate sustainability performance, as a principal, practical, present-day problem; as well as leadership and top management being vital in sustainability embedment and corporate sustainability performance. It found that managerial discretion, leadership competencies, leadership styles and emotional intelligence are vital for corporate sustainability performance. The paper also showed that leadership competencies, leadership styles and emotional intelligence breed managerial discretion. The review also revealed that researchers’ have concentrated on exploring competencies managers and leaders require for successful sustainability performance in organisations; using mostly quantitative and qualitative methodologies in equal measure to conduct such studies mainly in Europe and the Americas. The paper suggested the need to explore competencies managers and leaders require for successful sustainability performance in Nigerian organisations. It also suggested the need to explore how emotional intelligence, leadership styles and discretion make for successful sustainability performance in Nigerian organisations. Arising from the foregoing and the reviewed literature, the paper concluded with a research question and model to propel a proposed empirical study that will seek to explore how top managers’ leadership competencies and styles engender discretion to drive sustainability performance in Nigerian organisations.
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Top Management and
Leadership Antecedents of
Corporate Sustainability
Performance: A Scoping
Review
A Working Paper submitted in partial fulfilment of the
requirements for the MSc/DBA programme
By
Pius Ughakpoteni MSc07/DBA
June 2015
Word count: 3920 (excluding cover page, table of contents, abstract,
appendices and references)
School of Leadership, Organisations
and Behaviour
1
Contents
Table of Figures ......................................................................................................................... 3
List of Tables ............................................................................................................................. 4
Abstract...................................................................................................................................... 5
Section 1: Introduction .............................................................................................................. 6
Section 2: Methodology ............................................................................................................ 7
2.1: Literature Search ............................................................................................................ 8
2.2: Selection ......................................................................................................................... 9
2.3: Summary ........................................................................................................................ 9
Section 3: Top Management and Sustainability Embedment.................................................... 9
3.1: Commitment and Support ............................................................................................ 10
3.2: Awareness, Understanding, Interpretation and Determination .................................... 10
3.3: Vision and Communication .......................................................................................... 11
3.4: Involvement and Demonstration .................................................................................. 11
3.5: Summary ...................................................................................................................... 12
Section 4: Discretion, Leadership Capabilities, Competencies, Styles and Emotional
Intelligence for Sustainability.................................................................................................. 12
4.1: Discretion in Sustainability .......................................................................................... 13
4.2: Leadership Capabilities and Competencies .................................................................. 14
4.3: Leadership Styles ......................................................................................................... 17
4.4: Emotional Intelligence ................................................................................................. 17
4.5: Summary ...................................................................................................................... 17
Section 5: Corporate Sustainability Performance .................................................................... 18
5.1: Corporate Sustainability Performance (CSP) ............................................................... 18
5.2: Summary ...................................................................................................................... 19
Section 6: Summary and Conclusion ...................................................................................... 19
6.1: Major Studies’ Themes, Methodologies, Domiciles and Questions ............................ 19
2
6.2: Key Gaps, Deficiencies Needs and Suggestions .......................................................... 22
Appendix 1: Summary of Major Empirical Studies Related to Topic Area ............................ 24
References ............................................................................................................................... 28
3
Table of Figures
Figure 1: Significance of leadership in sustainability and CSP ................................................ 7
Figure 2: How literature search was conducted ........................................................................ 8
Figure 3: Top management tasks in sustainability embedment................................................. 9
Figure 4: Primacy of top management in leading sustainability embedment ......................... 12
Figure 5: Wordcloud of key themes in main empirical studies ............................................... 19
Figure 6: Pie chart and frequency table showing methodologies of main empirical studies .. 20
Figure 7: Pie chart and frequency table showing domiciles of main empirical studies ......... 21
Figure 8: Wordcloud of questions asked in main empirical studies ........................................ 21
Figure 9: Indications of areas for further research .................................................................. 22
Figure 10: Model of top management and leadership antecedents of CSP ............................. 23
4
List of Tables
Table 1: Organisational and composite capabilities ................................................................ 16
Table 2: Individual capabilities ............................................................................................... 16
Table 3: Empirical approaches to CSP measurement .............................................................. 18
Table 4: Methodologies of main empirical studies ................................................................. 20
5
Abstract
The increasingly widespread concern sustainability creates among organisations worldwide
makes management exercise of leadership in organisations, to boost corporate sustainability
performance a major real-world, contemporary problem. This paper set out to provide a
foundation for subsequent empirical studies of sustainability leadership, by summarising
existing literature on top management and leadership antecedents of corporate sustainability
performance.
Pursuant to the aim and review question, the paper used a combination of keywords,
backward and forward search techniques to explore a wide variety of academic databases and
libraries as well as professional libraries for pertinent literature.
Based on the literature, the paper established management exercise of leadership in
organisations, to boost corporate sustainability performance, as a principal, practical, present-
day problem; as well as leadership and top management being vital in sustainability
embedment and corporate sustainability performance. It found that managerial discretion,
leadership competencies, leadership styles and emotional intelligence are vital for corporate
sustainability performance. The paper also showed that leadership competencies, leadership
styles and emotional intelligence breed managerial discretion. The review also revealed that
researchers’ have concentrated on exploring competencies managers and leaders require for
successful sustainability performance in organisations; using mostly quantitative and
qualitative methodologies in equal measure to conduct such studies mainly in Europe and the
Americas.
The paper suggested the need to explore competencies managers and leaders require for
successful sustainability performance in Nigerian organisations. It also suggested the need to
explore how emotional intelligence, leadership styles and discretion make for successful
sustainability performance in Nigerian organisations.
