What is Socially Responsible Leadership?

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.


Entrepreneurs Who Overcame Obstacles

Imagine what it might feel like to have all the odds stacked against you. No one is going to help you. The only things on your side are your own mind and spirit. At some point in our lives, we all face challenges like this. We want to look at some people who, despite the odds, rose above the hard times that came at them. They didn’t accept their lot in life, met adversity head-on, and through sheer resilience, beat it. If you are feeling like life is standing in the way of your dreams, take a page out of any one of these folks’ books in order to find the success you’ve worked hard for.


Oprah Winfrey


When Oprah moved to Nashville she eventually became the first African American TV correspondent for WTVF. She moved to Baltimore, then Chicago, working each time to rise through the ranks of local media, facing both misogyny and racism along the way. But Oprah was a notoriously hard worker, who wouldn’t take no for an answer. While in Chicago she turned her AM radio show into a nationally syndicated TV talk show within three years. This led to the Oprah that we know and love today.


J.K Rowling


J.K. submitted her bestselling book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to over a dozen publishers before her manuscript was finally accepted. All the while Rowling battled sexism. In fact, while she was working with editors, they convinced her that little boys wouldn’t read a book written by a woman. She added the initial “K” to her name in order to have a more “masculine” name. As the series continued, the increasingly dark tones of the story reflected her increasingly difficult personal life. Still, after the success of Harry Potter, she went on to be the first author to be a billionaire. This status didn’t last too long though–she donated so much money she is now “just” a millionaire. Rowling, like everyone else on this list, is a true inspiration.


Do Wan Chang


Do Wan Chang and his wife left South Korea in 1981 during a tumultuous time in the country’s history. They traveled to Los Angeles where Chang immediately took a job at a coffee shop for minimum wage ($3 an hour at the time). This wasn’t enough to support his family, so he took a job at a local gas station and started his own office cleaning company– while working 19 hours a day. After noticing that the people in the garment industry drove the nicest cars, he and his wife began saving their money. After pooling their money they opened a store called Fashion 21. Over time this turned into Forever 21. Their store has since become one of the most profitable apparel stores in the United States.


Jan Koum 


Jan Koum was born in Kyiv, Ukraine and lived there until the age of 16 when he and his mother emigrated to California. The two secured an apartment with the help of government assistance and Jan got to work sweeping floors at a local store. At this time his mother was diagnosed with cancer and they lived on disability benefits. All the while Koum bought books on coding from a second-hand bookstore and taught himself to code. While he had trouble graduating from high school, as a self-professed troublemaker, he eventually enrolled at San Jose University. He worked his way through school as a software security tester for Ernst and Young. This led to a job at Yahoo and to the founding of WhatsApp, a messaging app that he sold to Facebook for billions of dollars in cash and shares in Facebook.


To be resilient means to do your best no matter the challenges you face. The people on this list saw these obstacles as opportunities to not only grow but succeed. They took adversity in stride and ran right through it. They turned their passions into careers that vaulted them to success. While there are many individual lessons that we can learn from each one of these people, just remember that resilience isn’t a special talent that only certain people are imbued with. This quality is simply the choice to work hard in order to overcome your obstacles.



The Resilience of Alpha Kappa Psi Members

Here at Alpha Kappa Psi, we celebrate and champion many great characteristics. But when it comes to succeeding in the business world, few are as vital as resilience. Gaining success in a career or new business endeavor doesn’t happen overnight. Even when things are going well, there can be difficult impasses and moments when the world seems to be at odds with your dreams. Though we have countless success stories in our alumni, there are a few that we felt truly encapsulate the process of staying motivated and grounded. Here are their stories!


