Sustainable Leadership Must Be A Core Value

“It is about taking their best people and providing the environment and opportunity to learn whatever is needed to assure those people will become the best leaders they can become.”

Few would argue that a successful business or organization depends on leadership. The leader steers the team. It all depends on the leader.

Or does it? You hear the term sustainable leadership around more and more. I am familiar with sustainable living concepts, but sustainable leadership? I investigate.

Sustainability Camp

Sustainability Camp (Photo credit: Matthew Burpee)

In a thoughtful analysis of sustainable leadership in About Leaders, guest contributor Tim Cummuta writes about how this works and why it matters citing examples of GE and Apple. Cummuta states, “It is about taking their best people and providing the environment and opportunity to learn whatever is needed to assure those people will become the best leaders they can become.”

The idea is to be less focused on finding the right leader time and again, but rather deciding: we build our leaders at every level from within first. We mentor employees for leadership. We value experience from within the company. We acknowledge that leaders leave and we have a plan for that. Sustainable leadership is a long view plan that makes sense.

You’re right. Apple and GE are huge players; does sustainable leadership planning work for small business or small non-profit? It looks different certainly, but consider: when a leader leaves a small entity the effects are felt even more. However, if their strategic planning honestly looked at that eventuality and adopted sustainable leadership as a core value, their team is up to speed and ready for an interim plan. Their next leader may also already be on the team.

Comments? What do you think it looks like for an employee to engage in a sustainable leadership culture?

6 thoughts on “Sustainable Leadership Must Be A Core Value

  1. This post is so relevant to the issues we are having where I work. We are having a hard time cultivating volunteers into leadership positions, and once they are in the position, keeping them involved as leaders, even when their term is up on the board. For example, the way it should work is the current education vice president should mentor the education committee chair into being the next education vice president. That never happens. We are always putting new people in these vice president positions, some who have been on the board and others who have not. So what happens is every year we are struggling to find people to fill board positions. It’s rather aggravating. I so wish we had a strategic plan to figure out how to cultivate leadership.

    • I appreciate your transparency sharing this real world situation, Jennifer. Perhaps you could be a catalyst for taking valuable time to make a strategic plan — sort of a reset button for your organization. The expectation of moving into a vice president role after serving on the board should be established when the board member is recruited. This would be part of written policy and procedures. Is that the case?

      • Unfortunately, it is not currently the case. I think that in some cases, it is part of an understood culture. But for many who take board positions, they have no interest in being on the executive committee. I have tried to get the board to look at doing a strategic plan. We are headed that way through a roundabout process. Our umbrella organization is focusing on teen engagement. So we are beginning a teen engagement plan, and through that I am hopeful that we will be able to begin a full strategic plan. Part of that plan has to be leadership cultivation and a plan of succession.

      • Take heart, Jennifer. If you are persistant you may gradually get there. Sounds like you have a good plan in mind. The thing is, without all the key stakeholders on board with creating a strategic plan, it amounts to fancy paperwork that sits on a shelf. They need a person with vision like yourself.

  2. I’d say sustainable leadership is absolutely as important for the small business or nonprofit as it is for big business. Small organizations are often dependent upon a single founder or president and business decisions become personality driven. When we groom our employees to become leaders, we looking forward to the organization’s growth and long-term success.

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