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Sustainable Leadership

Sustainable Leadership, a Walk in the Park?

Leadership is not a walk in the park. It’s more like walking up a mountain. And as there are rules for mountaineering, there are also rules for Leadership. You can call them safety or hygienic rules. But rules are needed to survive the often-slippery paths of Leadership. These rules make the effort sustainable. They enable sustainable leadership.

  • Rule 1: Never walk alone

    If you do, there is nobody there to help you when you’re in trouble. There is nobody to learn from. And there is nobody you can help. So look for people who can help you and actively seek for feedback and support. Sustainable Leadership is always built on others and not only on yourself.

  • Rule 2: make sure you have the right Equipment in your Backpack

    The right equipment makes you stronger and safer. Not all equipment is suitable. Look for the equipment that makes you a role model as a leader. Don’t take too much with you. It will make you heavier. If you need 10,000 steps to get there, and you have 10 kg on your back, that’s a lot of pressure on your spinal cord and joints. So you should reduce sustainable leadership to its essence (cf blog on trinity and the essence).

  • Rule 3 : before you start, know yourself.

    Overestimating your condition can get you and others in trouble. There’s no point in pretending to be stronger and fitter than you really are. The group is as strong as its weakest member. The question arises if you as a leader need to be the fittest. That’s not necessarily so. But if you want to be exemplary, you’d better not be the one who is lagging behind.

  • Rule 4: Practice and prepare

    By doing so you improve your personal fitness. You can prepare for difficult situations and manage risks. Preparation is also about gathering knowledge about the road ahead. So look for relevant sources of information and share them with the team.

  • Rule 5: Adapt your Pace

    The first thing you need to do is to define your personal target. You go up step by step and you want to avoid exhaustion. Every step is important as it prepares for the next step. Don’t go all the way up and then rest. Take moments of recovery during the trip. That will make the road much more enjoyable and the effort sustainable.

  • Rule 6: choose the Way

    Going up does not always mean to go up the steepest slope. And it does not mean there is only one way. Sometimes you need to walk around the mountain to find a suitable place to start walking. So choose the way that is right for you and your team. Do not take the path that will get you killed. That does not sound exciting to you? What’s the point in taking the extreme route just for the kick. The most important thing is that you arrive, where you want to arrive.
    When choosing the way, accept that the road is winding, and goes up and down.

  • Rule 7: enjoy the Scenery

    Even when the road is tough, take a moment to enjoy it. Look at the scenery around you and enjoy the moment. There’s a lot going on. And while you’re at it, don’t just look at the scenery. Become a part of it. As a leader you do not have to be in the forefront all the time. Getting your team at their target, that’s your true mission. And to do that, you need to become a part of the team’s context. Don’t only stand out but focus on fitting in.

The base-line: take care

If you read these rules, they seem to be valid for anyone, not only the leader. That is true. And it’s also true that anyone in a team can potentially take on the role of a leader. This should not be linked to a function. Moreover, if we talk about personal leadership, it’s about taking care of yourself and of others. Everyone can do that as a leader, as a colleague, as a parent, as a friend. Take care.
In the Austrian mountains there are walking routes that are indicated as yellow, red and black roads. The yellow roads are easy. The red ones require some experience. The black ones require that you are experienced and also absolutely free of vertigo. And beyond that you can do alpinism. When you start walking, you start with the yellow ones. But you want to go for the red ones fast. There are big differences among the red walks. Make sure you make a right estimate on the time and effort the walk will take. And for the black ones, I don’t do them.

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

One Comment

  • Guy says:

    Rule 8 : take your time
    Even with limited summit chances you have a choice whether or not you are going to climb. Don’t go up only because you’re running out of time. The window of opportunity should match with the timeframe that is available to you. Sometimes it fits, sometime it doesn’t.
    Rule 9 : accept fate
    You really do need some luck. Not everything is in your hands. The mountain (the weather) has the final word regardless of your preparation. Preparation though pushes luck a bit more to your side; but not completely…

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