Effective Leadership

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When effective leadership accomplishes results, people say:

"we did this ourselves!"

Sustainable communities and businesses depend on the principles of sustainable development being applied by committed people on a continuing basis. The behaviour of people needs to be consistent with these principles in a natural way. For this to be achieved, effective leadership at every level sets a good example. This means 'walking the talk'. Real progress towards sustainable development depends on the willingness of people at every level to both give and accept effective leadership.

Styles of effective leadership for different situations

Three kinds of situation help to identify different styles of leadership appropriate for each situation. Each is given a descriptive title relating to the behaviour required from those being led. Two examples of each situation clarify the kind of situation being described:

The style of leadership in each of these situations is different. In the first pair of situations a directive style can work well. In the second pair of situations the 'leader' needs to gain some commitment and contribution from the person with the problem. In the third pair of situations the 'leader' needs to involve the people with the problem in the diagnosis as well as the solution. Today's complex world reveals an increasing number of situations like the third case. Participative leadership gains respect and is increasingly in demand. These leaders align the contribution of those being led and stand the best chance of achieving effective results

Aligning energy

This means that within organisations of all kinds and at every level the leadership approach needs to move away from command and compliance. Sometimes it is appropriate to move to involvement which gains the commitment of those being led. However, in order to establish sustainable communities a different leadership approach is required. This gains the enthusiasm and commitment of people at every level to join the search for a good diagnosis and then take part, with others, in finding appropriate solutions. This approach concentrates on aligning the energy of people behind attractive visions and goals with true commitment. Several organisations are now developing this approach and delegating more authority right through a 'flatter' hierarchy.

Managing with mixed disciplines across boundaries

Many of the complex problems in today's world require the contribution of people who understand various disciplines and have loyalty to different organisations. This means that people with different backgrounds, skills and interests need to work together to find solutions. Mutual respect and high ethical standards are a prerequisite for effective problem solving. With this approach solutions emerge that cut across boundaries between people and organisations. Successful negotiation at these boundaries requires a mature and responsible approach where people listen to and respect each other. At the global level it is salutary to remember that we share one world and need to accept that everyone has the right to a sustainable future.

Setting a good example, or "walk your talk"

A leader is best when people barely recognise that they are being led and when they succeed can all say "we did this ourselves". A good way to test whether you "walk your talk" is to see how many of the things described on the page on living lightly are part of your lifestyle.

wpe2.gif (941 bytes) New Leadership

New Leadership is run by Jonathan Wolf-Phillips of Cambridge, England (email: jwolfphilips@btinternet.com). Their vision is: organisations playing an increasingly significant role in developing a sustainable and meaningful future for the planet. Their mission is: to empower organisations to evolve into successful working communities that balance economic, environmental and social accountability with the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs of the individual.

A leadership acronym 

A leader who sets a good example is respected more than one whose behaviour indicates "do as I say not as I do". The acronym ATTRIBUTES, devised for this web site, provides guidance for achieving a sustainable future:

  • Align your lifestyle at work and at home in ways that are sustainable
  • Treat people with respect, give support and challenge as appropriate
  • Take initiatives to do things differently; make a difference through your actions
  • Review progress regularly
  • Invest in ethical and environmental organisations for credit, mortgages, savings and pensions
  • Buy fair trade goods wherever possible
  • Use banks whose ethical standards are compatible with your own
  • Take holidays that are socially and environmentally sustainable
  • Extend your sphere of influence within your community - provide effective leadership at your level
  • Set the example you want others to follow, including continuous learning.

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Last modified 24 November 1999