Leadership Development 3.0

Jeana Wirtenberg

Jeana Wirtenberg, Ph.D., is the CEO of Transitioning to Green, a global consulting firm and the editor of The Sustainable Enterprise Fieldbook.

Companies who invest time, money and effort in training the sustainable leaders of tomorrow will see their organisations thrive and their challenges become opportunities. These new leaders will not pit sustainability against profitability – rather they will integrate people, planet and profits, writes Jeana Wirtenberg:

Sustainability and the green economy present great challenges and opportunities – and sustainable leadership is what will turn the tide. We must bring about sustainable business models that enable companies, people and our planet to flourish and thrive now and in the future. How do we do this? We start by motivating and developing leaders and managers to succeed in a triple-bottom-line world.

This shift represents a profound transformation in our mind-sets, practices, competencies, skill-sets and ways of leading and managing people. While much attention is paid to the technical and operational aspects of sustainability, we must act with great urgency to add the human side of sustainability by taking a triple-bottom-line approach – integrating people, planet and profits into all we do and into every decision.

Sacrificing long-term vision for short-term gains is ineffective and has huge negative ramifications for business and our planet.

Companies that adopt a sustainable perspective and organise around it do better – even in downturns. Sacrificing long-term vision for short-term gains is ineffective and has huge negative ramifications for business and our planet. For example, when corporations choose to ignore so-called externalities (pollution and other environmental impacts); they do so at their peril – despite a possible brief financial uptick.
It is unreasonable and unwise to remain wedded to an economic model with a single-bottom-line focus, in which the responsibilities and costs for the well-being of people and the planet are not included, or are assigned elsewhere.

Sustainability is both a strategy and a mind-set. It includes the adherence to deep-seated values that inform all aspects of doing business. 3.0 leaders do not think in terms of trading off sustainability and profitability – they seamlessly integrate people, planet and profits. The triple bottom line is not an exotic leadership approach or new management gimmick – it is a way of doing everyday business in a new world. Sustainable practices embody the way 3.0 leaders assess and solve myriad problems and challenges. These leaders see business through a lens that enables them to convert challenges into opportunities through which they can make a difference, innovate and discover adaptive capacities in themselves and their people. They inspire, engage and educate everyone to take responsibility and to act – from the board to senior leadership and middle managers, to associates who interface with customers, to workers on the shop floor.

In this context, I introduce 3.0 leadership development (LD) – a new approach to building the requisite bench strength in rising leaders (talented members – who may come from any function and any level – who exhibit potential to meet unforeseen challenges and manifest the capacity to transform present-day success for a very different future).

Focus your energies on people who can lead the organisation into the future
Examine how you train, support and mentor emerging 3.0 leaders and ask: Are we simply feeding them best practices for a fading world or providing them with LD for a shifting landscape? Those being groomed for leadership must be equipped to lead in a triple-bottom-line world to ensure the organisation survives today and thrives tomorrow.

Succeeding in this world economic marketplace will require more of leaders. Since the future will be vastly different to the present, getting better at what you’re doing puts you at a disadvantage.

Let Go of What We Know of LD
We can’t build bridges to the future while tethered to the past. We are experiencing unprecedented global economic problems, social unrest and environmental disasters. These interconnected upheavals create complexity and presage opportunities and threats that challenge business – technologically, socially, economically, geopolitically and environmentally.
Succeeding in this world economic marketplace will require more of leaders. Since the future will be vastly different to the present, getting better at what you’re doing puts you at a disadvantage.

We need to prepare tomorrow’s leaders using approaches that reflect the kinds of technologies; virtual and global relationships; rapid and unanticipated changes; and problems and opportunities that will challenge 3.0 leaders to develop insights and skills in real time. Leadership development 3.0 provides a practice ground for learning what leaders will be called on to do in a crunch: developing strategies, building relationships, surfacing ideas, negotiating and renegotiating resolutions, assessing opportunities and threats, creating new approaches and innovating on the fly. It will hone their ability to see the big picture and anticipate the consequences of their choices in multiple dimensions.

How Do We Do It?
We need to present a practical, easily understood, applied guide to successfully building a culture for sustainability.
The lessons learned and best practices of market leaders and early adopters of sustainability can help others. For example, in Alcatel-Lucent we see how 3.0 leaders are integrating sustainability into the strategy, transforming global telecommunications networks to address the digital divide and motivating employees to engage in sustainable initiatives with tangible environmental, societal and business benefits.

Pfizer provides an example of 3.0 LD with its flagship Global Health Fellows Programme (GHF). This international volunteer programme offers Pfizer employees 3- to 6-month assignments with international development organisations, working on global health issues. Triple-bottom-line LD processes must include the building blocks for the green economy – skill sets such as new kinds and levels of collaboration, co-opetition, networking, navigating ambiguity, agility and resilience.

Vital to LD 3.0 is the development of team and group-level competencies, self-organising and shared leadership (involving group learning, team creativity and behavioural skills for identifying and working together toward shared goals). Participating in LD programs that incorporate group or team play and games boosts mutual learning, knowledge sharing and creativity – elements of a culture for sustainability.

Leaders can play a game-changing role in making the shift to a sustainable world by creating a generation of leaders who will energise everyone to be fully engaged and productive, finding meaning and purpose in their work.

This article is adapted from the original by Jeana Wirtenberg which appears in the June 2012 issue of Leadership Excellence magazine. You can order the original here.

Jeana Wirtenberg is the CEO of Transitioning to Green, a consulting firm that focuses on building sustainable enterprises through leadership, culture change, collaboration, and learning. Formerly, she was HR Director at Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), where she was responsible for a variety of initiatives designed to transform the firm and build organisational capacity. She is the co-editor of The Sustainable Enterprise Fieldbook.

Buy The Sustainable Enterprise Fieldbook: When It All Comes Together direct from Greenleaf Publishing and receive a 30% discount. Just use voucher code FCC456 at checkout.

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