Donella Meadows’ article: Leverage Points – Places to Intervene in a System is an inspiring reminder, a timeless contribution that I believe needs to be unearthed again if we look at the state of the world, humankind’s many attempts and mediocre results to take us on the road to sustainability. This is an article that makes you think – and hopefully act. You will recognize how many aspects of sustainability initiatives are stuck in regulatory approaches that – according to her – are very low on the list of effectiveness of leverage points. The second highest effective leverage point, she suggests, is the power to create a paradigm shift. This is what she says about how to create a paradigm shift: “You keep pointing at the anomalies and failures of the old paradigm, you keep speaking louder and with assurance from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.” And with that she challenges each of us – the most powerful leverage point for sustainability is our own mind. Starting from there, we can get structures in place, ensure information flow for positive and negative feedback loops and get regulations set-up.
It is not too difficult to think us into a future state in which global common goods are managed well; governments serve their people; economies are lively and at service of people and planet, and everybody can live their potential. It is more difficult to imagine how we could get there from where we are today. That is where the global learning journey starts – an exciting one, as no one country, one actor, one societal group knows the answer, but each of them may hold a piece of a great puzzle. I believe, it is the art of leading collectively that will make a difference.
What are elements of a paradigm shift towards sustainability? And how do they relate to the Collective Leadership Compass?
LOVE: Fostering our emotional engagement with the future of humankind and our planet as a whole (this is captured in the dimensions HUMANITY and WHOLENESS)
RESPONSIBILITY: Accepting the fact that we actually CAN make a difference, each of us every day, if we join up, it becomes much easier (this is captured in the dimension of ENGAGEMENT)
INFORMATION: Spreading transparency and making information available that helps us learn in positive and negative feedback loops (this is captured in the dimension of INNOVATION)
DIALOGUE AND COLLABORATION: Scaling-up our capacity to work together in a patterned network approach with mutual support, continuous improvement and the willingness to listen (this is captured in the dimension of COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE AND ENGAGEMENT)
(R)EVOLUTION: Being prepared to seriously question what we got used to accept as normal, a world view with an economic system and structures that force us to monetize every aspect of our life, and taking money back where it belongs – a useful means of exchange for certain aspects of our life (this questioning process is captured in the dimension of WHOLENESS AND INNOVATION).
With such ingredients we may be able to move towards a great TRANSFORMATION: being able to stay in a change process for the long-haul, knowing we need to join a global learning journey with no end in sight. What we have learned in the last 20 years since Donella Meadows heart-breaking speech is that the big vision for a sustainable world may by composed of many many smaller visions that drive people to create change.
That is why we need to train ourselves, our organizations, our change initiatives and our society for RESILIENCE: Being able to welcoming crises as opportunities for INNOVATION; iterating, re-inventing and trusting that as humankind we will be able to shift us into a more sustainable world.
The future of leadership for sustainability is collective, as I will be our joined capacity to shift a paradigm.