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Leading Sustainability: Look to the Future, Make Bold Choices and Don’t Go It Alone

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Leading Sustainability: Look to the Future, Make Bold Choices and Don’t Go It Alone

This blog is provided by Trista Bridges and Donald Eubank, co-founders of Read-the-Air and authors of a new book, “Leading Sustainability: The Path to Sustainable Business and How the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) Changed Everything.”  It is a companion to their interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Leading Sustainability: The Path to Sustainable Business and SDGs that aired on Tuesday, January 5th, 2021.  This article shares practical steps from their book to advance your business efforts to put sustainability at the core of your strategy.


The business world is at a fundamental crossroads. The age of the stakeholder is rapidly superseding that of the shareholder. More than just a buzzword, the idea of the stakeholder recognizes that companies have always existed as an inseparable part of the communities and business networks in which they operate, however vast and physically distant.

Contrary to what the shareholder model often implied, good business decisions have never really been driven purely by profit motives. It is becoming increasingly obvious that what is good for society—and thus, by definition, for the environment—is good for business.  This new embrace of responsibility does not preclude the design of efficient, lucrative business models. In fact, when done properly, precisely the opposite is true: socially responsible and sustainable business decision-making opens up brand new, exciting, profitable—and, in all its meanings, sustainable—revenue streams.

Today’s reckoning is not purely an altruistic choice made by businesses; new demands from various civil society organizations and the consensus-driven initiatives of the United Nations have been shepherding along the changes required to make business operations sustainable for years. With the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the implementation of the Paris Agreement, these constituencies have outlined new expectations for not only how governments function, but also how businesses must function in a sustainable society.

The SDGs—more than 50 years in the making—provide a comprehensive framework for understanding all aspects of social, political, and business actions. They are powerful statements of human ambition for a fair, just and sustainable society. Many in the business and investing world today are calling them “A gift”, as the SDGs can provide us with a broader definition of sustainability and a framework to quickly and effectively guide businesses’ efforts to align their operations with the meaningful goals that society desires.

The successful businesses of tomorrow will be the ones that fully embrace sustainability today.

Almost two years ago, we set out to find and catalogue the practical steps that companies today must take to create the new sustainable business models they will need to survive in the year 2030. We interviewed more than 100 business leaders, investors, policy makers, NPOs, researchers and other changemakers, and researched a broad range of companies from across the world, of varying sizes and across multiple industries, that were taking practical steps to improve business practices and become more sustainable. Here’s some of the main takeaways that were collected for our new book “Leading Sustainably—The Path to Sustainable Business and How the SDGs Changed Everything.”

Our takeaways

  • Look to the future of your business—to achieve the best tomorrow, prepare today for the worst.
  • Make changes to your strategies based on the big picture, not on the small problems (unless they are warning you about dangers arising in the big picture).
  • The past created the world we live in today—its environmental crises and social unrest—but it also has been building the platform and the thinking that’s needed to move past these crises. That is, the SDGs, the Paris Agreement and a business world more focused on becoming sustainable for the long run.
  • The business case is already there—the whole business environment is pushing for more sustainable models, from consumers to investors, employees to competitors. Catch up, keep the pace, set the speed or get pushed out of the way.  And watch out, because a whole new generation of “mission-driven” companies have a head start already, having established themselves as fully aligned with society from the get-go. They are laser-focused on bringing fully sustainable innovations and business models to sectors that have struggled to do so on their own, and they are achieving remarkable societal and financial impact.
  • Don’t get confused by the Alphabet soup of methodologies for measuring and managing impact—choose what looks best for you, try them out, see if they fit, and whether do or don’t, adjust, retry, expand, until you figure out what works for your company. Get started today.
  • Capital managers, and even retail investors, believe that sustainability is the way forward, and they are going to talk to you about it. If you are aligned with them, they will provide you capital at a reasonable rate—if not, you will pay more or even be left empty-handed.
  • Be systematic. Understand the steps that you as a business have to proceed through to achieve a sustainable business model. Apply smart managerial and leadership strategies to move through these steps. Make bold decisions. Engage the whole organization. Communicate your directives and the reasons. Build an “A team”. Pursue a multi-stakeholder approach. Be flexible, make assessments and adjust. Work with your customers. Consider outside acquisitions. And leverage the SDGs.
  • You can’t do this alone. Bring your industry along for success and to ensure a fair playing field. Reach out to your industry associations, but also look to new partners, whether from civil society, international organizations, or cross industry. If a few key industries do this right—health and wellness, insurance, fashion, real estate, and tourism—we’ll all be in a better, more sustainable, place.

