This article examines the explicit and implicit corporate social responsibility (CSR) framework and its implications for leadership style, in a major banking institution. Evidence for existence of the framework’s key concepts in relation to leadership styles was explored through the self-reported sensemaking of leaders charged with CSR programme introduction. Qualitative data analysis indicated that explicit CSR is linked to an autocratic leadership style, whereas implicit CSR is more closely aligned with emergent and authentic styles. Although our results reinforced key aspects of the explicit and implicit CSR framework, they demonstrated conflicting systems of both CSR and leadership within our case organisation and highlighted the difficulty in categorising such a complex concept as CSR according to specific frameworks. Overall, our data suggest that the leadership styles, needed to successfully implement explicit and implicit CSR programmes, are in conflict. Given our finding that these CSR systems can coincide within one organisation, we suggest that the debating style of transformational leadership may be the required linchpin.