University of Oulu

Lämsä, A.-M., & Keränen, A. (2020). Responsible Leadership in the Manager–Employee Relationship. South Asian Journal of Business and Management Cases, 9(3), 422–432.

Responsible leadership in the manager–employee relationship

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Author: Lämsä, Anna-Maija1; Keränen, Anne2
Organizations: 1School of Business and Economics University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
2School of Business, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: SAGE Publications, 2020
Publish Date: 2021-03-10


Research questions: The aim of this study is to explore and conceptualize responsible leadership. The topic is viewed from the viewpoint of the dyadic level between managers and employees. The following research questions are answered: What principles do managers and employees perceive as being significant for responsible leadership in the manager–employee relationship? What social contexts in the relationship call for the principles to occur? To whom do the parties place responsibility for the advancement of the principles?

Theory: The study draws on relational leadership theory as well as literature on responsible leadership. Responsible leadership is understood as a dynamic and contextual process of social construction through relationships between managers and employees rooted in principles, which guide the parties’ actions.

Type of the case: An explorative case study strategy was adopted. Two executive MBA groups are the cases through which the research phenomenon, responsible leadership, is explored. The data consists of a sample of 22 participants in the groups. Content analysis was used to analyse the data.

Basis of the case: The participants in the executive MBA groups offer real-life data from which the results can be built. The participants represent professionals who have a broad and versatile perspective to leadership issues from the viewpoint of employee and manager. In general, an executive MBA programme advances its participants’ competency to reflect and analyse leadership topics.

Findings: Conceptualization that shows the principles of responsibility in leadership—fairness, empowerment, openness, trust and caring—and their contextual and dynamic nature in the manager–employee relationship was formed.

Discussions: This case study implies that exercising responsible leadership is produced differently in different social contexts: in some contexts the manager is expected to take the lead and be in charge, while at other times it is expected that practising responsible leadership principles will be shared between partners. A limitation is that this study explored its topic only at the dyadic level between manager and employee.

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Series: South asian journal of business and management cases
ISSN: 2277-9779
ISSN-E: 2321-0303
ISSN-L: 2277-9779
Volume: 9
Issue: 3
Pages: 422 - 432
DOI: 10.1177/2277977920958543
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 512 Business and management
Copyright information: © 2020 Birla Institute of Management Technolog. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (