Sustainable leadership encompasses business, community and employees
The topic of leadership is large enough by itself; now merge the conversation with corporate sustainability discussions and it potentially becomes overwhelming. Rather than narrowing the conversation, perhaps its best to expand the topic further. Given every business environment is uniquely different, the path to effective leadership in each case can be quite different. Additionally, traditional business models and methodologies are giving way to new innovative means of navigating the complex waters of internal and external stakeholder engagement. Yet, as we bridge our way from traditional models and simultaneously explore new pathways, turbulence is bound to be a result. How does leadership smooth the way?
Focusing attention on a Harvard Business Review post, Three Leadership Skills That Count, the article explores ‘leadership in chaos’ highlighting the rise of the some of the most influential leaders in some of the most dynamic industries. This article offers insights that break the mold of traditional leaders citing the characteristics which defined the effectiveness among the trailblazers:
1. Being hyper-vigilant about (and preparing for) potentially disruptive events
2. Having the ability to “empirically validate” your creativity
3. Being fanatically disciplined - ensuring that your actions are consistent with your goals – no matter what happens
Until recently, business sustainability has traditionally been put into the box of environmental or social action. While these are certainly two very important areas of focus, business sustainability is really about taking action to maintain the ongoing health and profitability of the company - a requirement of leadership. What sustainability considerations might we include in leadership discussions?
- Does the company have a genuine commitment to sustainability at its highest level?
- Is there a clear sustainability governance structure in place to facilitate effective organization and stakeholder engagement?
- Who are our business sustainability stakeholders and how do we plan to engage them to create alignment across the organization?
- How do we plan to promote consumer engagement in our product development or enable sustainable innovation?
- Are our supply chain partnerships aligned with our corporate objectives to enable environmentally conscious and ethically responsible supply?
Ultimately, the post, Sustainable Leadership: How to Fulfill on the CSR Vision suggests as a sustainability leader, it's imperative to communicate and demonstrate personal and corporate sustainability at all levels - including your energy, thoughts, expressions around eco awareness and business sustainability. Emphasizing the importance of sustainability in business, community, and personal lives to employees expands well beyond the boundaries of the organization. The impact can be profound.
"In a comprehensive review by the researchers Bruce Avolio and Fred Luthans of more than two hundred leadership studies, only one quality among leaders consistently had a positive impact on their employees. It was the capacity to recognize potential that the employees didn't yet fully see in themselves. Put another way, the best leaders used their own positive energy to bolster their employees' faith in their own abilities and to fuel their optimism and perseverance in the face of stresses and setbacks. That belief from a leader is intoxicating."
Bridging the gap between corporate sustainability programs and employees rests in the sustainable leaders vision. Holding firm to sustainability value while creating the bridge for the organization to fulfill on that vision.