Strategy, Innovation & Leadership

‘Responsible leadership is about the long-term vision’

September 23, 2013 | 2 min read

Responsible leadership is becoming an increasingly important theme for companies and their employees. When are you a responsible leader? Ewoud Goudswaard entered the employment of ASN Bank in 2001 to shape to the sustainability mission of the bank. But also to shape and promote responsible leadership, of course. He spoke on the subject of responsible leadership during the TIAS School for Business and Society alumni day.

Responsible leadership, what is that?

Responsible leadership is about how you associate with your people and your clients, or about the culture that you wish to create within an organization. It means being transparent towards clients, society and your staff. You have to explain why you make the decisions that you make. Every organization has its own different starting points that determine how you can be a responsible leader. At ASN Bank, we want to promote a sustainable society. And so we are already shaping responsible leadership in a good way. But you can also be a responsible leader at a company such as Heineken. Water is an important component of their product. How the water is obtained and transported to the production locations has everything to do with sustainability. Responsible leadership involves considering your own role in society and your responsibility for society.

Long-term vision

Can you be a responsible leader if your company is focused on profit alone?

Concerning the long term, you also have a responsibility towards your stockholders. They not only want to see favorable figures for the present quarter, but also a healthy company ten years from now. I think that responsible leadership is precisely about a long-term vision.

How can you be a responsible leader?

I do so by contributing in the manner that I mentioned before. By trying to be a good example in my associations with the staff and the clients. It is actually a matter of course to me. It is not a conscious choice, being a responsible leader or not. I did not wake up one morning and decide to become a responsible leader. On a day to day basis, I operate in a way that suits me. What's more, it needs to be downplayed. Being responsible in your dealings with your staff and clients is the normal thing to do. How extraordinary is it to center your attention on the client?

Profit and the short term

But society evidently finds this to be extraordinary.

There has been an increasing amount of publicity for responsible leadership. More and more people apparently find how one deals with clients, staff and society important. During the financial crisis, the focus was on making a profit and the short term. We can now see a shift towards an increasing involvement in society.

What do you intend to say to the TIAS alumni?

I want to explain to the alumni how I shape sustainability and responsible leadership within the ASN Bank. What kind of bank we are, and which choices we make. Responsible leadership is about finding the right balance. You cannot have extremely satisfied clients and staff members, while operating at a loss. It is impossible to keep that up in the long term. I explain how we at the ASN Bank take all of the different stakeholders into account.

TIAS Alumni day

Ewoud Goudswaard spoke at the Alumni day on Thursday 3 October on the subject of 'Responsible Leadership'.

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