In the next few months, a first important research activity (a pilot case study) will be carried out within the recently established long-term partnership between Leeds Beckett University (Centre for Governance, Leadership and Global Responsibility) and Kilpatrick.
Both partners create value for their clients through a responsible leadership approach and, in different but converging ways, select and nurture talented individuals who will be covering leadership roles.
Executive search firms: research topics and perspectives
Labour market intermediaries (LMIs) represent a relatively understudied field of research, even though executives – as other groups of highly paid or highly sought-after resources, like professional athletes, senior academics, government officials, etc. – are often and routinely offered career opportunities, and one of the key tasks for labour market intermediaries (like executive search firms, ESFs) is to stimulate interest and attention towards new career opportunities.
Little is known about search firms role in executives considering or rejecting potential appointments in new positions and/or new organisational contexts: ESFs are not only purely efficiency-improving elements in the executive labour market, but they also unlock and set in motion processes and degrees of involvement that otherwise would not occur. The way LMIs shape executive labour markets goes beyond the classical view that sees them as intermediaries that basically match candidates and employers: on the contrary, they are required to identify, assess, select and develop potential responsible business leaders.
Nonetheless, the topic of how ESFs work and how they understand their role has not been neither theoretically nor empirically studied, or at least this has not happened at an adequate and structured level: the identified research trend/strategy clearly points out that – as far as ESFs are concerned – evaluating, developing, promoting and rewarding talent (i.e. responsible leadership) are part of the same activity, with a concurrent task: expanding the pool of potential future responsible leaders. At the same time, another too often ignored subject matter is ESTs and LMIs strategy for defining and managing contemporary elite labour recruitment practises.
A dual challenge hence emerges: to explore and find out learning and development strategies for teaching, internalizing and maintaining high ethical standards, while at the same time investigating how leaders can be responsible and able to generate organisational virtues and corporate virtuousness.
Basically, we are speaking about how and under what conditions it is possible to conceptualise ESFs as (responsible) governance agents, considering that “recruitment” – together with communication, training, mobility and leadership actions – is one of the dynamic processes that mediates between organizational values and individual qualities in a business.
Responsible leadership: research topics and perspectives
Literature about responsible leadership (from now on, RL) is richer and a bigger number of articles has been published in the last 15 years. Very broadly speaking, RL is an “amalgamation” of social responsibility and leadership, which apparently is very intuitive and potentially given for granted: after all, what person in a position of leadership would not think of him/herself as somehow responsible?
More recently, RL has been understood as a social-relational and ethical phenomenon, and “roles model” of RL has been proposed as a descriptive strategy that portrays the different actions taken in leading stakeholders and business in society: being a steward, a servant, a good citizen, a visionary or, in a more operational way, an architect, a change agent, a coach, a storyteller/meaning enabler.
ESFs are potentially in an excellent position for analyzing, assessing and developing the correlations between motivational drivers and RL identities, ranging from a calculative responsibility to a more authentic approach that encompasses economic and stakeholders perspectives.
Executive search firms and responsible leadership: rationale for Kilpatrick case study
Authentically responsible leaders are associated with more virtuous, committed and potent teams: this factor can be a priority for ESFs both from an intra- and from an inter-organizational point of view. Considering all of the above consideration, being able to promote and communicate this specific focus on RL may turn out to be a decisive added value in the relationship with potential customers and candidates, or even an actual competitive advantage.
Instead of more or less internationally recognized values/ethical standards/codes of practice which call for compliance and adequacy with respect to certain core principles (e.g. integrity, openness, honesty, excellence, objectivity, confidentiality, conflicts of interest avoidance, professionalism, competence, loyalty, public interest, equal opportunity, etc), a more forward-looking and integrated vision can possibly be pursued, one where the different aspects/dimensions of RL are connected with their own peculiar implications at the level of the specific social connections.
Given this specific research explorative objective – aiming at creating new links between two often unrelated fields of research (i.e. ESFs and RL) – a qualitative pilot case study will be carried out, in order to explore beliefs, attitudes, emotional orientations, self-concepts, values and behaviours that Kilpatrick people attribute to Responsible Leadership and to related experiences in the workplace. This will ideally provide an overview of Kilpatrick as an idiographic case in order to develop a future research agenda between Responsible Leadership and Executive Search Firms across different level of analysis: macro-level (e.g. trustful external stakeholder relations); meso-level (e.g. shaping organisational culture and performance); micro-level (e.g. personal interactions).
More on the partnership in the dedicated news.