New breed of leaders go far, fast
Presidio’s Nicola Acutt says sustainable leaders have competence, capacity and courage.
Nicola AcuttFor many emerging leaders, the capacity to both pay attention to the intangible and act in these uncertain times requires courage. Considered a central thread in sustainable business education, courage can be taught by developing the attributes of a pragmatic learner, a good communicator and an effective collaborator.
Adopting the stance of a learner helps leaders inquire about and act upon pressing challenges such as sustainability in an ongoing way. Inquiry helps leaders learn more quickly from their mistakes and re-chart a new course that is grounded in the organization’s goals and values.
An effective collaborator facilitates change, aligns expectations and drives solutions that satisfy all stakeholders. Involving stakeholders in the process of listening, learning and building shared commitments is at the heart of effective leadership.
For example, Just Desserts co-founder Elliot Hoffman took the innovative step of disregarding traditional wisdom that activists and the business community can’t work together for a common cause by creating the non-partisan New Voice of Business.
Two years ago, New Voice reached across traditional political lines and mobilized Bay Area businesses and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to pressure the California Public Utilities Commission to pass the California Solar Initiative. Hoffman’s actions demonstrate the important confluence of courage to act in uncertain times. He drew on his business acumen to ensure the initiative would have minimal financial impact on business, while engaging all stakeholders in a collaborative way.
In another example, Mayor Tom Bates, who began his term as mayor of Berkeley in 2002, formed a sustainable business team dedicated to building the city’s “green” economy. The team includes more than 200 green businesses. Mayor Bates also reached beyond his electoral base and engaged with other municipal leaders to initiate a region-wide plan. Mayor Bates created a special assessment district to provide financing to citizens and businesses that install solar photovoltaic panels, which would then be paid back from slight increases to the property taxes of participating landowners. Mayor Bates proves that leadership can help grow an economy, support local businesses and improve community well-being.