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Position Paper: Towards an Understanding of Societal Leadership in Southeast Asia

In this position paper, we delineate the reasons for examining leadership in the social impact sector and for tackling social issues and wicked problems that we face in Southeast Asia region. We begin by discussing the roles of societal leaders and societal leadership, drawing upon notable examples of efforts and strategies that are employed by leaders to create social impact in the region. The paper concludes with a proposed research agenda for studying societal leadership. 


Perspectives on Societal Leaders and Leadership: Who are they and what is it?

In this research paper, we examine 183 undergraduates’ perspectives of societal leaders and societal leadership. Participants were asked to respond to the following prompts: name an individual whom you think is a societal leader and explain why do you think he/she is worthy of the title of a societal leader. Responses to these prompts allowed us to compile the attributes that these applicants perceived societal leaders to possess. The six categories of key leader attributes that have been introduced by Bass and Stogdill were used to inform the coding categories. Besides these six categories, one other category, namely moral values, was substantially coded from this data. A total of 910 codes across seven categories (i.e. cognitive capacities, problem solving skills, tacit knowledge, social capacities, personality, motives and needs and moral values) were derived from the responses of the applicants. Attributes in the social capacities category were coded the most, followed by attributes that fall into the personality category. Tacit knowledge is third in place in terms of counts of codes, with moral values in fourth, problem solving skills in fifth, motives and needs in sixth and lastly cognitive capabilities. These results suggest that attributes that posits on human relationships are valuable in our times and complements traditional leadership traits.


Understanding Societal Leadership: Strategy and Impact

This study focuses on the construct and discusses the characteristics and factors affecting the phenomenon of societal leadership. Reference is made to many worthy examples of social catalysts, innovators and leaders that the Institute for Societal Leadership (ISL) has encountered in each of the Southeast Asian countries and efforts are made to delineate the strategies that are used by societal leaders to create social impact. The study also discusses the various forms of societal leadership and ways in which effective societal leaders or social impact organisations collaborate across sectors to achieve their goals.

Browse content here or click on the image on the right to download the print edition of the Monograph in pdf. 

Societal Influence, Leadership and Impact:  Defining Traits of Twenty Pioneer Southeast Asian Leaders

This study focuses on twenty Southeast Asian leaders who have been key players during critical transitions in the social, economic and political development of their country. In asking each of the societal leaders questions concerning their motivation, the cause they were championing and the factors that have led to their success as leaders, the study attempts to draw out common traits they possess and investigates whether the traits that make people effective societal leaders differ across socio-cultural and historical contexts. A grounded theory approach is used in the analysis of the attributes and traits that emerge from the transcripts of the videotaped interviews. A holistic model is used to capture the causal conditions, varying influences, strategies, consequences as well as the contexts that led to strong societal leadership. 

Browse content here or click on the image on the right to download the print edition of the Monograph in pdf. 

Last updated on 19 Sep 2017 .