Social responsibility is when one takes into consideration how their actions affect the world around them. Making the decision to pick up litter or donate to a charity that supports the common good are two ways people can be socially responsible. But what does it mean to be a socially responsible leader? Is it forcing those that follow you to pick up trash or donate part of a paycheck to a worthy cause? While these examples might sound good to some, it goes beyond making people follow rules. Truly successful socially responsible leadership occurs by fostering an environment where other people’s needs are placed above your own. Let’s discuss what this can look like at work, with friends, and with family.
Socially Responsible Leadership at Work
Socially responsible leadership while at work takes some insight into yourself, your company, and its culture. This starts with introspection as to how your daily decisions affect others and the environment. Author and C-suite expert Jeffrey Hayzlett points out that socially responsible leadership puts your people and your planet first, and that if you do so, profits will follow. The environment and employee treatment are growing concerns, especially when it comes to Gen-Z according to Forbes. This generation, as they join the workforce, wants to ensure companies are addressing social issues within their business plans. Things like addressing climate change, global poverty, hunger, and human rights weren’t always taught in business school, but it’s becoming a common discussion at universities today. While some business leaders might think this isn’t the best use of time and money, there is an upside. According to Double the Donation, 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for products that come from a socially responsible company. What does this mean in more practical terms?
The first thing that might jump to mind is donating to a worthy cause. It’s a great way to start, but you have to vet your charity and verify that choosing one or two NPOs is better for your brand than donating to many. The flipside of socially responsible leadership is internal. It’s making sure that your employees get the benefits they need to live a happy life. This means keeping an eye on work-life balance. You also need to think about providing benefits, like 401(k) matching, maternity/paternity leave, and plenty of sick leave. The happiness and satisfaction of your employees has a real benefit. According to Hodges Mace, 75 percent of employees say that they are less likely to leave a company when they feel cared for. This saves you money on training new hires and provides a 20 percent boost in productivity according to Zenefits. While being a socially responsible leader at work is good for the world, it can help your bottom line quite a bit, too.
Socially Responsible Leadership with Friends
If social responsibility is important to you and you want friends to join the endeavor, the best thing you can do is lead by example. Try not to preach about it as that might appear condescending, which could alienate your friends from the prospect entirely. For example, if recycling is important to you, make sure the recycling bins at home are in a prominent place so that friends and family can easily put their empty beverage cans inside. This shows that recycling is easy and something that they could do in their own homes. Another example would be to suggest carpooling or even taking a bike or walking when on a group outing. This can help reduce everyone’s carbon footprint with the added benefit of exercise. If your friends aren’t interested in being socially responsible, follow your ethics anyway. There is a good chance that just by practicing what you preach, your socially responsible attitude will sway some of them eventually. This is an effect called social contagion. As described in the Huffington Post, this is a phenomenon where habits and lifestyles rub off on those you surround yourself with, which means the more you practice social responsibility, the better the chance that your friends will, too.
Socially Responsible Leadership with Family
It’s never too early to teach socially responsible habits to your children. If you think your child might be too young to understand how social dynamics work, author and education expert Rick Ackerly disagrees. He reports on research that shows “children have been researching their social milieu for thousands of hours by the time they are 18 months and, therefore, have a pretty good sense of what another person wants and, furthermore, have a natural desire to give that person what he wants.” This indicates that you can introduce socially responsible concepts at any age. Whether you are trying to guide your children, nieces, nephews or grandparents–everyone can be involved. So, what does this look like? It could be asking your family to volunteer at a local green space and clean up litter. No matter the activity, it’s important to maintain an open dialogue with each family member so they understand the importance of their actions. If a family member doesn’t understand, listen. Not everyone will be on board, but explaining your vision for the future and how your family can help build that will go a long way in gaining support.
These days, it’s important for both businesses and individuals to show socially responsible leadership to benefit fellow humans and make the world a better place.