Sustainability is not only what we do in terms of external action and change to avoid depletion of natural resources, it is also about applying the same principle to our inner game; the ability to maintain performance at a certain rate or level which leads to modern, resilient and long-lasting leadership.
Most people approach sustainability from a purely “doing” perspective, focussed on evolving and enhancing external conditions – they do accountability checks on the sustainability of their products, they consider the materials they use and their ecological impacts, they switch the office energy and supplies to more sustainable alternatives and they seek out sustainable suppliers and are willing to disrupt entire systems. This is the actions-based side to sustainability – the changes we make in the physical sense of our business.
What most founders don’t consider as part of creating results and change is how to cultivate being sustainable themselves. They forget to invest, prioritise and evolve the “being” side of sustainability. This is more often than not, the missing secret sauce or ‘untapped resource’ to business success.
Focussing on the sustainability of you as a leader
I advocate for being sustainable because your business and our planet depend on you to keep going.
Sustainability is a term that purely means that something can be sustained over a long time and we use it in business to ensure that a business can be sustained on this planet without over extracting and depleting resources. When I work with founders and executives I remind them that their body and their mind is also a resource that can be easily depleted and to keep doing their best work, remain high performing and live the life that matters for them, they need to ensure that they can sustain themselves.
This is the space I love to work in – coaching changemakers, social entrepreneurs, innovators and systems-led thinkers to focus on themselves, evolve their systems thinking, develop their emotional intelligence (EQ) and cultural intelligence (CQ), and build a sustainable business rhythm for themselves and their teams. This is the magical not-so-secret formula to being able to fully enact their purpose through their business, leading that business effectively to generate greater results, time and time again.
The truth is, no matter how hard you try or how passionate you are, your business simply will not create lasting change in your community or on this planet if you don’t live and work in a way that sustains you for the entire business journey.
How often have we seen passionate changemakers or leaders burnout before they’ve really had a chance to make an impact? If you want your business to truly be a force for good in this world and create greater results, then you better be ready to grow along with that business to successfully lead in the long-term.
‘Being’ sustainable in our actions and our values
We live and work in a very different world now – a post-industrialised world where we are more aware of the challenges that our communities and our planet faces.
Today, the simple cause and effect of problems are constantly grey and messy – clear lines of responsibility no longer exist and adaptation and reaction are required 24/7. Founders need to have leadership and EQ skills to support them in forging forward in a more networked global community on this planet. They need to align their values with their work to make decisions in far more chaotic and connected systems and environments.
When we approach sustainability from a purely doing perspective, we are leading from our heads. When we step over into doing and being sustainable, we start to shift from only drawing on logic, facts and our cognitive ability, into our ability to combine that with drawing on innate intelligence, trusting our gut, stepping into unknown (not unsafe) zones and sensing what could be possible through experimentation rather than avoidance of risk.
Connecting who we are and what we deeply believe with what we do reinforces that our values are leading our actions, not our ego or a sense of guilt – suddenly it’s easier to make decisions on which path to take because we can think and feel whether one will be values-aligned and keep us on the sustainable path we want to be on.
When founders are constantly pulled between the most economical options and the most sustainable, leading with their values, their hearts and their sense of being will always pull their business in the right direction.
I truly believe that business can be a force for good in this world. And I also believe that in order for that to happen, business founders need to not only be fully invested in the sustainability and purposefulness of their business, they have to also be invested in their personal sustainability.
So, are you doing or being sustainable?