Sustainability in Leadership

There’s a lot of talk about sustainability of the planet, our energy sources, transportation choices, and our products, but what about the sustainability of our leaders?  What about the sustainability of your leadership?

What is your environmental impact on others?

Our words and actions are powerful in how others respond to us and how they perform their work.  As a leader you are responsible for motivating your teams and moving your business in a positive direction.

The cost of uninspiring leaders is hard to measure as external factors are easy to point to as possible root causes to long launch cycles, lack-luster ideas, high PPM, low moral, and head butting between groups.  As humans we’re wired to want to do good work and to be successful.  Our personal pride runs deeper than any corporate directive.  Consider how productive one might be however if your leadership combined with the corporate directive aligned with the personal motives of your team.

Just for kicks, let’s compare our needs and goals relative to plants:

P L A N T S   P E O P L E    
Grow and get bigger We want to grow, improve, succeed
Need sunlight   Want to prosper,    
    Be seen as successful,  
    Want to shine    
Need water   Need encouragement  
    Need feedback    
    Garner respect    
    Need to be empowered  
Need support   Work better in teams  
    Need a leader’s protection  
Need fertilizer   Need training    
      Want to learn new skills  
      Sometimes need guidance  

Like plants our needs are simple and just like plants we can still find a way to exist without enough water, sunlight, and support; the result is similar:  smaller yield, less stunning product, lower functioning groups, and more issues.

How are you nurturing the environment around you?

We give water to our teams by providing encouragement and feedback in a way to help them do better in the future.  We support by matching our employee’s skills to the task and partner complimenting skill sets.  Through empowering others and setting them up to succeed, we also enable personal responsibility and ownership to succeed.  We support our teams by running interference between them and upper management, justifying work loads, timing needs, and effort to protect them from unneeded stress.

I once took the heat for a two-day delay in a program because an experienced and highly respected designer made a simple mistake causing a week’s worth of effort to be trashed and all designs to require rework.  We were lucky in that the mistake was caught by the team.  The designer knew the stakes were high and volunteered to work overtime squeezing seven days lost into two.

Did my upper management need to know the name of this individual and his oversight or could the team (namely me) take the hit?

By protecting this individual, his reputation was not tarnished, his personal stress level did not rise from leadership pressure, and the team felt empowered by catching and readily fixing the issue.  At the end all that was remembered was how well our team performed because our product launched successfully first pass.

What is your leadership story?

How did you nurture your team today?

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Jennifer Werth is the CEO of a training and engineering service organization.
You can reach her at
and through her blog.

One response to “Sustainability in Leadership

  1. It is saying the obvious to say that leadership is complex. So we have to be carefull that our discussions do not oversimplify something as multi-faceted as the topic of leadership. Having said that let me try to make it very simple…

    I believe the fundamental element to sustained leadership is truly caring about those that you expect to lead. We can even use that four letter word “love”. I don’t believe we can fake leadership. In order to sustain an earned position of leadership we must be sincere about the importance of aligning the needs of the individual with the corporate needs. If we consciously reproduce this basic truth in the leaders we have the priviledge of influencing we have significantly increased the probability that sustained leadership will be the fruit of our labors.

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