We all have a good idea what a leader is, and perhaps it’s a stereotype based on the environment we live in. But what about a sustainability leader? Can you picture in your mind who that person is?
Sustainability is fast becoming a hot topic. Just look at the daily news; you’ll find at least one article related to sustainability initiatives from governments, businesses, or citizens. The 2030 milestone for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is tomorrow. The pressure is on.
To make it happen, we need sustainability leaders. These are the people at organisational and government levels who will drive the change and act. So, let’s dig into why you need these people and look at what it takes to be a sustainability leader in today’s world.
1. Leaders Driven with Purpose
Sustainability is their North Star. They fully embrace sustainability principles, and their purpose is to make a positive environmental and social impact. It drives them. It is at the core of whatever they do. They are deeply concerned by their legacy to future generations. They work for something much bigger than themselves. They contribute to the common good. They have a clear purpose and know why they wake up every morning and go to work. They are activists, working for a great cause. They want to change the world.
2. Capturing the Bigger Picture
Sustainable leaders can address systemic problems and challenges (for example, climate change or gender inequality) at micro level. Then, they can connect the dots and see how businesses can positively or negatively contribute to those issues. They deal with the complexity that comes with it, and always look for innovative solutions. They can see interconnections, which then supports strategic development of an organisation, balancing people, planet, and profits.
3. Fostering Collaboration
Stakeholders’ management is an absolute must for any business taking the sustainability road. By stakeholders, we mean clients, employees, suppliers, competitors, investors, Governments, NGOs to name a few. Sustainability leaders are proactive; they go out and initiate discussions with stakeholders. They actively listen, which can lead to new opportunities and better alignment within the organisation. They also break the silos internally and have a natural ability to create a spirit of collaboration.
4. Change Enabler
The pandemic demonstrated that we still lack the culture needed to confront this kind of crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out onto new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all, without prejudice towards future generations. Sustainability leaders are the people who challenge the status quo, and they are ready to make bold decisions. They stand out by thinking outside of the box and crafting new strategies, all while having a sustainable impact. At the heart of that they do, they strongly believe in a better future. They lead the change and inspire others to do so.
5. Authentic & Intuitive
Sustainability leaders are human, even in business, leading with an open heart and by following their intuition. They are consistent, in and out of work, with a high ethical standard that places people and the planet at the forefront of their work. They are authentic, and they walk the talk with no ambiguity. Furthermore, they connect with people at a deep level, allowing them to understand the real challenges they are facing, and help them. As individuals, they are also deeply connected to their true self, and can sense and actualise emerging future possibilities.
6. Ambassadors of Diversity
You might still have a false image of leaders: White, western, often labeled as charismatic and strong, and of course, male! However, it’s important to tackle this unconscious bias that perhaps persists in our societies. The sustainability leader of today represents the diverse world we live in, and this means gender, culture, social and intergenerational diversity. They are the women and men surrounding you.
Sustainability leadership is a new definition of leadership, with much more meaning than the traditional one we’ve experienced so far. We’re undergoing profound changes in our society, and in our organisations. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been moving at an incredibly fast pace. You need those leaders to build the future society and transform your organisations. Sustainable businesses must have sustainability leaders, hence my dedication to supporting this and playing a part in positive change.
The sustainability leaders are today’s leaders of tomorrow!