Arising from the foregoing and the reviewed literature, the paper concluded with a research
question and model to propel a proposed empirical study that will seek to explore how top
managers’ leadership competencies and styles engender discretion to drive sustainability
performance in Nigerian organisations.
6
Section 1: Introduction
The problematic concern sustainability engenders for organisations worldwide (Stead and
Stead, 2014) can be couched using Drucker’s (1974) seminal notion of management as
organisations’ key organ and Yukl’s (2012) idea of managerial leadership in formal
organisations. As Morsing and Oswald (2009:96) put it, “The challenges facing any
organization in ensuring sustainability provide a number of issues for senior managers to
contend with in their leadership of their organization.” Therefore, management exercise of
leadership in organisations, to boost corporate sustainability performance is a major real-
world, contemporary problem.
Concomitantly, there is increasing practical and academic interest in how organisations
actually deploy their processes, routines, structures and mind-sets in the transition to
sustainability (Zollo et al., 2013). The resultant literature features widespread mention of
leadership-related factors as key sustainability drivers by some practitioners and scholars
(such as Holton et al., 2010; Kwawu and Elmualim, 2011; McEwen and Schmidt, 2007;
Morsing and Oswald, 2009; Petrini and Pozzebon, 2010). Others (like Lozano, 2009; 2012;
2013b; 2013a; McEwen and Schmidt, 2007; Stubbs and Cocklin, 2008) have identified
leadership as the foundation of sustainability embedment.
Leadership, in McEwen & Schmidt’s (2007) study was identified as essential to progress in
sustainability, and pinpointed in Lozano’s (2009, 2012, 2013b) as the main driver of
sustainability in organisations. Moreover, in one of the very few studies that focused
specifically on how factors pertaining to leadership in organisations drive sustainability,
Quinn and Dalton (2009) advocated continual studies to further understand the practices of
what they termed “leading for sustainability”. Likewise, Lozano (2009, 2013b) called for
research on the types of leadership that promote sustainability within organisations.
Consequently, this paper aims at doing the groundwork for subsequent studies of
sustainability leadership, by summarising existing literature on top management and
leadership antecedents of corporate sustainability performance, in order to identify possible
gaps, research questions or hypotheses (Arksey and O'Malley, 2005; Henley Business
School, 2014; Levac et al., 2010; Rumrill et al., 2010). Given the significance of leadership in
sustainability, as illustrated in Figure 1 below, this paper focuses on the following underlying
research question (Arksey and O'Malley, 2005; Durelli et al., 2013):
7
What main theoretical strands have emerged, about top management, capabilities, emotional
intelligence, leadership competencies and styles, pertaining to corporate sustainability
performance, from what methodological slants and questions on what problems, culminating
in what flaws, research gaps and priorities?
Figure 1: Significance of leadership in sustainability and CSP
The rest of the paper contains five sections. Section 2, covers methodology, particularly the
literature search methods and selection procedure. Section 3 examines top management and
corporate sustainability. Section 4 reviews concepts about managerial leadership for
corporate sustainability performance, namely: discretion, capabilities, emotional intelligence,
leadership competencies and styles; while Section 5 discusses corporate sustainability
performance. Section 6 distills key themes from the literature review to set the stage and
agenda for more research.
Section 2: Methodology
Sequel to the sketch of this paper’s background, aim and structure in Section 1, this describes
the methodology used for the purpose-driven information gathering.
8
2.1: Literature Search
Most of the literature included in the ensuing review was systematically sourced through an
exhaustive exploration of search engines such as Google Scholar and Google Advanced Search
as well as academic databases like Emerald, EThOS, Social Science Citation Index, Emerald,
JSTOR, Taylor & Francis, EBSCOhost, SpringerLink, Science Direct, Business Source
Complete, ProQuest, Sage, Web of Science, PsycARTICLES, Wiley Online and Zetoc. The
search was also conducted in the virtual libraries of the University of Reading, Chartered
Management Institute, Academy of Management, British Academy of Management and
International Leadership Association.
The keywords used to explore the aforementioned and other resources were: corporate social
responsibility; sustainability; leadership; sustainable leadership; CSR leadership; sustainability
leadership; drivers of sustainability; embedding sustainability; honeybee leadership; leadership
capabilities; leadership competencies; leadership styles; emotional intelligence and corporate
sustainability performance. The keywords were used either singly or grouped in different
combinations into search strings to explore various databases and libraries.
In addition, backward and forward searches were also conducted using the authors of and
references in works located by keywords search (Levy and Ellis, 2006). The literature search
procedure is illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2: How literature search was conducted
9
2.2: Selection
Most of the literature included in this paper consists of articles published in peer-reviewed
journals. The literature search was restricted to English language and covered up till 2015.
Thus, literature published in other languages was excluded due to unfamiliarity with such
languages.
2.3: Summary
This section has explained how the literature search and selection to gather information for
this paper was done. The subsequent sections present the information gathered to achieve the
paper’s aim and answer its underpinning question.
Section 3: Top Management and Sustainability Embedment
Following the previously stressed importance of leadership in sustainability and corporate
sustainability performance, (CSP), this section shall locate primary responsibility for
exercising that leadership. It examines expectations of top management in sustainability
embedment and CSP, for which there are abundant references in the literature. These can be
distilled into ten interconnected categories, as depicted in Figure 3 and discussed below.