James Cash Penny, Founder of J.C. Penny

Penny began his chain of department stores in the early 1900s, primarily in the Western states of Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho. By 1917, the chain had grown to nearly 200 locations, and then to nearly 1,000 by the 1920s. However, after the stock market crash of 1929, Penny found himself in financial ruin. Despite the store’s success, Penny found himself at his wits’ end and eventually checked himself into a mental health sanitarium. After his stay, Penny resumed his position and continued to travel across the country. He visited stores and locations, meeting with employees and customers alike. Such a traumatic experience may have been difficult, but Penny displayed great resilience to stay committed to his dream.


Bernie Marcus, Founder of Home Depot

We may not think of Alpha Kappa Psi when picking out light fixtures or sorting through paint swatches, but founder Bernie Marcus was a prominent member of our fraternity. His journey is one marked with setbacks and obstacles. He was born to Russian immigrant parents who lived in a fourth-floor walk-up.  In 1978 he was fired from the hardware store Handy Dan. In an act of resilience, he chose to pursue his love of the home improvement industry when he and a fellow coworker decided to then open their own hardware store. Though they faced stiff competition, Home Depot now has over 2,000 locations worldwide, making it the global leader in home improvement retail.


Alexis Ohanian, Founder of Reddit

After graduating college in 2005, this University of Virginia Alpha Kappa Psi member dreamed up a little idea. In collaboration with friend Steve Huffman, they developed the concept of “the front page of the Internet.” This would be a place where all the important links, stories, and content could be brought together in one place. However, only a few months into the process of building the site, Ohanian received extremely disconcerting news ; his girlfriend fell five stories and subsequently was in a coma. While Alexis was still reeling from this accident, he learned that his mother had an inoperable brain tumor. For many, either of these would be cause to give up. However, through the pain he persisted in his work and eventually helped Reddit to grow to over 300 million daily active users.


The road to success is rarely a clear one. Along the way, even the most accomplished professionals will undoubtedly encounter difficulties and setbacks. The key is not to let these diminish your dreams, but to push through them. Whether you’re starting a chain of stores, dreaming up internet sites in your dorm room, or finding your way in a new endeavor, staying motivated and pushing through obstacles is the only pathway to success. How will you showcase your resilience in business? We simply can’t wait to see what else our members can do!

Developing Professional Resilience

The working world can sometimes present challenging situations and obstacles. One of the most important aspects of success in business is the ability to overcome these stressful situations and make the best of tough experience. By doing so, you grow as a person and can even better your career. But how exactly does one develop professional resilience, especially when your job is on the line? Here are three ways to become resilient and make sure you keep moving forward, even when it feels impossible to do so.


Socialize and Support

A Gallup poll revealed that individuals with best friends at work tend to do better and have more positive working experiences. While it may not be realistic to have your very best pals in the office with you, developing a social support system can help to increase feelings of resilience and make the workday overall more enjoyable. This might be as simple as chatting with your desk mates or gathering around the water cooler. However, getting involved in the office culture may be an even better chance to socialize. Some examples are:

  • Volunteer on committees
  • Schedule group lunches
  • Start a book club
  • Do something nice, such as bring in coffees for your coworkers


Avoid Spiraling and Catastrophizing

So much of resilience comes from your emotional reaction to a given situation. If there are rumblings of big changes at your company or possible layoffs, it’s easy to start worrying early. However, you still have control at this very moment. As opposed to jumping to the worst possible scenario such as being fired, give yourself a mental break. There is nothing to be gained from worry before there’s any reason to fret. You may also consider speaking directly to your manager or supervisor. Express your concerns and find out what information they may have. Although sudden changes are just that – sudden – that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to put your mind at ease during a stressful time.



Practice Mindfulness

Though it may sound like a new-age buzzword, mindfulness has come to be known as a powerful technique both in the personal realm as well as in the office. At work, the practice of mindfulness means focusing on the present instead of worrying about past mistakes or future anxieties. It also means interacting with those around you without judgment or negative feelings. A study performed by the University of British Columbia showed that this practice can not only improve performance but can also cut down on interpersonal conflicts and miscommunications.


