Prosocial Leadership 

“We rise by lifting others”​
Robert Ingersoll. 

Initiatives to Foster Prosocial Leadership/Stewardship

Understanding Prosocial Leadership

"He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own."

CONFUCIUS, attributed, Treasury of Thought

Below are selected sources and initiatives which pertain to Prosocial Leadership. Leadership and Management research draws from numerous fields.  Prosocial Leadership draws leadership research, specifically positive and ethical leadership theories, ethical theories and prosocial psychology.   

Research in the field of  leadership studies is typically not framed within prosocial theoretical frameworks but does consider either the values of empathy or altruism or  the importance of others directed behavior. Prosocial leadership does not supplant other leadership theories, instead, empathy and altruism are found within many well-known leadership theories, and the Prosocial Leadership Development process can be appended to and used by any leadership theory which has as a goal other’s directed leadership behavior.


  • Barbuto Jr, J. E., & Wheeler, D. W. (2006). Scale development and construct clarification of servant leadership. Group & Organization Management, 31(3), 300-326.
  • Brown, M. E., & Treviño, L. K. (2006). Ethical leadership: A review and future directions. The leadership quarterly, 17(6), 595-616.
  • Brown, M. E., & Mitchell, M. S. (2010). Ethical and unethical leadership: Exploring new avenues for future research. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(04), 583-616.
  • Ciulla, J. B. (2005). The state of leadership ethics and the work that lies before us. Business Ethics: A European Review, 14(4), 323-335.
  • Ciulla, J. B. (2009). Leadership and the ethics of care. Journal of Business Ethics, 88(1), 3-4.
  • Ciulla, J. B. (2013) Leadership ethics. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  • Ciulla, J. B. (Ed.). (2014). Leadership Ethics: Expanding the territory, in Ethics, the heart of leadership. ABC-CLIO.
  • De Cremer, D., Mayer, D. M., Van Dijke, M., Schouten, B. C., & Bardes, M. (2009). When does self-sacrificial leadership motivate prosocial behavior? It depends on followers’ prevention focus. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(4),
  • Fry, L.W. (2003). Toward a theory of spiritual leadership. Leadership Quarterly, 14, 693-727.
  • Fry, L., & Nisiewicz, M. (2013). Maximizing the triple bottom line through spiritual leadership. Stanford University Press.
  • Fry, L. W. (2003). Toward a theory of spiritual leadership. The leadership quarterly, 14(6), 693-727
  • Fry, L. W., Vitucci, S., & Cedillo, M. (2005). Spiritual leadership and army transformation: Theory, measurement, and establishing a baseline. The leadership quarterly, 16(5), 835-862.
  • Greenleaf, R. K., & Spears, L. C. (2002). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Paulist Press.
  • Greenleaf, R. (2002). Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness 25th Anniversary Edition. Paulist Press.
  • Hannah, S. Avolio, B and Walumbwa, F. (2011). Relationships between authentic leadership, moral courage, and ethical and pro-Social behaviors. 21(4) 555-578.
  • Harrell, A., & Simpson, B. (2015). The dynamics of prosocial leadership: Power and influence in collective action groups. Social Forces, 94(3), 1283-1308.
  • Hernandez, M. (2008). Promoting stewardship behavior in organizations: A leadership model. Journal of Business Ethics, 80(1), 121-128.
  • Johnson, C. (2011). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or casting shadow. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Johnson, C. E. (2013). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow. Sage Publications.
  • Komives, S. R., & Wagner, W. E. (2016). Leadership for a better world: Understanding the social change model of leadership development. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Dugan, J. P. (2006). Explorations using the social change model: Leadership development among college men and women. Journal of college student development, 47(2), 217-225.
  • Kanungo, R. N. (2001). Ethical values of transactional and transformational leaders. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration, 18(4), 257-265
  • Komives, S. R., & Wagner, W. E. (2016). Leadership for a better world: Understanding the social change model of leadership development. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Lorenzi, P. (2004). Managing for the Common Good:: Prosocial Leadership. Organizational Dynamics, 33(3), 282-291.
  • Luthans, F. & Avolio, B.J. (2003). Authentic leadership: a positive development approach. Positive Organizational Behavior. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 241-258.
  • Price, T. L. (2003). The ethics of authentic transformational leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 14(1), 67-81.
  • Podsakoff, P.; MacKenzie, S; Moorman, R & Fetter, R. (1990). Transformational Leader behaviors and their effects on followers’ trust in leader, satisfaction, and organizational citizenship behaviors.  Leadership Quarterly. 1(2), 107-142.
  • Rajnandini, P., Schriesheim, C. A., Williams, E. S. (2004). Fairness perceptions and trust as mediators for transformational and transactional leadership: A two-sample Study. Journal of Management, 25(6) 897–933
  • Zhu, Y., & Akhtar, S. (2014). How transformational leadership influences follower helping behavior: The role of trust and prosocial motivation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35(3), 373-392.

Research in the field ofprosocial psychologytypically does not concern itself with individuals who influence a group to arrive at specific outcomes but does consider motivational states of agents who act.


  • Batson, C. D., Polycarpou, M. P., Harmon-Jones, E., Imhoff, H. J., Mitchener, E. C., Bednar, L.L., ... & Highberger, L. (1997). Empathy and attitudes: Can feeling for a member of a stigmatized group improve feelings toward the group?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 72(1), 105
  • Batson, C. D., Chang, J., Orr, R., & Rowland, J. (2002). Empathy, attitudes, and action: Can feeling for a member of a stigmatized group motivate one to help the group?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(12), 1656-1666.
  • Batson, C. D., & Shaw, L. L. (1991). Evidence for altruism: Toward a pluralism of prosocial motives. Psychological Inquiry, 2(2), 107-122.
  • Schwartz, S. H. (2010). Basic values: How they motivate and inhibit prosocial behavior. Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature, 14, 221-241.
  • Schwartz, S. (1994). Are there universal aspects in the structure and contents of human values? Journal of Social Issues, 50(4), 19-45.
  • Schwartz, S. H., & Howard, J. A. (1984). Internalized values as motivators of altruism. In Development and maintenance of prosocial behavior (pp. 229-255). Springer US.
  • Schwartz, S. (1999). A theory of cultural values and some implications for work. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 48(1), 23-47.
  • Schwartz, S. (2007, January). Commentaries: Cultural and individual value correlates of capitalism: A comparative analysis.  Psychological Inquiry, 18(1), 52-57.
  • Schwartz, S. H. (1977). Normative influences on altruism. Advances in experimental social psychology, 10, 221-279.


Research which pertains to ethics typically focuses on classical philosophical suppositionsconsidering how humans ought to act, based on the ultimate nature of reality (metaphysics),  and the logics that correspond to the depicted reality, including ground for knowing truth (epistemology), the rules, values and chosen values (normative ethics), and cases and principles as guidelines.  These various aspects of ethics comprise the entire ethical dialogue and can be considered in their entirety by philosophers, or in separate components.


  • Brown, M. E., & Treviño, L. K. (2006). Ethical leadership: A review and future directions. The leadership quarterly, 17(6), 595-616.
  • Kidder, R. M. (2005). Moral courage, digital distrust: Ethics in a troubled world. Business and Society Review, 110(4), 485-505.
  • Kierkegaard, S. (2013). Kierkegaard's Writings, VI: Fear and Trembling/Repetition (Vol. 6). Princeton University Press.
  • Kierkegaard. S, (1987), Either-Or Part II (translated by Hong. E and Hong. H), New Jersey: Princeton University Press
  • MacIntyre, A. (2003). A Short History of Ethics: a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric age to the 20th century. Routledge.
  • Reidenbach, R. E., & Robin, D. P. (1991). A conceptual model of corporate moral development. Journal of Business ethics, 10(4), 273-284.
  • Rowe, C. J., & Broadie, S. (2002). Nicomachean ethics. Oxford University Press, USA.
  • Stackhouse, M. (1995). Introductions foundations and purpose. In On Moral Business: Classical and Contemporary Resources for Ethics in Economic Life. Ed Stackhouse, M., McCann, D., Roels, S & Williams, P. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co
  • Storsletten, V. M., & Jakobsen, O. D. (2015). Development of Leadership Theory in the Perspective of Kierkegaard’s Philosophy. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(2), 337-349
  • Trevino, L. K. & Weaver, G.R. (1994) Business ethics/business ethics: One field or two? Business Ethics Quarterly, 4, 113-128.
  • Veatch, R. M. (2016). The basics of bioethics. Routledge.


Research From The Field

​In need of training

Principles of Responsible Management Education

  • Launched at the 2007 UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in Geneva, the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative is the largest organized relationship between the United Nations and business schools, with the PRME Secretariat housed in the UN Global Compact Office.

Conscious Capitalism

  • Founded in 2005, represents a third initiative to foster global stewards, which again focuses on responsible leadership at both  individual and organizational levels. The four principles of conscious capitalism include: 1) Higher purpose, which involves finding purpose beyond profit; 2) conscious leadership, that focuses on the other and tries to foster transformation in others; 3) stakeholder orientation, that sees the interconnectedness of businesses and their environment and 4) conscious culture, which builds trust and care within the company, and between the company and its stakeholders.

The Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative

  • The Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative exists to catalyze the development of globally responsible leadership and practice in organizations and societies worldwide. It is the leading incubator for innovation and new practice in business schools and for collaboration with business in the space of ethics, responsibility, and sustainability.

United Nations Global Compact 

  • At the UN Global Compact, they aim to mobilize a global movement of sustainable companies and stakeholders to create the world we want. That’s our vision.To make this happen, the UN Global Compact supports companies to: Do business responsibly by aligning their strategies and operations with Ten Principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption; and Take strategic actions to advance broader societal goals, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with an emphasis on collaboration and innovation.

Useful and Kind Unlimited

  • Being Useful and Kind is for every day. Thinking Global and Acting Local, being self-aware and being Useful and Kind Unlimited with your friends and family, community, team, organisation, sector and as a world citizen, a guardian and giver, rather than a taker, so that our life’s work and purpose is to add, to create and not just to utilise resources. Our vision is for a world characterized by care, compassion, creativity, empathy, equality, excellence, fairness, kindness and love. We believe this world can be created by people who are ‘useful and kind’ working to solve the global problems in a humane, sustainable and mindful way.