by Suzanne Orme
Leadership is the process of leading for change rather than stability. Great leaders possess a set of abilities that enable them to recognise the need for change, create a vision to guide that change, and execute the change effectively.
The challenges posed by globalisation, resource depletion, growing global population and climate change present an urgent need for a shift from business-as-usual. A special type of leader is needed to tackle these complex issues and embed sustainability thinking into every business decision.
According to Poly Courtice, a Director of Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL),
“A leader is someone who crafts a vision and inspires people to act collectively to make it happen, responding to whatever changes and challenges arise along the way.
A sustainability leader is someone who inspires and supports action towards a better world.”
CISL’s research suggests the following seven key characteristic traits and styles are among the most important in distinguishing the leadership approach taken by individuals tackling sustainability issues:
- Systemic, interdisciplinary understanding
- Emotional intelligence and a caring attitude
- Values orientation that shapes culture
- A strong vision for making a significant difference
- An inclusive style that engenders trust
- A willingness to innovate and be radical, and
- A long-term perspective on impacts
The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) have acknowledged the importance of leadership and commitment in business management. In the revised international standards, ISO14001 and 9001, leadership has been placed at the core of the high level management system structure
In the revised standards, leaders have a stronger role in communicating the importance of HSEQ management and in directing and supporting persons who can contribute to its success. Some ways that Senior Management can demonstrate the new leadership requirements are through the setting of objectives that are compatible with the company’s strategic direction; creating processes and procedures that require staff to apply HSE criteria in procurement and allocating resources for improvement initiatives. Leaders may delegate responsibility for certain tasks but retain accountability for ensuring that the intended outcomes are reached.