Do you possess these 7 leadership qualities?

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.

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2 thoughts on “Do you possess these 7 leadership qualities?

  • Kenzo
    August 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Dear Suzy
    Surely leaders have a responsibility to return a profit to their shareholders???So when a leader spends the company’s money to reduce environmental impacts he causes profits to decline which is irresponsible.

    • Suzanne Orme
      August 31, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      Hi there Kenzo
      that may very well be the case, but only in some limited situations. Not all companies are publicly listed for a start. In addition, investing in clean technology often saves the company money and boosts productivity and shareholder return. To succeed theses days, all organisations, whether public, private, government or non-government must understand and meet the expectations of stakeholders. Investors are one important stakeholder but these days they are not soley driven by profit and look closely at what the company does, the triple bottom line peformance and whether they may become a stranded asset in the future. Who would ever had thought that the heirs to the Standard Oil fortune would announce, one year ago, that they were divesting in fossil fuels? This was followed by more than 800 global investors – including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organisations, cities and universities pledging to withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuel investments over the next five years. See

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