Developing the leadership skills, we need for the transition to a sustainable economy is both urgent and critical to our future economic success – as well as to our social and environmental well-being. Therefore, we need executives that have the knowledge and competence to lead the transition to a sustainable future.
To lead the transition, we need executives who has proper change knowledge and skills. The business world, as we know it, is moving from a largely linear economy to a more circular economy. Awareness of the environment and sustainability has never been more relevant, and more and more companies will have to change their business model and strategy to survive the future.
Tomorrows CEOs and executives need to be change agent to lead the transition to a sustainable future.
The 17 UN`s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aim to end poverty, hunger, and inequality, act on climate change and the environment, improve access to health and education, and build strong institutions and partnerships.
The performance of any company, that seeks to achieve SDGs, to a large extent depends on leadership. Effective leadership translates into prudent corporate policy formulation and implementation, as well as good Human resource management, to meet the needs and aspirations of the employees. Achieving the SDGs will require the concerted efforts of the public, the business sector, society, and individual citizens. Innovative leadership and management will be essential for organizations in all sectors to integrate these development goals into strategic plans and operational activities in service of realizing the 2030 aspirations.
Leadership for achieving sustainable development is rooted in a living processes paradigm, rather than a mechanistic paradigm. Complex living processes demonstrate sustainable properties and patterns and can suggest important strategies for leadership. Qualities of living processes (how all life operates) include resiliency, adaptability, awareness, creativity, and relationships. Considering that our world is inherently paradoxical, that multiple realities exist, and that living beings organize and adapt according to their environments, leadership must be adaptive, flexible, self-renewing, resilient, willing to learn, intelligent—attributes only found in living systems. Today’s challenges for attaining sustainable development are complicated, interconnected, and will need everyone to work towards creating a more sustainable future. Therefore leaders, rather than providing a solution, need to “create opportunities for people to come together and generate their own answers.” Leaders should not only bring people together and encourage creative participation, but should help people embrace a relationship with uncertainty, chaos, and emergence. Working together to solve problems, even when values are shared, can be a difficult process. Leaders must understand that the tension, conflict, and uncertainty that come from differences can provide great potential for the creative emergence of viable solutions.
The world needs effective leadership for sustainable development and this leadership requires an inner process, in which a leader must first be grounded in an understanding of self and a relational view of the world, in order to effectively work with others to make change. In addition, reflection is a process of “understanding one’s own skills, knowledge and values within the context of community groups.” This reflective process allows for feedback loops, and cycles of growth and change. Too often one can see executives who do not understands their own negative effect on their surroundings and do not contribute to a sustainable development. Leadership should thus be understood as an inclusive, collaborative and a reflective process rooted in values and ethics.
To achieve the SDGs, leadership at both the national and organizational levels must adopt leadership styles that engender a sense of shared responsibility toward the attainment of the goals, is focused on the long-term, and thus would establish systems that would persistently ensure the pursuance of these goal in the future. Leaders must understand the need for collective efforts at both the national and organizational levels, be willing to learn and finally exhibit and promote ethical behaviours and standards. To attain the SDGs, leaders must manage resources, be visionary and ethical, and focus on long-term goals without compromising values and principles. Moreover, leaders should be motivated by a vision to achieve the goals during changing environmental factors and involve all stakeholders in the governance process. The effects of this kind of leadership coupled with coordination and participation of all concerned would potentially lead to improvements in economic efficiency, social cohesion, and environmental responsibility. These are the three basic indicators of sustainable development. The achievement of sustainable development is observed as a cyclical relationship with planning and implementation and monitoring of the strategies as key responsibilities of the leader. Finally, strong leadership, a coherent implementation plan and engagement of all diverse stakeholders are necessary to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are achieved.