In order to engage in mindfulness, consider the process much like meditation. Find a quiet space throughout the day to sit and be comfortable. Try to focus on your breath and your body. Take note of how you’re sitting or your body’s positioning. Think about how you’re feeling at that moment, without any concern over the work left at your desk, or the upcoming staff meeting. Doing this consistently throughout a workday can improve your overall mood and make you more resilient should negative experiences arise.


Resilience is an incredibly valuable trait, but practicing it or bettering yourself can take time. Don’t beat yourself up if you find that you’re stressing throughout the day; instead, use it as motivation to approach these obstacles in a positive and proactive manner. By engaging with others at work, using negative feedback as an opportunity, journaling your thoughts, and practicing mindfulness, you can be well on your way to improving your career and becoming more resilient

What Is Resilience?

Actress Mary Pickford once said, “This thing we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.” Whether in work or personal life, resilience is one of the most important and beneficial traits a person can have. Overcoming obstacles, standing up to naysayers, and moving forward when the going gets tough requires a ton of grit and perseverance. And though we often speak about the importance of resilience, defining how it looks in daily life can be tricky. Let’s take a look at how the motivation to keep moving can play a part at work, with your friends, or at home with the family.


Resilience at Work

Though it can be extremely rewarding, the professional world is equally full of challenges and obstacles. A study performed by the American Institute of Stress found that 40% of workers said their jobs were very or extremely stressful. This stress can come from a variety of sources, but research from the staffing firm Accountemps revealed 33% of workplace anxiety is caused by heavy workloads and difficult deadlines, with struggling for work-life balance (22%), and unrealistic expectations from management (22%) not far behind. Beyond these consistent factors are difficult professional events that are isolated, such as:

  • Layoffs
  • Arguments with coworkers
  • Missing out on promotions
  • Relocation
  • Negative feedback from managers


Resilience in a workplace means learning to tune out these frustrations. Throughout your career, you will undoubtedly encounter one, if not many, of these instances.  A resilient individual uses these moments as a chance to move forward in a positive way. Consider journaling your progress in a position, and review your entries regularly to remind yourself just how far you’ve come. You may also consider asking for more frequent discussions with a manager or executive. Though it might be frightening to do so, a proactive approach can often prevent future problems.


Resilience with Friends

Our social circle is more than a list of folks who will help us move, or head to the local bar for our birthday. The connections we forge define us and enrich our lives for the better. In fact, a study done at Michigan State University found people who reported having supportive and good friendships had fewer chronic illnesses, as well as reduced stress and boosted overall emotional states. But how do we define “good friends?” One important way is through resilience.


People want to be around people who care, plain and simple. We strive to feel supported, to know that our emotions or experiences matter to our friends. When a companion is going through a difficult time, the best thing you can do let them know you’re there. Offer to cook them a meal, take them out for the night, or just listen while they vent. This will help them work through their emotions.  Your resilience may just rub off on them and help them pull themselves up, too.


Resilience with Family

Dr. Froma Walsh, a top research authority on family resilience, defines it as the ability to “withstand and rebound from disruptive life challenges, strengthened and more resourceful.” Certainly, all families are different, but Dr. Walsh’s studies helped her break down resilient family dynamics into the categories of beliefs, organization, and communication


  • Beliefs – sometimes tied to spirituality, help family members find meaning and encourage a positive outlook.
  • An organization can foster mutual support and connectedness, allow for flexibility and creates social networks
  • Communication is open and clear, allows for the expression of emotions and opinions, and is used in problem-solving


Resilient families provide a safe space for all members. It should be a healthy and welcoming environment, and one built on give-and-take. Just the same as you can go to a sibling or a parent for advice, you too need to offer a shoulder, an ear and helping hand.


Resilience is one of Alpha Kappa Psi’s most important core competencies. Life is full of wonderful and exciting opportunities, but in order to reap the benefits, we must first be able to push through the less-fun and more difficult moments. Whether it’s in the workplace, with a group of friends, or in a family meeting, resilience can help you uncover the true happiness and reward of life.