Figure 3: Top management tasks in sustainability embedment
Top
Management
tasks in
Sustainability
Embedment
Top
Management
tasks in
Sustainability
Embedment
Commitment
and Support
Commitment
and Support
Awareness,
Understanding,
Interpretation
and
Determination
Awareness,
Understanding,
Interpretation
and
Determination
Vision and
Communication
Vision and
Communication
Involvement
and
Demonstration
Involvement
and
Demonstration
10
3.1: Commitment and Support
Hörisch et al., (2014) speculatively depicted top management commitment (TMC) to
stakeholders’ well-being and sustainability as a normative responsibility. However, there is
empirical backing for the importance of TMC. For example, high sustainability companies
compensate top management using sustainability metrics, among others; leading to
suggestions that compensating top management for sustainability performance, as Kingfisher
does (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2013), makes them take stakeholder engagement seriously
(Eccles et al., 2011; 2014). The significance of TMC is also highlighted in studies that linked
TMC to top managers’ stages of consciousness development (Boiral et al., 2014), as well as
their values, inspiration, expertise, empowerment, strategic thinking and social contribution
(Visser and Crane, 2010).
Furthermore, TMC has been found to characterise organisations that demonstrate higher
levels of CSP, provide basis for integrating sustainability into business practices, enable
changes required to create sustainability-responsive organisational structure and promote the
sustainability vision (Petrini and Pozzebon, 2010). Studies also established it as one of the
critical success factors for employee engagement in sustainability (Glavas, 2012), essential
for enhancing CSP (Holton et al., 2010) and that its expression instills a sustainability culture
in organisations (Stoughton and Ludema, 2012). Above all, Aguinis and Glavas (2012)
classify TMC as one of the moderators of the CSRoutcomes relationships.
Similarly, top management support was found, in a systematic review, to be generally
important for sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI) (Adams et al., 2012), while other
researchers established that it is germane for predicting sustainability-based actions,
developing a culture of business sustainability, sustainability-oriented practices,
strengthening the sustainability agenda and spurring implementation (Bansal, 2003; Dixon
and Clifford, 2007; Fairfield et al., 2011; Høgevold and Svensson, 2012; Holton et al., 2010).
3.2: Awareness, Understanding, Interpretation and Determination
Sonenshein (2014) suggested that top managers’ understanding of sustainability issues could
facilitate CSP. However, an empirically-grounded framework of sustainability drivers linked
CSP to top management awareness and understanding, through appropriate management
control systems with feedback mechanisms on potential social and environmental impacts
associated with their business processes, sustainability performance, sustainability initiatives,
11
stakeholder reactions and corporate financial performance (Epstein and Roy, 2001). Top
management awareness is known to be a necessary condition for translation of sustainability
initiatives to sustainability outcomes (Aguinis and Glavas, 2012).
Top managers’ interpretation of sustainability issues has been portrayed as the highpoint of a
prior rich, meaning-making interpretive process, by which other members of the organisation
shape the issues in ways that address issue illegitimacy and issue equivocality (Sonenshein,
2014). Moreover, managerial interpretations of sustainability issues have been found to
influence corporate choice of environmental strategies (Sharma, 2000) and constitute an
explanatory mechanism for sustainability outcomes according to Aguinis and Glavas’ (2012)
theoretical framework.
The peak of the awareness, understanding and interpretation roles is the determination of CSP
and its key performance indicators, which Chvátalová and Hřebíček (2012) described as very
important for company top management.
3.3: Vision and Communication
Top management sustainability vision has been found to drive corporate transformation to
sustainability (Ferrer-Balas et al., 2008) and facilitate the emergence of sustainability
leadership at different organisational levels (Petrini and Pozzebon, 2010), particularly when
top managers communicate and revisit such vision and the organisation’s definition of
sustainability regularly, to create common understanding and keep the issue salient (Howard-
Grenville et al., 2014). In addition, research has shown that top management team must
communicate commitment, the need for, plus values and goals of sustainability in order to
create capacity and set the climate for sustainability-oriented innovation (Adams et al., 2012).
3.4: Involvement and Demonstration
Although in a singular case, practitioners have revealed that the involvement of top
management boosted sustainability embedment in HSBC India (Mehta and Majumdar, 2012),
researchers found that the demonstration of top management involvement and commitment
to sustainability could create capacity and set the climate for sustainability-oriented
innovation (Adams et al., 2012).
12
3.5: Summary
Notwithstanding the doubtful generalisability and applicability of the findings in most of the
empirical studies reviewed in this section, the preceding ten expectations usefully indicate the
primacy of top management in leading sustainability embedment. Therefore, a synthesis of
the foregoing with the idea of leadership being crucial in sustainability and CSP accentuates
the need for a special focus on top management leadership antecedents of CSP, as depicted in
Figure 3 below.
Figure 4: Primacy of top management in leading sustainability embedment
Section 4: Discretion, Leadership Capabilities, Competencies,
Styles and Emotional Intelligence for Sustainability
Section 3 highlighted the preeminence of top management in sustainability embedment, as an
extension of Section 1’s emphasis on leadership being crucial in sustainability and CSP. It
thereby accentuated the need for a special focus on top management leadership antecedents
13
of CSP. This section builds on that base. It addresses literature about managerial discretion,
leadership capabilities, competencies and styles as well as emotional intelligence in the
context of sustainability.
