Leading for the Future: Embracing Sustainability

leadership in business

Modern leadership is not merely about steering a company towards short-term profits. True leaders understand that genuine success lies in fostering sustainable growth, both for the organisation and its employees. This approach not only drives innovation and productivity but also shapes a culture that resonates positively within the broader society.

Centering Sustainability in Leadership

At the heart of sustainability-centred leadership lies a deep understanding of the interconnectedness between employee well-being, organisational growth, and societal impact. Leaders who prioritise sustainability recognise that nurturing a workplace environment that prioritises mental and physical wellness not only enhances productivity but also fosters creativity and engagement.

Embracing Sustainable Business Practices

Sustainable leaders drive progressive business practices that prioritise long-term growth over short-term gains. They champion initiatives that minimise negative impacts on the environment, society, and economy while ensuring the organisation’s viability and success in the long run. 

Genuine sustainability requires a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of environmental and social challenges and involves meaningful changes throughout the organisation’s operations, supply chain, and corporate culture:

  • Environmental Stewardship: Sustainable businesses strive to minimise their ecological footprint by reducing waste, conserving resources, and mitigating pollution. This may involve adopting renewable energy sources, implementing recycling programs, and using eco-friendly materials and production processes.
  • Social Responsibility: Sustainable businesses prioritise the well-being of their stakeholders, including employees, customers, communities, and society at large. They uphold ethical labour practices, ensure workplace health and safety, and foster diversity and inclusivity. Additionally, they engage in philanthropic activities and contribute positively to the communities in which they operate.
  • Economic Viability: Sustainable businesses recognise the importance of financial stability and long-term profitability. They integrate sustainability into their business models and decision-making processes while also considering the broader impact on society and the environment.

Embracing People Sustainability

Sustainability extends beyond environmental concerns to encompass the well-being of the workforce. 

Leaders who embrace “people sustainability” prioritise diversity, inclusion, well-being, and fair pay as integral components of broader sustainability initiatives. By aligning human capital investment with organisational goals, leaders can drive business success while fostering a workplace culture that values and supports its employees. 

True leaders understand that people matter as much as the bottom line and that employees aren’t disposable in the pursuit of profit. Leaders matter. People matter.

Addressing the Decline in Employee Well-being

The Global Employee Life Evaluation by Gallup indicates that only 35% of the global workforce said they believe they are thriving, 56% reported struggling and nearly 1 in 10 workers said they were suffering.

Despite heightened awareness of employee wellness, a concerning trend has emerged – a decline in the perception of employer commitment to employee well-being. This disconnect underscores the importance of leadership in fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment that values the health and happiness of its employees.

Employees who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall well-being, compared with those who don’t, are:

  • 3x more likely to be engaged at work
  • 69% less likely to actively search for a new job
  • 71% less likely to report experiencing a lot of burnout
  • 5x more likely to strongly advocate for their company as a place to work
  • 5x more likely to strongly agree that they trust the leadership of their organisation
  • 36% more likely to be thriving in their overall lives

At the heart of this issue lies the perception of leadership’s commitment to employee wellbeing. Employees look to their leaders for guidance, support, and direction. When leadership decisions align with employee interests and values, it fosters a sense of trust and loyalty among employees.

Integrating Employee Wellness into Leadership Focus

Leaders can integrate employee wellness into their leadership focus by: 

  • Give workers more control over how they do their work.
  • Allow employees more flexibility in when and where they work.
  • Increase the stability of workers’ schedules.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to identify and solve workplace problems.
  • Ensure workloads are reasonable by adequately staffing the organisation.
  • Support employees’ personal needs, particularly in balancing work and caregiving responsibilities.
  • Foster a sense of social belonging among employees to promote positive relationships in the workplace.

By prioritising employee well-being, leaders not only enhance organisational performance but also cultivate a culture of trust, loyalty, and resilience.

Adapting to Changing Workforce Priorities

In today’s dynamic job market, workers are reshaping their priorities, placing greater emphasis on work-life balance and flexibility.

According to a recent study by Randstad, 57% of respondents prioritise flexibility, including options like remote work, when considering new opportunities, surpassing the allure of higher pay.

Leaders must adapt to these changing expectations by fostering environments that prioritise employee well-being and promote work-life integration. By aligning with evolving workforce priorities, organisations can attract and retain top talent in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Modelling Wellness Practices as a Leader

Burnout – a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress or overwork – is a global issue. It’s also a common issue in the workplace.

New leaders can be susceptible to burnout as they transition into a new role and deal with new responsibilities and challenges. It’s important to model behaviour that you want to see in your team. That means addressing your burnout before it creates a culture of overwork and impacts your effectiveness as a leader.

  • Find your identity anchor: Engage in activities outside of work that bring meaning, helping to detach from work stressors. 
  • Become intentional about recovery: Incorporate moments of rest and relaxation into your daily routines, such as connecting with friends and family, going for walks, or listening to music. 
  • Avoid micro-management: Strive for reasonable goals and autonomy for your team, reducing the need for micromanagement and fostering a healthier work environment. 
  • Ask for help: Acknowledge your limitations and seek guidance from mentors or peers when needed, creating a psychologically safe space for yourself. 

Fostering a Culture of Creativity

“Creating the culture of burnout is opposite to creating a culture of sustainable creativity. This is something that needs to be taught in business schools.” – Arianna Huffington

A culture of burnout stifles creativity by diminishing motivation, draining energy, and undermining psychological safety. When employees are constantly overwhelmed and stressed, their cognitive abilities become impaired, making it difficult for them to think creatively and problem-solve effectively. Burnout can also lead to disengagement and a lack of enthusiasm for innovation, as employees prioritise survival over exploration and experimentation.

Leaders can foster a culture of creativity by prioritising employee well-being, promoting autonomy and flexibility, and encouraging open communication. By creating a supportive and inclusive environment where ideas are valued and experimentation is encouraged, leaders can inspire employees to tap into their creative potential.

We know that new ways of thinking and working aren’t implemented and achieved overnight. Many organisations are structured in a way that is outdated and makes people sustainability difficult to promote. This is where leaders need to step up and model change. Leaders matter greatly. 

Partnering with coaching teams can help expedite positive changes.

Creating Sustainable Change & Impact

Factor10 is a team of experienced and internationally accredited psychologists and coaches that partners with our clients to create sustainable change and impact.

Our approach is client-led and systemic to each engagement allowing us to develop a real understanding of your context and architecting a bespoke offering.

We use evidence-based methods, combining positive psychology, leadership theory, behavioural and neuroscience. We partner in coaching dialogues to deepen self-awareness, create new perspectives and importantly, drive actionable change. 

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