Corporate Leadership and Sustainability

Corporate Leadership and Sustainability

Neeta Baporikar (HP-GSB, Namibia University of Science and Technology, Namibia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1823-5.ch009
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Due to pressures of globalization and competition, the quality of corporate leadership has come under great scrutiny as questions are being raised worldwide regarding the ability of leaders to deliver long term growth on a sustainable basis. This can be referred to as the “sustainability leadership cavity.” The chapter attempts to explore: what are the evolving challenges companies faces, what are the implications on demands placed on leaders and what new leadership competencies are required to ensure sustainability goals are achieved. It also intends to provide cases of successful sustainability leadership. Through grounded theory, in-depth literature review and contextual analysis the core of this chapter is to understand the organizational elements, structure, challenges and competencies crucial and critical for sustainability leadership.
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Anticipating problems; building a team with mutual trust; maintaining self-control, common sense and energy: these are not concepts taken from the field of management science and practice. They origin from Cyropaedia, a treatise written by Xenophon in the fourth century B.C. describing the life of King Cyrus, who laid the ideological foundation for what would later become the empire of Alexander the Great. Following this seminal work - considered the first to analyze the foundations of “leadership” in a systematic way – numerous studies have been done on this fascinating and difficult topic. Today, once gain the focus is on this same topic ‘leadership’ in changed milieu. The shift is from growth and profits to – advancement, productivity, inclusivity, environment and sustainability.

According to Singer and Ricard (2015), the role of the leader in this century is different - it’s to bring people together around sense of meaning, purpose, and values. In short it is empowering people. On the other hand, companies like Ford and Toyota, IKEA and Zara have been making important strides in reducing their environmental footprint. And they are getting positive press coverage for these efforts. But it's not just the global brands: corporations of all sizes and across all industries are feeling pressure to do more than create great products -- many now want to do so with greener processes and policies (Judith & Pascual 2015). For the past few decades, environmental sustainability has gone from an afterthought to a critical strategic issue. Moreover, environmental variable influences companies' value creation processes and the goal of any organization strategy is to achieve sustained superior performance, which is perse dependent on the organizational positioning. In turn, the success of any given positioning depends on the sustainability of the competitive advantages on which it is based (Costa et al, 2000). Rosenberg (2015) looks at the fundamental differences between two distinct and often opposing logics: the business logic of senior management and the environmental logic of activists, journalists and legislators. The purpose of bringing these differences is not to justify or explain but to encourage a deeper understanding, so that with understanding, strategy that works for business and for the environment can be carved out and in the process of these efforts optimization both would be possible. Long-term business success depends on effectiveness in identifying opportunities and managing risks to create competitive advantage and shareholder value. Amongst other things, successful companies evaluate environmental and social issues in seeking competitive advantage, managing risk and building resilience.

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