4.1: Discretion in Sustainability
Managerial discretion is an exemplar of top management preeminence (Galavan, 2009),
especially as managerial characteristics and activities are two of its sources (Finkelstein and
Peteraf, 2007; Hambrick and Finkelstein, 1987). From the sustainability perspective, it can be
regarded as an essential (Egri and Herman, 2000; Visser and Crane, 2010) and antecedent-
condition for CSP (Aguinis and Glavas, 2012; Hemingway and Maclagan, 2004; Sharma and
Vredenburg, 1998). For example, according to Visser and Crane (2010), discretion is
necessary in making change happen, while Egri and Herman (2000) argued that it is
necessitated by the uncertainty which characterizes the external environment boundary
spanners maintain interface with to facilitate organisational responses. Discretion is a
necessary condition for CSP because Aguinis and Glavas (2012) found that as it increases,
the influence of sustainability initiatives on CSP also increases.
Moreover, according to Sharma and Vredenburg (1998) managerial discretion enabled upbeat
organisations create an environment that promoted sustainability-related experimentation and
innovation; while Hemingway and Maclagan (2004), established that it is the main
mechanism through which individuals’ values influence corporate social and environmental
responsiveness. Furthermore, Strand (2014) highlighted managerial discretion of the CEO as
a major determinant regarding reactive or proactive installation of the TMT position for
sustainability. However, managers’ discretion on sustainability diminishes with increasing
legislation and concretisation on environmental regulations and certification standards
(Aragón-Correa and Sharma, 2003) as well as institutional pressure and legitimization
processes (Zollo et al., 2013).
Although measurement of managerial discretion is a key issue (Wangrow et al., 2015), this
subsection has highlighted its expediency as a necessary precursor to CSP and adumbrated
the need to focus on managerial characteristics and activities from which it emanates. The
subsequent subsections will examine the leadership dimensions that could yield managerial
discretion.
14
4.2: Leadership Capabilities and Competencies
Capabilities and competencies, as managerial characteristics, are two interrelated leadership
dimensions that shape managerial discretion, which have been extensively addressed in the
literature, especially from the perspectives of performance and sustainability. Some
researchers and authors have associated capabilities with performance in general (Boyatzis,
2011; Dulewicz and Higgs, 2005; Geoghegan and Dulewicz, 2008). But, many more have
linked capabilities particularly to sustainability leadership and CSP (Adams et al., 2012;
Aragón-Correa and Sharma, 2003; Boiral et al., 2009; Brown, 2011; Chen, 2012; Cox, 2005;
Du et al., 2013; Eccles et al., 2012; Epstein and Roy, 2001; Fairfield et al., 2011; Fernández
et al., 2006; Holton et al., 2010; Klettner et al., 2014; Lourenco and Branco, 2013; Lubin and
Esty, 2010; McEwen and Schmidt, 2007; Smith et al., 2012; Stead and Stead, 2014; Tollin
and Vej, 2012; Van Kleef and Roome, 2007; Zollo et al., 2013).
Some others have identified leadership capabilities as beneficial in a wide range of
organisations (Bolden et al., 2003) and especially for handling the complexity associated with
sustainability (Cox, 2005; Du et al., 2013; Smith et al., 2012).
Competencies constitute another leadership strand where managerial discretion is necessary
for CSP (Hind et al., 2009; Wilson et al., 2006) and as in capabilities, there are several
approaches to competencies and their links to some dimensions of performance. While
Boyatzis (2011) considered competencies as a behavioral approach to emotional, social, and
cognitive intelligence, competencies have been mostly described as an amalgam of
knowledge, skills and attitudes (Brown, 2011; Hind et al., 2009; Shinnaranantana et al., 2013;
The British Standards Institution, 2015; Wilson et al., 2006). Hence, according to Brown
(2011), sustainability leadership competencies pertain to a leader’s knowledge, skills,
abilities and personality characteristics. Some scholars have associated competencies with
performance in leadership (Boyatzis, 2011; Brown, 2011; Choi et al., 2012; D'Amato et al.,
2009; Geoghegan and Dulewicz, 2008) and organisational performance (Martin, 2011;
Müller and Turner, 2010; Quinn and Baltes, 2009; The British Standards Institution, 2015).
Many more have associated competencies with CSP (Brown, 2011; Cosby, 2014; CPSL,
2011; D'Amato et al., 2009; de Novaes and Brunstein, 2013; Hind et al., 2009; Kakabadse et
al., 2009; Osagie et al., 2014; Shinnaranantana et al., 2013; Wilson and Holton, 2003).
Evidently, it is settled that capabilities and competencies could be deployed for organisational
performance, sustainability leadership and CSP. Similarly, scholars concur on the usefulness
15
of capabilities and leadership competencies, in organisational performance and CSP. Some
have gone a step further by focusing on the need for sustainability leadership competencies.
This has led to a debate about the appropriate leadership competencies for sustainability and
CSP. Thus, Brown (2011) delineated three approaches to the issue of leadership
competencies for sustainability leadership role. The first, claims that sustainability leadership
requires special leadership competencies and skills. The second, suggests the need to
combine additional competencies that transcend those of effective leadership with a different
worldview. The third, argues that basic leadership competencies constitute the crux.
However, according to Brown (2011), sustainability leadership competencies research is
particularly perplexing because “competencies” is a wide ranging term that includes distinct
but intertwined facets of leadership, such as knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal
characteristics. There are also the issues of paucity of empirical studies on sustainability
leadership competencies (Brown, 2011; D'Amato et al., 2009; Fernández et al., 2006); as well
as fragmented and ambiguous knowledge about a common set of sustainability skills,
competencies or behaviours (Wilson and Holton, 2003). Above all, Brown (2011) bemoaned
the divergence of sustainability leadership competencies research from a common framework
as well as the great diversity in research results as a key issue and the largest weakness in the
existing literature.
