CARL – The Competency Assessment for Responsible Leadership

The Competency Assessment for Responsible Leadership (CARL) was developed by a group of Thought Leaders committed to the development of Responsible Leadership. It's is a simple on-line assessment which builds a profile around 5 RL competencies and three domains of action. It delivers an easy to read RL profile which can be used to identify development needs and track progress. To date over five thousand CARL assessments have been generated. The data captured allows researchers to attempt to answer the question: to what degree can we actually educate responsible leaders?

The CARL Assessment Responsible Leadership Grid

Summarizing a decade-long debate among academic and professional thought leaders in the area of responsible leadership has resulted in the following formal definition of Responsible Leadership:

A responsible leader demonstrates a deep understanding of the inter-dependencies of the system and the own person, is distinguished by an ethical and values‐based attitude, and able to build long‐term relations with different stakeholders embracing their needs, while initiating change towards sustainable development.

This definition comprises the five competency dimensions: creating, managing and securing good relations with multiple stakeholders, ethically correct and values-based behavior, highly developed self-awareness, good understanding of the inter-dependencies with a larger system, and the ability to lead change and innovation towards sustainable development. While the definition of RL provides an answer to the question “What does RL mean?” or “What are the key competencies of RL?” there is a second core question we want to address: “What are the relevant domains of action?” In order to define the domains of action, we rely on the three action domains as used by Datar et al (2010): knowing, doing, and being. Euler and Hahn (2007) refer to them as knowledge, skills, and attitudes. By putting together these two dimensions, we obtain a two-dimensional framework, the “Responsible Leadership Grid”. It includes the five competency dimensions and the three domains of action what results in 15 aspects overall.

Domains of Action (Rows)Knowing
Competency Dimensions (Columns)
Stakeholder relations1611
Ethics and values2712
Systems thinking4914
Change and Innovation51015

A) Determining the degree and extent of existing responsible leadership competencies for an individual and for a group

To date, several hundred of individual users have used the online assessment to determine their personal responsible leadership competencies. The online survey tool generates automatically a free personal profile with an overview of those competencies that can still be improved and developed. A person can retake the survey repeatedly and self-assess her improvement over a self-selected period of time. A growing number of institutions of higher education have started to use the tool to assess the profile of a group of students as a professor starts a given course.

B) Assessing the short and long-term effectiveness of responsible leadership competencies development

A number of business schools in Europe, the US and Africa use the assessment as a way to:

  • Enable their students to self-generate their individual RL profile before and after a course,
  • Generate class profiles of courses, programs or entire degrees to assess a group’s RL profile and development progress before and after an intervention.

Let us look at the example of a before and after assessment of a recent MBA course. Figure 1 and 2 show how such an evolution might look like for a program comparing the RL competencies of an entire class at the beginning of a program (Figure 1) versus the end of a program (Figure 2). The teaching faculty or the program management can use such information to understand which areas of RL may have been insufficiently addressed during the program and can discuss with the faculty how this might be improved in a next year. We are starting to calibrate the development by assessing the difference of before and after.

A comparative analysis of the before and after assessments allows the participants and lecturer to observe the following developments:

  • The course brought an overall increase in responsible leadership competencies of 16%
  • The action domain “attitude” (being) was most significantly increased, by 55%
  • The most change in the competency dimensions occurred in terms of “stakeholder engagement” and “self-awareness” (33% and 34% respectively)

It might well be interesting to assess what interventions may have contributed to significant positive changes. Participants as well as interveners are excellent sources for finding potential avenues of answers to this question.

Pedagogically trained and experienced faculty can look at a class of students take a ‘before-after’ assessment, in order to understand blind spots and learning opportunities at the beginning of a course. Such insight may serve as an additional measure to understand the impact of any learning intervention over a given period at the end of the course.

Figure 1: Competency Assessment of Responsible Leader (CARL) – BEFORE a course (100% response rate)
Figure 2: Competency Assessment of Responsible Leader (CARL) – AFTER a course (80% response rate)

CARL Domains of Action (Degree of Mastery)



A simple way for you to measure Responsible Leadership competencies for individuals or groups

A concrete way of tracking the effectiveness of Responsible Leadership education

An effective way of evaluating the impact and the gaps in Responsible Leadership training offerings

CARL is a multi stakeholder initiative endorsed by: