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A Twitter Journey through Sustainable Leadership

In my 25 years in business, I have had the pleasure to work with some excellent leaders. I must say that I did not have the bad luck to have to work with those toxic leaders you often hear about. Not all leaders score high though on … yes on what? What do we expect from leaders? And has that changed?
In the week of August 14th I started a small twitter journey about the book I wrote on sustainable leadership. The question I try to answer in the book is how can we make sure that leadership is oriented towards creating future value for society, organizations, teams, people and the leaders themselves. The key is that there needs to be a balance of stakeholder interests.

The World has become VUCA

This is important today. But difficult to achieve. Why? Because our world is kind of VUCA. volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
But some people seem to doubt that. Here’s a tweet about that.

Many things change faster than ever before. The Least you can say is that demographics are changing. People born around the year 2000 have 50% chance of becoming 100 years. This is revolutionary and will require people to plan their lives and careers differently. Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott wrote an impressive book about that.

My book is about leadership in a VUCA World. But I am not the only one who is thinking about it. Here’s another take on that.

And yes, we should not overestimate the disruptions that are going on and mystify how organizations disrupt.

Character is the Basis of Sustainable Leadership

One key point of view is that character is the basis of leadership.

I don’t use the word authenticity because sometimes we need to be less ourselves in order to be effective. But here’s a view on authenticity.

Maybe we should talk more about humility.

Even though the world asks us to be very confident. That’s not always a bad thing.

But you need to sustain confidence. And think about what is not sustainable.

And what is essential to see is that it’s always possible to base leadership on less sustainable aspects.

I have chosen character over personality because character is more deep and available across people and throughout society. Character in Latin is moralitas. I believe very much that character has a moral grounding.
It has many dimensions. I identify 4: empathy, reciprocity, kindness and fairness.

You could also talk about reciprocity on a collective scale.

So character can define a culture. We see it often that a leader inspires people to behave in a certain way. You could say that they copy behaviour.
This is what I read in one post

We believe the future belongs to who ignore the pressure to slash jobs, capture value and retreat

Empathy is also important. But like with many things it has a dark side.

Our Context Defines Leadership and Leadership Defines the Context.

It is difficult to maintain one’s character amidst expectations (myths), pressure and temptations.

In my book I identify certain ways of keeping character intact even when leaders experience pressure. And when leaders succeed that can focus on trust, meaningfulness, growth, engagement.

One of the reasons why character is the basis for sustainable leadership is that leaders are unable to give certainty. they should not even try. But people want to eliminate uncertainty. Character is the single most important source of stability. If leaders can show consistency behaviour in terms of empathy, fairness, kindness and reciprocity, people will experience a degree of certainty even when the world is in chaos.



How you trust and are trusted is important. You need to identify the levers of trust.

Nokia killed itself because there was mainly fear.

If there is no trust, leaders need to invest in control: that’s a trade-off between risk and cost.

Trust is also important in Politics
And Mr Trump is very inspiring for leaders, probably not in the way he would like to be.

But Trust is not always obvious. Trust should not be naïve.

Behaviour defines trustworthiness.


A leader needs to create a context that provides meaningfulness.

Work that is meaningless is awful.

But sometimes meaningfulness is sacrificed just by focussing on execution. I call that actionism.

Personal Growth

People need to develop. Leaders can create a context that allows and stimulates that.

Development is not easy.

And humans get competition.

One way to stimulate growth is customisation of work.

Taking care of yourself

You can help yourself by creating your own story.


I talked about personality earlier. Leaders do not have to be extroverted, or charismatic. Yes, it might help. But introvert leaders seem to be better at building sustainability. And they can be effective as well.

Karen Glossop has an opinion on that.

The final word

The more I focus on sustainable leadership, the more I see how important it is. I am looking for experiences and evidence to see how we can develop leadership that is sustainable.

My book on sustainable leadership is just a start. The Journey towards sustainable leadership is long and uncertain. This was only a journey through twitter. I hope you have enjoyed it.
Thanks for reading until the end of this blog. If you like it, please share it.

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

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