Responsible Leadership with Chinese Characteristics

Qing Qu, Pingping Fu, Yu Tu, Masoud Shadnam

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Responsible leadership (RL) has become a buzz word in the current lexicon of business and politics, but there is still limited agreement on the components, scope, and characteristics. The confusion is rooted, in part, in the dominance of normative perspectives that take RL as a universal phenomenon. However, embedded in a specific culture, RL cannot be understood fully without understanding the moral traditions of that culture. In this article, we used a case study method to explore how RL is understood and practiced in China. Taking the role theory perspective, we conducted in-depth interviews with 9 highly regarded responsible executive leaders and 92 stakeholders in and outside of their companies who were well acquainted with the leaders. Our findings reveal that in China, the moral character of leaders guides them to define and take responsibility for themselves, their employees, companies, and external stakeholders. The five dimensions of RL we identified and the relationships among the dimensions include characteristics that reflect Chinese culture, such as strong sentiment for the nation, self-discipline, developing employees philosophically, and ‘jun zi wu ben’ (a gentleman should focus on fundamental matters). We conclude by discussing the implications of our study for RL research and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-59
Number of pages31
JournalManagement and Organization Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2024


  • Chinese context
  • Chinese culture
  • executive leadership
  • responsible leadership (RL)
  • role theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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