Sustainable Leadership

When the IBLF releases a report on the new skills needed to lead sustainable companies, us sustainability types ought take notice. Doubly so, when Ashridge (led by Matt Gitsham) are involved. Triply so (is that even correct grammatically?) when there are brief post-scripts from Mark Kramer, Julia Kirby and Gilbert Lenssen among others.

I heartily encourage you to read the report, or the HBR summary at very least. If you can’t do that, my (wholly inadequate) three point summary looks like this:

  • In context of smaller government, business leaders need to be be concerned with solving social needs and issues
  • Leaders need to foster trust and be emotionally mature to succeed
  • Consultation and collaboration with people outside the business is critical to ongoing success – an ability to play nice with others

Their research draws on and confirms other research of its type, such as that by SustainAbility‘s Survey on Sustainable Leadership. It seems right to me that if we are to embrace a more holistic shift in the way we do business, that there must a fundamental shift in the skills required to achieve that end. It’s almost 25 years since the Brundtland Report was released (and Sustainability was born – celebrate by winning an iPad), and looking back, we have come a long way, but at the same time, we haven’t come all that far.

It seems as though all and sundry are scratching their heads hard about this, including Globescan and SustainAbility with the joint The Regeneration Project and BITC with its Visioning the Future work. I don’t know who will win this battle, but maybe a bit more collaboration is needed from everyone to make it all work quickly.

Small shout out to Gayle Avery and Harry Bergsteiner, who have been preaching about this for years! Their framework for understanding and assessing leadership, Honeybees & Locusts, is an interesting read. Turns out they might just have been ahead of their time!

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