Six key steps to authentic leadership in sustainability

by | July 5, 2019

Do you want to be a leader in sustainability in your workplace, but you aren’t the one leading the pack? Have you noticed there are some practices and processes that could just be better? 

Regardless of the challenge – you know you have a good idea. So what do you do? How do you go about turning your idea into a reality?

Well, we’ve got six things you can start with today:

1. Have a vision

You must have a vision for what the future could look like. This doesn’t have to be complicated, or on a grand scale. It could be as simple as eliminating waste from the lunch room. As the saying goes “you must stand for something, or you’ll fall for everything.” So, standing firm in your vision helps to build trust and momentum to get things going.  Sticking to your sustainability policies and procedures is one thing, but it doesn’t speak to having a vision. If you want to lead, you must first define your vision, then share it.

2. Be passionate

It’s human nature to be drawn to those who have passion for what they do. When a leader is passionate, people feel a sense of being led in a worthy direction. This is amplified when that someone is motivated by something more than his or her own individual glory. Passionate people work hard to make things happen. Share the things you are passionate about, it can be contagious. Light the fire in their bellies too, and they’ll connect to your vision no matter how big or small.

3. Learn to communicate

In order to be a strong leader, you must learn to communicate effectively in your workplace, at all levels. Being able to communicate your vision to your senior executive team is equally as important as being able to explain it to administrators or those who will carry out relevant tasks. This is something that requires thought and practice. Good communicators keep staff informed when changes or updates to projects occur, and make themselves available to talk and answer questions, so all are informed and on board.

4. Be authentic

Your character matters. It doesn’t matter how great your vision is, how passionate you are or how well you can communicate if you’re not authentic. Without this, it equates to zero. That’s because your character plays a critical role in your style of leadership. We’ve all heard the saying, “know thyself” meaning it’s important to be self-aware. Great leaders have taken the time to learn about themselves, and how their personality affects the way they lead and engage with people. This is how leaders become true to their cause. There is a direct correlation between authenticity and trust – so be an authentic leader and people are more likely invest.

5. Bring solutions

A key aspect of leading sustainable practice is to be open to listening to critics. People need to feel their fears and concerns are heard. Listen without being defensive. Discuss and consider their perspectives. Then bring the solutions. Urban legend has it that when NASA decided to put a man on the moon, they lacked the technology to do it. The rocket scientists were divided – some believed it could be done, while other felt it was impossible.  So, the powers that be coupled the critics with the champions and challenged them to find a solution. The rest is history. So listen to the critics, and offer solutions.

6. Be brave

Lastly, this is the best advice from our very own CEO Rachel Brown. She asserts that being brave is the essential leadership quality. If you don’t stand up for what you believe in, who will? Be brave and speak up. The more you do it, the better you become at it. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” (Dr. Suess, The Lorax).