Similarly, one key issue in the literature linking capabilities to sustainability leadership and
CSP is that of definition. First, there is a great deal of uncertainty about how well definitions-
in-use capture the essence of managerial performance (Burgoyne et al., 2004) let alone CSP.
Second, there is multiplicity or lack of clarity in the definition of capabilities, especially
among those who take the perspective of dynamic capabilities (Di Stefano et al., 2014).
A related issue is the hazy delineation of the capabilities leaders in top management require,
to play their part in sustainability and provide leadership for high CSP. For example, a few
researchers and authors dwell on innovation, change, cultural, know-how and knowledge-
management capabilities at organisational level, or focus on individual along with
organisational capabilities, as indicated in Table 1.
16
Table 1: Organisational and composite capabilities
The prevalent focus is specifically on individual capabilities, as indicated in Table 2.
However, helpful as this strand of the literature is, there is neither consensus on the individual
capabilities nor specific attention to top management.
Table 2: Individual capabilities
Adams et al., 2012
Organisational capabilities: existing conventional innovation and knowledge-management
capabilities; capability to re-embed in society
Aragón-Correa and
Sharma, 2003
Dynamic capability of a proactive environmental strategy
organizational capabilities; leadership capabilities; Individual capability to perceive strategic
opportunities
Eccles et al., 2012 Change, innovation and cultural capabilities
Lourenco and
Branco, 2013
know-how and corporate culture capabilities
Boiral et al., 2009
Individual capabilities of environmental leadership: managers’ ability to: (i) deal with the complexity
of environmental issues; (ii) integrate seemingly contradictory outlooks; (iii) understand and
address the expectations of a wide range of players; and (iv) profoundly change organizational
practices.
Brown, 2011 Individual action logic through cognitive, affective and behavioural capabilities
Chen, 2012
Extended capabilities and attributes associated with traditional leadership as espoused under
established leadership theories.
Cox, 2005
novel leadership capabilities not frequently addressed in the majority of the prevailing leadership
theories
Epstein and Roy,
2001
Capabilities for improved sustainability performance.
Holton et al., 2010;
Van Kleef and
Roome, 2007
Managerial capabilities: systemic thinking; learning and developing; integrating business,
environmental and social problems, perspectives and information; developing alternative business
models, methods and trajectories; Networking and socializing; Coalition and collaboration building
Klettner et al., 2014
human decision-making and capabilities; capability or capacity of managers to look strategically at
the organisation’s long-term future in the local and global communities
Lubin and Esty, 2010
execution capabilities in five key areas: leadership, assessment, strategy development,
management integration, and reporting and communication
McEwen and
Schmidt, 2007
Individual capabilities for effective action
Metcalf and Benn
(2013)
Leaders’ capabilities to: read and predict through complexity; think through complex problems;
engage groups in dynamic adaptive organisational change; and manage their own emotions
associated with complex problem solving.
Smith et al., 2012
complex emotional, behavioral and cognitive capabilities; capability of both differentiating and
integrating
Stead and Stead,
2014
sustainability-centered strategic capabilities; sustainability-based spiritual capabilities (i.e. spiritual
intelligence and spiritual capital)
17
4.3: Leadership Styles
Like capabilities and competencies, leadership styles as managerial characteristics, could
equally shape managerial discretion. Leadership styles have also been associated with
performance, sustainability and CSP in the literature, though less extensively. While some
researchers have linked leadership styles to performance in general (Du et al., 2013;
Dulewicz and Higgs, 2005; Hawkins, 2008; Muller and Turner, 2010; Young, 2004; Young
and Dulewicz, 2005), few others have examined leadership styles in the context of
sustainability and CSP (Angus-Leppan et al., 2010; CISL, 2010; CPSL, 2011; Egri and
Herman, 2000; Du et al., 2013; Elmualim et al., 2010; Metcalf and Benn, 2013; Waldman
and Balven, 2014; Waldman and Siegel, 2008).
However, there are pending issues regarding leadership styles in the context of sustainability
and CSP, namely: “disparate findings on leadership style” and “the existing confusion over
the multiple leadership styles”. The disparate findings on leadership style are indicative of
foundational theoretical issues that must be addressed to improve CSP. Furthermore, the
confusion is a thorny problem arising from multiple layers of complexity: the complexity of
sustainability, the complexity of complex problem solving and the complexity of leadership
itself (Metcalf and Benn, 2013: 370, 381).
4.4: Emotional Intelligence
The final leadership strand which, as a managerial characteristic, could also shape discretion,
for review in this paper is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence has been linked
mainly with leadership effectiveness and performance (Boyatzis, 2011; Dulewicz and Higgs,
2003; Hawkins, 2008; Kotzé and Venter, 2011; Müller and Turner, 2010; Smith et al., 2012).
Some researchers have also associated it with sustainability and CSP (CISL, 2010; CPSL,
2011; Dulewicz and Higgs, 2003; Hind et al., 2009; Metcalf and Benn, 2013; Smith et al.,
2012; Visser and Courtice, 2011; Wilson et al., 2006).
Despite being plagued by multiple measurement instruments and the dearth of emotional
intelligence research, this dimension of leadership is also a helpful pointer to effective
sustainability leadership and CSP.
