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How ‘sustainable’ is your boss?

By January 10, 2014 Stakeholder No Comments

On what rung on the sustainability ladder will your organisation’s leadership sit during 2014?

We often talk about how sustainable an organisation is, yet the same thinking can be applied to leaders of these organisations. Why not assess the sustainability of the ethics and values of our leaders, too?

During a master class given by management consultant Tim Dalmau at the Ci2013 conference, the topic of sustainable leadership was explored, using the six steps prescribed by Dexter Dunphy as a guide.

Here are the six steps of sustainable leadership, from the bottom to the top of the ladder.

  1. Rejection: Exploitive and hostile; does absolute minimum required
  2. Non-responsive: Acts without real care; uses resources without concern
  3. Compliant: Decent and does what is required;  focuses on ‘big risk’ items
  4. Efficient:  Active, planned, systematic; engages to save cost or hassle
  5. Strategically proactive: Engages and innovates for mutual advantage
  6. Sustaining: Responsible and ethical, co-evolving; part of a bigger whole

Tim suggests that Nelson Mandela, with whom he worked on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was a leader perched on the top step of the sustainability ladder. When you think about Mandela and consider what has been said and written about him, this observation makes sense.

‘High-sustainability’ leaders tend to be digital-savvy, customer-centric and emotionally-intelligent. They’re highly-socialised. These traits are desirable in leaders operating in digitalised, interactive environments.

Now ask yourself where on which rung of the sustainability ladder does Richard Branson, Virgin, sit? What about German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Barack Obama or media mogul Rupert Murdoch?

Most likely, your perspective depends on where you perch on the sustainability ladder.

One of Currie’s roles as a consulting firm, specialising in strategic communications and stakeholder engagement, is to assist leaders in the private and public sectors frame their organisation’s culture and identity.

A question Currie often asks a new executive is:  “What are the ethics and values you need in your organisation, in order for it to thrive in its operating environment, during and beyond your tenure?”

The answer gives Currie an insight into the messages – spoken and unspoken (signs, symbols and behaviours) – that are required to educate and empower the people who execute the organisation’s strategy.

Not every organisation needs a level 5 or 6 leader. There are circumstances which require lower levels of sustainability leadership. At times, a situation may require Compliant (level 3) or Efficient (4) leadership.

Irrespective of the level of sustainability required, it’s vital the words heard and actions observed inside an organisation send a message that is right for the times. A communications audit will reveal if you’re on-track.

So, once again, how will you rate the sustainability of your organisation’s leadership?  And, more importantly, what level of sustainable leadership does your organisation need to prosper in 2014?

For the sake of your organisation we at Currie hope the two scores are aligned. Good luck.

About Mark Paterson

Mark’s first job was milking cows. An award-winning career in journalism followed. These days when he's not trying to save coral reefs in Indonesia, dreaming about playing tennis on the Masters circuit or raising three kids in a blended family he thrives on consulting work that connects profit with people and planet. The son of corgi breeders, Mark would like to change the world for the better. Read more posts by Mark.