This is what I experience every day: we have built a world in which competition rules, in which silos – nations, companies, people – compete with each other, where world leaders, and many of their followers, act accordingly. But it’s time to pay more attention to collective leadership and measure its impact on sustainability
Collective leadership can move us forward more effectively towards realising the SDGs and sustainability. But it’s still quite a new discipline and the skills needed for it will have to become more familiar if we are to move it forward.
Let us assume that collective leadership for sustainability is the capacity of a group of leaders (business, government, NGO), influential people or even ordinary people to jointly and collaboratively deliver their part for a more sustainable future – while putting high priority on the common good over their particular (national, organizational, business, personal) interest.
There are six essential capacities that we need to develop for collective leadership.
Leaders who enhance collective action and a spirit of result-oriented collaboration
- are persistent in their attempt to lead future possibilities – they know that it is the creative potential in sustainability that will inspire more people to join in and commit.
- see the unknown not as a threat but as a potential and are therefore more likely to spot innovative solutions.
- assume that we cannot travel the path towards sustainability in silos, hence they harness collective intelligence and let it complement individual expertise.
- develop their capacity to engage stakeholders authentically because they have seen that people who have been part of creating solutions are likely to be active drivers in implementation.
- Are willing to focus on their ability to sense the whole in multi-layer feedback loops. This helps them to refine their contribution to sustainability issues.
- Even in the midst of performance demands they access the humanity that connects us all in the world, no matter how much we differ in approach, opinion, colour, culture, skills or wealth – and interest.
As the Collective Leadership Institute we drive a paradigm shift: Although leadership often refers to the individual, we have realised a need to go beyond the individual and simultaneously build the capacity of groups and systems to move sustainability forward.
In order to address global challenges the joint capacity of leaders to become catalysts for change is called for. This includes collective action, dialogue and co-operation. The aspect of collectivity adds a new dimension to our understanding of leadership. Personal passion is crucial, coupled with our ability to build communities of of change-makers who collaboratively lead issues, change initiatives, and networks.
In hierarchical settings this means inspiring staff to join into a larger sustainability vision and foster innovation, in non-hierarchical settings it means collaboratively leading issues, change initiatives, and networks.
At the core of collective leadership is the capacity to communicate and transform differences into progress.
Rather than give in to the idea of failure, it is time that we paid more attention to those moving forward in this way and learn what helps them, what hinders and what effects their actions have.
What are your experience in living collective leadership?
This blog post looks at the Collective Leadership Compass as a whole and here specifically at the level of of leadership for sustainability. For more information on the Art of Leading Collectively, checkout the inside the book and reviews on amazon.com, or get inspired by an onsite course that takes the compass into the daily challenges of navigating complex change.