4.5: Summary
This section has reviewed the main theoretical strands that have emerged about top
management, discretion and managerial leadership characteristics pertaining to CSP. The
ensuing examines the contextual emphasis of this paper.
18
Section 5: Corporate Sustainability Performance
This section examines CSP, as a context in which the preceding top managers’ leadership
characteristics and discretion are deployed.
5.1: Corporate Sustainability Performance (CSP)
CSP has been acknowledged as a key aspect of leading for sustainability (Kakabadse et al.,
2009) that is very important for top management (Chvatalova and Hrebicek, 2012) and
organisations’ success (The British Standards Institution, 2015). The importance of CSP is
underscored by the fact its measurement constitutes a distinct stream in the literature on
sustainability (Hahn and Figge, 2011; Taneja et al., 2011).
The two main empirical approaches to CSP measurement are: outsourcing, the more widely
used, where researchers use secondary sources of data compiled by different types of
institutions to measure CSP; and collecting own primary data and using own constructs and
scales to measure CSP (Montiel and Delgado-Ceballos, 2014). However, the present scoping
review established that researchers who followed the outsourcing or proxy approach used
either a single proxy measure or composite proxy measures of CSP as shown in Table 3.
Thus, single proxy approach was used by Artiach et al., (2010), Lourenco et al., (2012),
Lourenco and Branco (2013), Jooh et al., (2011), Wagner (2010) and He et al., (2015).
Hansen and Reichwald (2009), as well as Huang (2013) deployed composite proxy
measures, while Herbohn and colleagues (2014) developed a sustainability performance
index.
Table 3: Empirical approaches to CSP measurement
Researcher(s)/Year Approach
Artiach et al., (2010); Lourenco
et al., (2012)
Single proxy; Used membership of Dow Jones Sustainability Index
Lourenco and Branco (2013)
Single proxy; Used membership of the São Paulo Stock Market (Bovespa) Corporate
Sustainability Index
Jooh et al., (2011)
Single proxy; Used Pacific Sustainability Index (PSI), published by the Roberts
Environmental Center
Wagner (2010) Single proxy; Used Kinder Lydenberg Domini for the period 1992 to 2003
He et al., (2015)
Single proxy; Used the CSR rankings announced by Common Wealth Magazine for
Taiwanese-listed companies from 2007 to 2010
Hansen and Reichwald (2009)
Composite proxy; Calculated average CSP performance based on three rankings:
Scoris, Good Company Ranking and Dow Jones Sustainability Index
Huang (2013)
Composite proxy; Applied the rating results between 2005 and 2010 from four major
CSR rating agencies as the dependent variable
Herbohn and colleagues (2014)
Own data; Developed a sustainability performance index based on the International
Finance Corporation's Measuring Sustainability Framework.
19
But, useful as the preceding approaches may be, they raise three key issues, namely: paucity
of a standard method for evaluating CSP (Montiel and Delgado-Ceballos, 2014; Smith and
Sharicz, 2011); lack of clear and undisputed definition of CSR/sustainability, which hinders
drawing valid conclusions from the data they provide (Smith and Sharicz, 2011); as well as
lack of a broad perspective on CSP measurement (Mamede and Gomes, 2013).
5.2: Summary
This section has highlighted the importance of CSP and its measurement as well as the main
empirical approaches to CSP measurement. The next will summarise and conclude this paper.
Section 6: Summary and Conclusion
To round off, this section focuses on major studies, key themes, questions, gaps and
suggestions for further research concerning top management and leadership antecedents of
CSP.
6.1: Major Studies’ Themes, Methodologies, Domiciles and Questions
This paper has shown that the key themes major empirical studies about top management and
leadership antecedents of CSP focused on were competencies, managers, leaders,
organisations, performance and successful. These themes, captured in figure 5, reflect the
purposes and research questions pursued in the major studies, shown in Appendix 1. A
synthesis of the key themes suggests that researchers have focused mainly on exploring
competencies managers and leaders require for successful sustainability performance in
organisations.
Figure 5: Wordcloud of key themes in main empirical studies
20
Table 4 shows that in the main studies, researchers used quantitative and qualitative
methodologies as well as mixed methods and action research. However, quantitative and
qualitative methodologies were used in equal measure and cumulatively in almost three-
quarters of the studies, as depicted in figure 6.
Table 4: Methodologies of main empirical studies
Author (Year)
Methodology
Location
1
Abugre (2014)
Quantitative
Ghana
2
Boiral et al., (2014)
Qualitative
Canada
3
Brown (2011)
Qualitative
United States
4
Cox (2005)
Qualitative
United States
5
de Novaes and Brunstein (2013)
Cooperative methodology
Brazil
6
Du et al., (2013)
Quantitative
United States
7
Dulewicz and Higgs (2003)
Quantitative
United Kingdom
8
Dulewicz and Higgs (2005)
Quantitative
United Kingdom
9
Eccles et al., (2011)
Quantitative
United States
10
Eccles et al., (2012)
Explanatory mixed methods
Global
11
Egri and Herman (2000)
Mixed methods
North America
12
Hind et al., (2009)
Mixed methods
Europe
13
Huang (2013)
Quantitative
North America
14
Kakabadse et al., 2009
Qualitative
Global
15
Lourenco and Branco, 2013
Quantitative
Brazil
16
Morsing and Oswald, 2009
Qualitative
Denmark
17
Muller and Turner, 2010
Quantitative
Global
18
Osagie et al., 2014
Qualitative
The Netherlands
19
Quinn and Dalton (2009)
Qualitative
United States
20
Shinnaranantana et al., (2013)
Qualitative
Thailand
21
Wilson and Holton (2003)
Action research
United Kingdom
22
Wilson et al., (2006)
Action research
Europe
Figure 6: Pie chart and frequency table showing methodologies of main empirical studies
21
As illustrated in figure 7, the main empirical studies reviewed were domiciled largely in
Europe and the Americas, while below 10 percent were done in Africa and Asia, specifically
Ghana and Thailand.
