Anyone to Google ‘sustainability’ is treated to millions of hits. There is a vast amount of information available on innovative, inspiring and intriguing ideas that make the world a bit better. From wild futuristic plans to small-scale initiatives that distinguish themselves because of their simplicity. But how are ideas transformed to reality? That is where you need leadership. Sounds logical, yes? However, what is leadership anyway? And who are better at it: men or women?
To analyse ‘leadership’ Google also provides good results. Many sites speak of leadership styles, ranging from situational, servant, personal, empathic or even invisible leadership. Many roads lead to Rome, but a clear vision, creativity and vigour are recurring features. This also holds true for integrating sustainability in organisations: without a strong message it will lead nowhere. But only a strong message, also leads nowhere. Sustainability is teamwork, it needs to be shared and supported. And this means discussing, empathizing and compromising. You will need imagination to see it …
Around the world top management of companies consist of men. Research has shown that male leaders are in general more task oriented, have a big focus on money en are more at ease in fixed structures and processes. On the other hand women are capable to act strategically, to make comprises and implement innovations. In short: they are better at transformational leadership, and this is exactly what we need to create support for sustainability. Not convinced? Sheryl Sandberg, member of Facebook’s Board of Management, has appropriately summarised the distinctive value of female leaders.
Does this mean we don’t need male leadership? Well no, of course not: both male and female leaders have their own qualities. It is just a matter of maximising those skills in the most optimal way. Men and women are perfectly able to reinforce each other, but then the balance should be different. Meaning: more women in management boards, more female leaders. And yes, this requires some adaptability, releasing of existing structures and making compromises. I can imagine it and I go for it.
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