This Thursday, November 24th, took place at CATÓLICA-LISBON the Conference "Responsible Leadership for a Portugal with Future", in partnership with Expresso newspaper. The conference had as its purpose the presentation of the study "Responsible Leadership: what is it and what path for Portugal?" carried out by researchers of the Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics.

In the year that celebrates 50 years of history, CATÓLICA-LISBON officially opened its anniversary celebrations with a conference that debated such a current and pertinent topic as Responsible Leadership. With an eye at the future but always living the present, the study presented focused on the exhaustive analysis of the existing literature on Responsible Leadership, also developing an empirical part of interviews and questionnaires to hundreds of business leaders, which explained the dichotomy between the studies and the perception of reality.

Framed in the celebration of CATÓLICA-LISBON's 50 years, the conference, lectured by names such as Filipe Santos, Dean of CATÓLICA-LISBON, Nuno Moreira da Cruz, Director of the Center for Responsible Business & Leadership of CATÓLICA-LISBON, Francisca Saldanha, Professor and Principal Researcher of the study, Isabel Ucha, Presidents of the Board of Directors of Euronext Lisbon, João Pedro Tavares, President of the Christian Association of Businessmen and Managers, Ricardo Pires, CEO of SEMAPA and Rita Sousa Almeida, President of CATÓLICA-LISBON Students Union, we had the opportunity to debate the behaviors and options of responsible leaders, and the best way to balance the interests of different stakeholders, in a demanding leadership practice that builds a more sustainable future.

CATÓLICA-LISBON is a school of reference worldwide and, therefore, wanted to kick off this celebration of five decades of achievements not only with a celebration but also with something as important as sharing knowledge about the practice of leadership, something that the school has developed since its foundation. For Filipe Santos, Dean of CATÓLICA-LISBON, the main concern of the school has always been to "create a strong community focused on knowledge, learning and action because knowledge without action has no effect. Therefore, this conference serves precisely for the sharing of experiences and for the bet on responsible leadership as a tool for the future".

Making the world a better place is the motto. The younger generations are helping today's leaders to be more responsible, and, above all, they aspire to be responsible leaders. Who says so is the young student Rita Sousa Almeida, President of the CATÓLICA-LISBON Students Union. "The leaders, in the time of my parents, saw themselves in a very different way. As owners of the company, they believed and defended that they could do everything by themselves. Now it's not quite like that anymore. What is expected of the leaders of the present and the future - and I hope that I too will be that leader - is to be more dynamic, more proactive, that they have more vision of the future and that they want to accompany it, not individually but as a team". The student also appeals to "not to stop giving importance to the team members, because only with everyone rowing in the same direction will we bring more results", she defended.

Responsible Leadership. After all, what is it and how is it practiced?

There is no denying that the social and professional paradigm has been changing in recent years. New generations are taking on a new vision on issues linked to the labour market, sustainability, and social responsibility. Companies should look at this vision evolutionarily and positively, adapting to the new demands of society and looking with other eyes at their business strategies.

"Responsible leaders must possess the following skills: stakeholder relations, ethics and values, self-knowledge, understanding of systems, change and innovation", can be read in the study conducted by CATÓLICA-LISBON. In short, those who continue to manage businesses merely focused on financial results will hardly adapt to the new reality and evolving professional context.

The results obtained through the questionnaires and interviews, reaffirmed by Francisca Saldanha, Professor at CATÓLICA-LISBON, and Principal Investigator of the Study during the conference, indicate that the "way forward to be a successful company is to go beyond what is established by law, and to take initiative in the search for increasingly responsible and more ethical solutions".

In the questionnaires carried out, there were identified five main characteristics as the most relevant for responsible leadership, and this should be the way forward:

  • Ethics
  • Honesty
  • Authenticity
  • Source of inspiration
  • Humility


Nuno Moreira da Cruz, director of the Center for Responsible Business & Leadership, says that "there is a link between sustainable companies, in the holistic sense, and financial results in the medium and long term. Society's demands have been changing opinions about responsible leadership. It is important that leadership in the future increase’s engagement with stakeholders".