Figure 7: Pie chart and frequency table showing domiciles of main empirical studies
Researchers concerned with top management and leadership antecedents of CSP have asked
questions mainly regarding performance, competencies, managers, leaders, organisations, and
successful. Figure 8 shows the top 20 words in the researchers’ questions, detailed in
Appendix 1. A synthesis of the words indicates that researchers have asked questions about
competencies managers and leaders require for successful performance in organisations.
Figure 8: Wordcloud of questions asked in main empirical studies
22
6.2: Key Gaps, Deficiencies Needs and Suggestions
This review has revealed researchers’ predominant focus on exploring competencies
managers and leaders require for successful sustainability performance in organisations. It
also showed that researchers have used mostly quantitative and qualitative methodologies in
equal measure to conduct such studies mainly in Europe and the Americas. Moreover, as
depicted in figure 9, emotional intelligence, leadership styles and discretion are relatively
under-researched aspects of top management and leadership antecedents of CSP.
Figure 9: Indications of areas for further research
Evidently, there is need to explore competencies managers and leaders require for successful
sustainability performance in Nigerian organisations. There is also need to explore how
emotional intelligence, leadership styles and discretion make for successful sustainability
performance in Nigerian organisations. Therefore, emanating from this review, a subsequent
empirical study will seek to explore how top managers’ leadership competencies and styles
engender discretion to drive sustainability performance as well as corporate sustainability
performance in Nigerian organisations. Finally, based on the foregoing review the following
research question and research model will propel the proposed research, tentatively entitled
23
Champions by What Means? Leadership Competencies for High Corporate
Sustainability Performance in Nigeria”:
What are the leadership competencies top managers in Nigeria exercise to engender high
corporate sustainability performance?
Figure 10: Model of top management and leadership antecedents of CSP
24
Appendix 1: Summary of Major Empirical Studies Related to
Topic Area
Author
(Year)
Purpose
Research Question(s)/ Hypotheses
Methodology
Location
Abugre
(2014)
To examine the managerial role
in the practices of corporate
social responsibility (CSR) in
developing economies
What role do managers play in the
implementation of CSR in Ghana? What
are some of the difficulties management
face in the implementation of CSR
policies in Ghana?
quantitative survey of
100 middle and senior
level managers from
four organisations
chosen from relatively
high impact industry
sectors
Ghana
Boiral et
al., (2014)
To explore how the various
stages of consciousness
development of top man- agers
can influence, in practical terms,
their abilities and commitment to
environmental leadership in
different types of SMEs
To what extent can the abilities required
for promoting environmental leadership
be empirically related to the particular
characteristics of post-conventional
stages? Conversely, in what ways do
leaders from passive SMEs lack these
capacities?
qualitative and
inductive; case study
based on 63 interviews
with top managers
carried out in 15
industrial SMEs
Canada
Brown
(2011)
To better understand how to
address our biggest social,
environmental, and economic
challenges, specifically how
leaders and change agents with a
complex meaning-making
system design and engage with
sustainability initiatives
How do leaders with a late-stage action
logic design sustainability initiatives?
Qualitative research
methodology
employed semi-
structured, open-ended
interviews
United
States
Cox (2005)
To discover if leadership in
“green” organizations is different
from traditional leadership
approaches and theories
Is leadership in “green” organizations is
different from traditional leadership
approaches and theories?
Qualitative; Grounded
theory methods; 18
interviews of
founder/CEOs
United States
de Novaes
and
Brunstein
(2013)
To investigate the competency
development of managers, by
introducing the sustainability
discussion in this
organisation’s environment
How do managers of a hospitality
organisation develop new
competencies as the sustainability
notion is held up for discussion and
translated into actions?
Cooperative
methodology; the
work was developed
by researchers in
partnership with 20
managers, in eight
hotels of a Brazilian
hotel chain, with
headquarters in the
city of São Paulo and
about a decade old
Brazil
Du et al.,
(2013)
To shed light on the ways in
which transformational and
transactional leadership styles
affect a firm’s institutional CSR
practices, as well as the
organizational outcomes of CSR
(1) How does transformational (but not
transactional) leadership affect
institutional CSR practices? (2) How
does stakeholder-oriented marketing
influence the transformational
leadershipinstitutional CSR link? and
(3) How do leadership styles influence
the relationship between institutional
CSR and organizational outcomes?
Quantitative;
nationwide, large-scale
survey of managers of
U.S. firms
United States
Dulewicz
and Higgs
(2003)
To explore the nature of EI at
board level
Which of the competencies important
for being a successful director are
related to emotional intelligence?
The higher one progresses in an
organization, the more important
emotional intelligence becomes.
Quantitative
United
Kingdom
Dulewicz
and Higgs
(2005)
To investigate the new leadership
dimensions questionnaire (LDQ)
and a related framework for
assessing an individual’s
leadership style in relation to the
context in which the leader works
What is the relationship between
leadership style and organisational
context? What is the relationship
between leadership style and personality
characteristics?
