Responsibility, Leadership and Noblesse Oblige


Leadership is a popular word these days. Consultants preach it, journalists either praise it or bemoan it, companies, boards investors and customers demand it.

The days when leaders were anointed at birth, except in a very few cases, are long gone. Today’s leaders may have great power… or none depending on the authority they wield.  But whatever level that may be, with leadership comes a corresponding measure of responsibility.

“For of those to whom much is given, much is required”

Bible (Luke 12:48)

Through the ages it has been written that leadership and responsibility go hand in hand.  Today, leadership takes many forms. We lead people in organizations. We lead with thoughts, ideas, and experience.  We lead in the development of processes and products.  As leaders, however and where ever we may lead, it is important to remember, leadership is not something that is merely handed to us, it is a privilege that must be continually earned.  For when our leadership falters, others cease to follow. If others choose not to follow, we are not leading, we are simply walking alone.

Noblesse oblige is a French phrase literally meaning “nobility obliges”.

The Dictionnaire de l’Académie française defines it thus:

  1. Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.
  2. (Figuratively) One must act in a fashion that conforms to one’s position, and with the reputation that one has earned.

(Source: Wikipedia)

An Antiquated Concept or a Timely Reminder?

It’s easy to look back historically and find examples of of great leaders who lived by the standard of noblesse oblige just as it is only too easy to find the stories of those who failed.  In the present day, we are surrounded by examples from both sides of the continuum and everything in between.  Just turn on the news or check your favorite social media platform and look at what what is unfolding in the Middle East, in Japan, in Washington or in your own home town.

Most of us do not lead nations, but we can lead in our organizations, our homes, our industries and our communities.  What we do shapes decisions, creates products and  affects the lives of others in a myriad of ways today and in the future.

We each have our gifts: knowledge, experience, abilities, reputation, and authority.  It can be said that we have been given much.  So perhaps a question to ponder is… “What are we going to do with it?”

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker







Joan Koerber-Walker is a two time Stevie Award National Finalist and Chairman of the Board of CorePurpose, Inc. and the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation.  She also serves as Executive in Residence for Callaman Ventures and on the boards of for profit and nonprofit organizations.  As the former CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association and a past member of the Board of Trustees of the National Small Business Association she has worked with hundreds of small businesses and on behalf of thousands.  Chat with her on Twitter as @joankw, @JKWgrowth, @JKWinnovation, @JKWleadership and @CorePurpose or at her blog at

Posted in Leadership, Real World Inspiration and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .