This study examines the question of whether sustainable leadership principles, also known as Rhineland leadership, can apply to a listed business in an emerging economy.
Avery's sustainable leadership grid provided the framework for analysis of a major publicly‐listed Thai enterprise, the Siam Cement Group (SCG). A multi‐method case study used semi‐structured interviews with various stakeholders, observations, and internal and external documentation. The Rhineland principles were grouped into six categories for analysis: long‐term perspective, investing in people, organizational culture, innovation, social and environmental responsibility, and behaving ethically.
Overall, data showed moderate to strong evidence for 18 of the 19 grid practices at SCG, the exception being the CEO serving as speaker of the top team rather than being a heroic leader. Moderate evidence was found for consensual and devolved decision making and self‐governing teams. All 16 other elements were strongly evident.
Case studies cannot lead to generalizations, and therefore further research is required into other businesses to gauge the extent of Rhineland practices in Thailand and other developing economies.
Rhineland principles link to enhanced brand and reputation, customer and staff satisfaction, and financial performance compared with business‐as‐usual practices. Therefore, managers are advised to evaluate their current practices with a view to adopting more sustainable versions. The sustainable leadership grid provides a useful checklist for this purpose.
Society and the planet stand to benefit under Rhineland practices. Increasingly, business is expected to help address many of the pressing problems facing humankind, such as climate change, pollution, unethical practices, and shortages of fossil fuels, water, and other resources. Rhineland leadership can contribute here because of its concern for the wider effects of its activities on society and the environment.
This paper is highly original. It contains the first examination of Rhineland leadership in a developing economy. In addition, it shows that even a public company can resist pressures to conform to business‐as‐usual practices and adopt the long‐term, socially responsible principles of Rhineland leadership.
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