Quantitative; LDQ
used to obtain data
from a large sample of
leaders and managers
(n 222) from a range of
public and private
organisations
United
Kingdom
25
Eccles et
al., (2011)
To investigate the effect of a
corporate culture of
sustainability on multiple
facets of corporate behavior
and performance outcomes
Do High Sustainability and Low
Sustainability firms exhibit
significantly different behavior and
performance over time?
Quantitative
United
States
Eccles et
al., (2012)
To understand how companies
can better integrate sustainability
into the core of their strategy and
operations
1. How does a sustainable company
create the conditions that embed
sustainability in the company’s strategy
and operations? 2.
What are the specific elements of
sustainable companies’ cultures that
differentiate them from those of
traditional companies?
Explanatory mixed
methods; case studies,
in- depth field research,
survey research,
archival research,
followed by interviews
to validate results
Global
Egri and
Herman
(2000)
To investigate whether leaders
and organizations in the
environmental sector were
different from those
in other sectors.
To what extent could leaders in the
environmental sector be characterized
as transformational leaders?
Mixed methods
North
America
Hind et al.,
(2009)
To explore how organisations
can develop leaders who have
the competences necessary to
ensure the sustainability of the
company. It considers how the
understanding and practice of
responsible leadership can be
enhanced by defining the
competencies for integrating
social and environmental
considerations into business
decision-making processes.
What leadership qualities do
managers regards as likely to support
corporate responsible behaviour
within organisations?
Mixed methods; An
initial questionnaire
surveyed a sample of
managers operating
in the public and
private sectors in
Europe (n=108).A
second stage of the
research used in-
depth interviews with
11 leading European-
based multinational
companies.
Europe
Huang
(2013)
To explore the relationship
between CEO demographic
characteristics and consistency in
corporate social responsibility
(CSR) performance among firms.
Which CEO demographical attributes
affect CSR performance?
Hypothesis 1. CEO gender is positively
associated with consistency in firm CSR
performance.
Hypothesis 2. CEO average age is
positively associated with consistency
in firm CSR performance.
Hypothesis 3. CEO tenure is positively
associated with consistency in firm CSR
performance.
Hypothesis 4. CEO educational
specialization is positively associated
with consistency in firm CSR
performance.
Hypothesis 5. CEO nationality is
positively associated with consistency
in firm CSR performance.
Quantitative
North
America
26
Kakabadse
et al., 2009
To outline how CSR can be
effectively implemented and
driven through the
organisation, particularly the
skills and capabilities needed
by individuals and
organizations to fully
implement CSR application.
1.What are the stages through which
the CSR leader progresses, both as an
individual and with his or her
organisation (if the leadership skills
are developed and the leadership
actions are effective), from initial
uncertainty and ambiguity in
understanding CSR, to moving
forward to a new and concrete reality
framed by deliberate leadership
action?; and
2. What skills and capabilities needed,
or required to develop, at each of
these stages, for successful movement
forward of organisational CSR?
Qualitative; used
interview, data
feedback, and
participant
observation
Global
Lourenco
and
Branco,
2013
To understand whether the
determinants of corporate
sustainability in Brazil are
different from the determinants
of CSP in developed countries
1. Firm’s size and CSP are positively
related.
2. Firm’s profitability and CSP are
positively related.
3. Firm’s growth options and CSP are
positively related.
4. Firm’s leverage and CSP are
negatively related.
5. Firm’s level of ownership
concentration and CSP are negatively
related.
6. International listing status and CSP
are positively related.
Quantitative
Brazil
Morsing
and
Oswald,
2009
To demonstrate how top
managers seek to provide the
necessary leadership inside an
organisation when sustainability
is a primary strategic objective
How can senior executives provide the
necessary leadership inside their
organizations when one of the primary
objectives of their organization is to be
sustainable?
Qualitative; single case
study
Denmark
Muller and
Turner,
2010
To:
Identify the extent different
leadership competencies are
present in project managers in
successful projects of different
type.
Develop project manager
leadership competencies
profiles related to successful
projects.
There are differences in project
manager leadership competency
profiles in successful projects of
different type.
Quantitative
Global
Osagie et
al., 2014
To explore the individual
CSR-related competencies that
support CSR implementation in a
corporate context.
Which individual competencies support
effective CSR implementation?
Qualitative
The
Netherlands
Quinn and
Dalton
(2009)
To expand the field of
sustainability/corporate social
responsibility research to include
a focus on leadership.
How do organizational leaders
introduce the concept of sustainability
into the organization; how do they
inspire, enlist, or motivate employees to
adopt sustainability as an organizational
goal?
Qualitative
United States
Shinnaran
antana et
al., (2013)
To analyze the skills and
competencies required of
corporate social responsibility
(CSR) managers through best
case practice in Thailand
What types of skill and competence do
Thai corporate managers need?
How can companies integrate corporate
social responsibility into mainstream
business?
What is a suitable CSR competency
framework for a Thai corporation?
Qualitative; case study
of three Thai
corporations
Thailand
Wilson and
Holton
(2003)
To collect information on the
skills and abilities CSR
practitioners need to
undertake their work in a
professional way
What specific generic skill sets are
required for the practice of corporate
social responsibility (CSR) and the
intersection with other professional
practices?
Action research
United
Kingdom
27
Wilson et
al., (2006)
To explore how an organisation
can enhance the understanding
and practice of responsible
leadership by developing
managers that have the
competencies for integrating
social and environmental
considerations into business
decision making processes.
How can an organisation enhance the
understanding and practice of
responsible leadership by developing
management competencies for
corporate responsibility?
Action research
Europe
28
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