Sustainability in Leadership
Current global occurrences have posed a great challenge to the continued existence of living things on earth. At this stage in the history of man, humanity is struggling with a lot of challenges; and these challenges are not restricted to region or race. Problems associated with climate change, increased rate of poverty, inconsistent democracy, and lack of justice and fairness in society are common to all nations. At this critical moment, there becomes a vacuum to be filled with urgency by leaders whose sole desire and purpose is to salvage the earth from total destruction. The world needs leaders who possess strategies to effectively combat these challenges and lead their followers into lifestyles that are self-sustaining. Leaders who could bring about this much needed sustainability to our environments are regarded as Sustainability Leaders.
Purpose of Sustainable Development in Modern Leadership
Leadership in the traditional setting is, by nature, restricted to the immediate environment of the leader. And as such, no significant solution to the world's global challenges will ever come through that means. Traditional models of leadership usually focus on immediate problems, especially of its immediate community. Transitioning to sustainability leadership requires a 'continuity of in-depth focus and insight over a long time', and in this, the leader's success comes from putting in place successors 'who can do even more' (Fullan, 2005, 31).
A great majority of people who favor the traditional model of leadership are usually found to be opposed to the daunting tasks and long-term planning associated with sustainability initiatives. It is argued that even some greatly charismatic traditional leaders have been discovered to have taken negative stance towards sustainable development. Maybe because the traditional leadership system is structured in such a way to deal with the immediate community, the generality of its tenets circulate around 'the immediate'. These structurally rigid leaders, so to say, only accept to effect changes that bring short-term alleviation to on-the-spot problems. They do not fervently seek answers to questions on sustainable development.
In opposition to the traditional system, Sustainability Leaders are dedicated to providing long-term prosperity, survivability, and enduring solutions to problems. Sustainability leaders know that sustainable development is vital because it meets the needs of the present generation without destroying the opportunity for posterity to take care of their own problems.
It has dawned on the world that society today is faced with multiple problems which interconnect. Problems such as ecosystem degradation and climate change are caused by pollution. But society also possesses all the tools to redesign and create sustainable futures. Since leaders are vital to the forming and implementing of effective reforms in society, these challenges expose the great need for the raising of people of integrity who can stand up to the responsibility for effective leadership. The leadership system is a dynamic sector which should constantly change to suit the current needs of society. Nevertheless, there are certain qualities or skills that successful leaders usually possess.
Fundamentals of Leadership
Effective leadership demands the power to bring people to confront their collective visions, and the expertise to motivate them to work towards realizing their common goals (Sustainability Leadership Institute, n.d.). When a leader is persuasive, he effectively shares his visions and ideas, and enjoys support from his followers. And this support translates into competence on the part of the leader, in terms of achieving their common goal. Boutros-Ghali says that to possess ideas in leadership is very vital because ideas are what propel people into an action for a common benefit (1998, 2).
A great and motivational leader should have the ability to instill the most common and worthwhile vision in his followers regardless of the individual ideas they possess. In other words, possessing the skills to attract...
To be successful, leaders have to be able to talk to people in various ways to consider issues from their own perspective. They need to be able to garner support from their followers. Obviously, the significance of a leader's vision is not usually known to others at the onset. So their personal charm and ability to effectively negotiate are vital, and these are what bring about the peaceful resolutions of conflicting ideologies.
Excellent communication skills are very instrumental to gaining support and the much needed cooperation. In addition to that, in-depth and astute knowledge of politics helps the leaders to understand who to work with. The above-mentioned skills, are very essential because unity of focus results from the leader's ability to communicate a common vision.
Moreover, Boutros-Ghali posits that leaders are supposed to provide direction and guidance. He explains that ideas, in isolation, are not enough. There must be a viable and well-planned strategy to put the ideas into work. But the ideas must be part of a more inclusive scheme. In general, direction, providing inspiration, motivation, and the establishment of cooperation with different parties through charisma, political acumen and efficient communication are some of the most universal features found in successful leadership.
Leadership Skills and the Traditional Leadership System
Though there are contrasting styles of leadership, the skills and characteristics listed above are suitable for many of the leadership systems. Traditional leadership usually consists of a small group of people lead by one great leader. The leader usually relies heavily on his own ingenuity; and he is considered the 'wise one' who 'knows the way' (Sustainability Leadership Institute, n.d.). The structure of this leadership style propels the people to follow their leader. Professor of Leadership Development at the Harvard Business School, Rakesh Khurana, says that leadership systems which utilize to a great extent the charismatic authority promise a solution to virtually all of the problems of the followers if only they follow their leaders without questions.
A traditional leader is someone who alone assumes the authority to give direction, initiate change, and take decisions. The former President of the U.S., George H.W. Bush, asserts that for one to say 'passive leader', there is a juxtaposition of two opposite words. While this may be true, he posits that it is the duty of the leaders to do the greater part of work. However, Bush also encourages centralization of power such that decisions are taken based on input given by veterans who possess the experience and the 'wisdom' to make proper choices. Bush, nonetheless, maintains that the 'presidential leadership is the essence of U.S. leadership where leadership responsibilities rests on one person. This stance is a good example of the traditional notion of leadership.
Traditional leadership is usually more effective for achieving short-term goals. Traditional leaders are more inclined to protecting their authority. They only solve immediate problems rather than start a process that will become fruitful many years after they are gone. In fact, numerous authors have observed that, in seeking sustainability, the most outrageous thing would be to go in search for a super leader. A leadership system that revolves around one strong charismatic leader faces imminent collapse once the person is gone. To come on board, prospective successors to the traditional leadership seat must possess the same charm and authority which their predecessors had.
And so, projects and objectives which require commitments on long-term basis become very vulnerable to abandonment if people rely upon the support of traditional leaders. In addition to that, the traditional leadership method, by its very nature, tends to be greatly conservative. It may not be able to engage in the daunting task of transitioning into sustainability as needed today. By relying solely on veterans and self-acclaimed leaders, this leadership style is subject to slowness in responding to change. Being so conservative, this model becomes unproductive in the event of a challenge by novel problems which demand original and innovative solutions.
The traditional leadership style is also inclined to excluding some people from partaking in decision making, people that may be agents of positive change. People that have no perceptible charisma are usually side-lined during the process of decision making. This is a bothersome issue in the contemporary society when all hands should be on deck in the struggle against these contemporary challenges. And that is why the need for strengthening leadership instincts in the youths is being explored in civil societies throughout the world. According to Rakesh Khurana, those who are perceived to be greatly charismatic are usually chosen by people, leaving out others who might possess greater knowledge and expertise to confront societal problems. Excluding some people from processes of decision making and the clinging to charismatic 'superstar' leaders usually awake the spirit in the people since they begin to feel disenfranchised. People who do not get involved in the governance easily lose the passion and motivation to work for the achievement of their leaders' goals. Historically, this traditional style of leadership, with centralized power, has been prevalent in western cultures (Sustainability Leadership Institute, n.d.). But at this point in human existence, it becomes greatly necessary to consider other models.
A Future with Sustainability Leadership
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