Good leadership can bring good financial results and creates more humane companies - that is what we believe. Therefore, there are some advantages of the implementation of Responsible Leadership that we think are fundamental to heightening:

  • Huge potential to retain talent
  • A motivated and aligned team
  • Identification of new opportunities to create value
  • Easy access to resources committed to sustainability


For Isabel Ucha, Chairman of the Board of Euronext Lisbon, the new generations are putting clear pressure on administrations to take them to a more egalitarian position "which is great", namely by demanding more women in management positions.

What is the way forward for Portugal in this step towards the future?

Portugal must keep its eyes on the future to keep up with the current market trends - and not only. In its DNA, CATÓLICA-LISBON is proud to share this common belief: that training responsible leaders with self-knowledge, able to perceive the world and frame its challenges, will lead us to a better world, striving to adopt innovative and fruitful educational practices regarding the training of young people - the future of society.

In this context, Nuno Moreira da Cruz explained that society is increasingly demanding. Companies are still very concerned and almost exclusively, with the financial results, and this is a problem. It's obvious that without profit, there will certainly be no social or environmental concerns. But what is also increasingly true is that without these concerns there will hardly be sustainability in the medium and long term. And this is the management challenge faced today by responsible leaders...

For Francisca Saldanha, the great challenge will be to create businesses that, besides being profitable, have a clear and positive impact on the world. And this should be the path of all businesses and their stakeholders. "You will only be able to have sustainable businesses in the long term if they are responsible. There are budgets to manage, results to deliver, and sometimes we must manage balances that are not easy. That is the challenge. Being able to put all this on the table and arbitrate on these issues without getting off course", she defends, adding that "being a responsible leader is a commitment that goes beyond the day-to-day business management. It encompasses a responsibility to society, the community and political responsibility".

According to João Pedro Tavares, President of the Christian Association of Businessmen and Managers, "in companies there is already a lot of talk about Responsible Leadership and the leaders themselves are already struggling with this reality that they are no longer just leaders, but people. And they start to work with people and not numbers. We must continue to sow this idea so that we lead with purpose. Lead with passion", he reiterates during his intervention at the CATÓLICA-LISBON conference with Expresso Newspaper, adding that "the responsible leader is the one who has a holistic vision, who understands that his company does not end at the entrance or exit gate, who goes beyond the finite, is part of the present and the future, who prepares good successors. And it pains me to have to adjective leadership as responsible. The very concept of leadership should already be fully assumed by everyone as an exercise in responsibility".

Ricardo Pires, CEO of SEMAPA and also a speaker at this session, addressed the fact that we are in a time of challenges, stating that "instead of looking at a current time of challenges and crisis, we should rather look at a time of opportunities. We must create a financial return, yes, but in an environmentally sustainable way and in line with the future, framed in this period of change and opportunities to do more and better".

Filipe Santos, Dean of CATÓLICA-LISBON, reiterates that "since we launched the school, the subject of ethics has always been something that we delve into with our students and in the community. This is because we believe that leaders should be based on solid values and ethical behaviour, creating organizations based on excellence and merit, where individual interests do not override the common good. Nowadays, the exercise of leadership is increasingly demanding. That is why, with this study, we wanted to delve deeper into what more modern and responsible leadership is".

We end with a golden key, quoting João Pedro Tavares, President of the Christian Association of Businessmen and Managers, who leaves a message for the young generation: "for the future generation, my advice is to look for leaders who teach you to know, to be, and to do. Be the best version of yourself. The biggest competitors are within us. Focus on others, because a responsible leader is more likely to be happier because he has a purpose and a mission to fulfil. If we make leadership just a job, we are impoverishing ourselves”.

The way forward for Portugal? To become a more sustainable and inclusive country, where everyone could prosper, and where merit and responsibility are encouraged.

The path for CATÓLICA-LISBON? To continue to attract the best talent from faculty and students, integrate rigorous research with inspiring teaching, and launch brilliant careers that create a positive impact on the world.