Issue No. 56 - Month/Month year
Leading change for sustainability
by Niki Vincent
We live in an age of remarkably complex challenges. Climate change is an obvious example, as it requires individual action, as well as the adaptation of business models, systems of production and power. Critically, it also calls for global collaboration.
What’s remarkable is that there is so much activity already underway within the Australian business community. This kind of change takes leadership – but not mainstream leadership, which applies standard approaches and conventional knowledge (the same kind of thinking that created the problems in the first place).
The issues of sustainability are tangled, complex, and involve multiple systems. Solving them requires new learning, creativity, innovation, new patterns of behaviour, and painful adjustments. Technical solutions – that is, applying knowledge that we already have (even if it is ‘state-of-the art’) - will only provide a partial solution and will not suffice in dealing with the issues in the long term.
So, what is the role of leadership? I subscribe to the view of Harvard Professor Ron Heifetz and his colleague Professor Marty Linsky, that leadership is an activity – the function of which is to mobilise people (or groups of people) to address their toughest problems. However, most people tend to equate leadership with a person in a position of formal authority – the CEO, the boss, the president, the captain, etc - and when things get tough, we tend to look to these authorities for the answers.
Unfortunately, if leadership is about mobilising people to address their toughest problems then this creates a paradox because solving our toughest problems will generally require significant and ofte...