Ten ingredients for embedding sustainability into leadership

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From all walks of life, from business, civil society, governments and committed individuals, comes a sincere attempt to put the future of humankind and of this planet on the agenda and to keep it there.

About ten years Petra Kuenkel, friend of the ILF (link on the right hand side) ran an international leadership development program for multinational companies for those with high potential. She has been surprised about the impact the programme had on the participants, seeing that about half of the participants left their companies. She talked to a number of the participants years later and discovered that there was indeed a connection between their career turn and the leadership programme. Below you can find extracts of her article published by the Guardian that explores her investigation into this issue.

Petra Kuenkel

I realised that there was a missing piece in the programme. We stirred up questions of meaning, but we did not show where the opportunities were to get these questions answered. Today, ten years on in the global sustainability discussion and the answer is there – if you want to learn to lead better, place your leadership in the context of sustainability. Sustainability is a leadership task. It creates meaning. It creates a better world. Can we afford to delink leadership development and sustainability purpose? Is it even possible to separate the ‘how’ of leadership from the ‘what for’ and ‘where to’?

On the right hand sind you can find Petra Kuenkels top ten ingredients for future-oriented, high quality leadership programmes that integrate sustainability issues:

1. Show that the global trends are all in one way or another related to sustainability and raise the awareness that sustainability is not only a business opportunity, but the only choice.

2. Help leaders to step into the unknown, go beyond their comfort zone and create business opportunities out of sustainability challenges.

3. Create meaning and open up minds to new questions by fostering reflection and dialogue – accessing one’s own humanity is a prerequisite for leading towards sustainability.

4. Demonstrate practically how collective intelligence works in fast and efficient problem solving.

5. Teach leaders the art of engaging with stakeholders as a cornerstone for successful collaboration while working on real issues leaders are dealing with.

6. Show that complexity is the future normality and teach leaders how to juggle with it successfully rather than fight or reduce it.

7. Offer leaders the experience that innovation is not something allocated to specific people but a competence leaders must both harvest in themselves and foster in others. For this they encourage inventiveness and iterative learning.

8. Foster essential skills for adaptability including seeing change as inevitable and finding ways to partner with it.

9. Illustrate practically how mutual support rather than competition helps perform better.

10. Communicate that personal mental and physical balance are part of sustainability and equip participants with tools to get this back on their agenda regularly.

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