Defining Sustanability Leadership Article

CSL Alumni 2008

Defining Sustainability Leadership

Firstly let’s define ‘Sustainability’, there are a number of common principles which are embedded in most definitions of sustainability, these are…

The conservation of biodiversity and ecological integrity.
Constant natural capital and sustainable income.
Ensuring intRAgenerational (within generations) and intERgenerational (across generations) equity.
It is recognising and responding to global circumstances at a local level
It is dealing cautiously with risk, uncertainty and irreversibility
It is ensuring appropriate valuation of environmental assets
It is integration of environmental, social and economic goals in policies and
it is the activities, social equity, community engagement and participation which deliver results.

Sustainability Leadership is about creating a collaborative learning environment to motivate, empower and educate the community who, with new skills and understanding and by applying the above principals, will lead business and community into a sustainable future. We face a global climate crisis, more than ever before, we need innovative and immediate change in paradigms to unlock sustainability as a pathway for future generations.

Global and local communities need leaders to outline and vision a future, we need to consider and value our environment as an integral part of any sustainable society. Leadership in sustainability can make this a reality, by developing and delivering sustainability leadership programs to a range of individuals we will ensure our circle of influence is great and lasting.

We are aware of the urgent need to address climate change, carbon emissions, water, energy, biodiversity and environmental challenges, through a range of programs and initiatives it is possible for sustainability leaders to vision and influence a sustainable future and assist with the shaping of a sustainable planet.

By taking a leadership philosophy we are able to connect people from diverse backgrounds, whether from developing communities or already developed societies we need to engage and re-connect them to the natural environment, through sustainability leadership we can have a lasting impact on behaviors, mind sets and long term actions which can lead to more sustainable habits.

Last year I successfully completed a Fellowship in Sustainability Leadership, a program which was delivered by Centre for Sustainability Leadership, founded by the 2008 Environment Minister’s Young Environmentalist of the Year Award recipient Larissa Brown. This program gave me the tools to influence and inspire others; there are many more graduates that have gone on to become the leaders they imagined, however, we need more inspired leaders.

Inspired leadership is evident, yet, it is not evident everywhere, a positive approach is to develop inspired sustainability leadership within every part of society, every community, every sector, every country. It is my belief leaders are not born but they are identified, developed and made.

A good leader knows when it is time to change shape because they are highly attentive to those around them. Coming from a position of strength, a great leader takes risks by freeing up the creative genius in their followers to build their capability and multiply the talents of the community. This leads to a sense of community and to greatness.

It is true that inspired leaders share a number of qualities. Some of which are… Integrity, the ability to be courageous, having a social conscious, being able to understand others, facilitating cooperation, identifying and fostering innovation, ensuring collaboration amongst organisations and individuals, being creative, caring and maintaining a sense of humor.

We need Inspiring, venturous leadership to connect caring communities, caring people to begin influencing cultural, behavioral and attitudinal changes at a local level. Sustainability Leadership is needed across all sectors of business and in all types of communities, urban, regional, outback, beachside, farming, high country every corner of Australia needs leaders who are visionaries, leaders who care, leaders who can act, leaders that understand, leaders who make changes and leaders who want to shape our future.

Engaging with the community

Community engagement is certainly not new; in my research it is clear many of our best leaders have fantastic, all encompassing community engagement strategies, principles, goals and commitments. How leaders engage with their local community with regard to sustainability, environment, planning and emissions reductions is an interesting discussion point.

I believe most future sustainability leaders already know how to effectively engage with their community, in fact, for some people, that what they do best, consider those people you know who seem to know everyone and everyone knows them, then consider diving a bit deeper and ask yourself the following questions…

At what level do sustainability leaders engage with the community and what real results have been achieved?

Has the community’s youth been fully engaged or has the focus been around political and business leaders?

Focusing on the second point put yourself in Gen Ys’ shoes; there are plenty of unknowns, lots of things are changing around them, and they are neither fully aware of the rationale – nor in control of – those things changing. Even in times of more positive change, the first to buy-in are those who either, control and direct the change, or are experiencing change that is positive to them personally.

Remember? Our youth are trying to perform, succeed, and persevere – they deserve our respect. Those who aren’t? Well, now’s a good time for a change – it has never been more important than during challenging social, environmental and economic times.

We all need to pull our weight – the quicker we can get youth engaged as future sustainability leaders the faster we will become sustainable communities and a sustainable race? Now is the time to find out more, time to stand up and become a leader of your own future and in the process you can shape the future of humanity.

Article: Sustainability Leadership
Date: 20 August 2009
Author: Geoffrey Gourley
Publication: Victorian Association for Environmental Education (VAEE)

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