As an HR professional you very much depend on the quality of leadership in your organisation. Managing people in the VUCA context (volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous), the quality of the leader becomes even more important. With all of these changes, engagement and commitment of the people working for an organisation are so important, yet there is still too little of it. Why is that? 

Our conversation centres around the new book, Sustainable Leadership: How to Lead in a VUCA World, in which David focuses on the importance of character of the leader. He outlines the 5 building blocks for fostering and maintaining sustainable leadership: self-care, engagement, growth, meaningfulness and trust. 

We discuss a couple of different aspects to the issue, in particular why they are important for the organisation, and what are some of the tools anyone can apply to become a better leader and make a positive contribution to the organisation, to its employees and also for society as well. 

What is important, is the intention to become a better leader

The main role of a leader is to create movement towards value for the employees, the customer, the patients…, but creating this momentum is not possible in isolation or alone. You can only make the movement occur if people trust you. In other words, leadership is something that is attributed to you, you are at their service or at the service of a higher purpose. I couldn't agree more with David's take on servant leadership, that it is a very humbling and also a temporary experience.  

Sustainable leadership

What makes leadership sustainable: you create the motion towards value, and not only value for the shareholders, but for the employees, the customers, the community and the broader environment. Unfortunately in business schools and management courses there is still way too much emphasis placed on creating shareholder value and profit, which more often than not happens at the expense of the employees and the environment. In the 21st century Leadership must be something that stretches beyond the walls of the C-suite office and takes into account longer term impact of decisions. 

As an exercise think about the teachers you had in secondary school. Which ones do you remember and for what reason? As employees are moving in and out of organisations with a higher frequency, a great boss or leader has the potential to create lasting impressions that employees will carry with them in their future jobs, and therefore make a positive impact even beyond their organisations. Building trust, being kind, having integrity ate the pillars on which great leadership is built. 

Erosion of character

Integrity, kindness, trustworthiness need to be maintained and nurtured, otherwise they wear out. Therefore David places a strong emphasis on not only acquiring these characteristics, but also making sure that they don't erode, and that the erosion is noticed! Just like we maintain our physical and mental health, our character needs the same attention and maintenance and generations of employees will thank you for it, not to mention the bottom line!

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