The OCP begins £2.6m research project on character and responsible leadership

In partnership with the Forward Institute, this three year long research project will explore character, culture, and leadership in UK businesses.

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The Oxford Character Project is pleased to announce a partnership with the Forward Institute in a new landmark research project, focusing on character and leadership development at the heart of responsible business. The project is funded by a £2.6m grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

This three-year, interdisciplinary project will explore the intersection between character formation, leadership development and organisational culture in four sectors: technology, financial services, law, and business more broadly. We will conduct in-depth research with industry partners and design character and leadership development programmes for university and business settings. This new research will build on the existing work of the Oxford Character Project and involves faculty from five Oxford departments as well as partners from other leading universities.

Character and responsible business

The expectation that business furthers the good of society is fast becoming a norm. Good business means prioritising purpose along with profit, and taking seriously the responsibility to care for employees, customers, and communities. This welcome development places new demands on leaders. It calls for an authentic commitment to responsible leadership that places purpose and people at the heart of operations. It depends on leaders who not only profess important values but possess the strengths of character needed to put them into practice. Developing leaders with character traits such as wisdom, humility, justice, resolve, courage, calm, compassion, creativity and hope is crucial to embedding responsible business practices in organisations across sectors.

Furthering the science and art of character and leadership development

Over the next 3 years, we aim to further the science and art of character and leadership development, combining rigorous empirical research from the social sciences with new advances in measurement technologies, and creative insights from the arts and humanities. Some of these questions include:

  • What character strengths are most important for existing and emerging leaders to have a positive impact in their organisations?
  • Does this vary across sectors?
  • What is the relationship between character, leadership development and organisational culture?
  • How is character taught through leadership development?
  • Is it possible to design, deliver and rigorously evaluate the impact of programmes that develop character virtues needed for responsible leadership?
  • What role does the character of leaders play in organisational culture and performance?