Before we close, two points bear repeating: For success leverage the SDGs— recognize their power to help and guide the organization and your teams; and be systematic to align your business planning and operations with sustainability principles.

Plus, remember this final, key piece to getting it done: You must bridge the knowledge gap—provide your teams with as many opportunities as possible to learn what they need to know to make sustainability-driven business decisions.


See more details about the important lessons from companies—in a range of industries—on how to achieve sustainability in our new book “Leading Sustainably”, available now from Routledge and Amazon.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.


About the Authors

Trista Bridges is a strategy and marketing expert with extensive experience across various geographies and sectors including consumer products, financial services, technology, and healthcare.

Donald Eubank is an experienced manager who has worked across the IT, finance, and media industries in Asia.

They advise businesses on sustainability and are co-founders of Read the Air, a coalition of strategy and operations professionals, and co-authors of “Leading Sustainably—The Path to Sustainable Business and How the SDGs Changed Everything” (Routledge).


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

COVID-19: Business Response, Recovery, and Sustainability

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COVID-19: Business Response, Recovery, and Sustainability

Join me Feb 4/21, 9am EST for an enlightening episode.

COVID-19 has forever changed the way we do business, think about business, adapt to business needs, and think about our responses to crisis and disaster situations. I speak to renown industry expert, entrepreneur, trainer, and author, Geary Sikich, as we chat about some of the COVID-19 related thoughts he presented at the Continuity & Resilience Today (CRT) conference in Oct/20. Geary touches on some key themes relating to COVID, from Supply Chain Mgmt. to Risk Management to the growing needs for an ‘all-hazards’ approach to help build resilience, Be sure to tune in and listen to Geary’s incredible insights on COVID-19, and the future of the Risk and Business Continuity Management industries, including how Governments and the Private sector will need to work together going forward.

Don’t miss it!

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A Wave of Inspiration

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A Wave of Inspiration

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

The following blog is provided by Anie Rouleau. It is a companion to her and Daniele Henkel’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on titled Certified B Corporations Seek to Improve Our World that aired on March 24th, 2020.


In 2003, I went on a solo adventure and traveled around the world for 18 months. In every country I visited, I sat down in the parliament to hear what the local pressing socio-economic issues were. Time after time the same challenge surfaced… the environment.

From Africa – where the concern was access to clean drinking water, to Australia – where I swam over disappearing grey coral reefs, to Chile – where I witnessed a plane flying over lakes to steal water for Argentinian vineyards.

Growing in up Canada with the abundance of freshwater lakes and rivers surrounded by two oceans, I was flabbergasted by this reality. I quickly understood the meaning of Blue Gold, a book by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke that deeply moved me.

Concerned about this reality, water became my inspiration and motivation.


A Wave of Innovation

Principal source of all life, water is vital to human health.

Paradoxically, water is the main ingredient in almost all of our products. Water is also required to use most of our products. Offering biodegradable products to limit the damage in our water sources is a good start, but we must also be aware of the harmful repercussions of single use plastic packaging. These containers and plastic particles are largely found in our oceans and today form impressive plastic islands. We are part of an industry known for its single-use packaging and products that have damaging impacts on the ecosystem.

As conscious citizens and a responsible company, it is our duty to ensure the least impact possible on our waterways throughout the lifecycle of our products. For example, our new ecodesigned dish tabs have been tested to be efficient at low temperatures from 45° Celsius and in a shorter wash cycle. Not very extraordinary for some, but highly impactful on a larger scale and a small win for the company.


A Wave of Freshness

In our collective imagination, a wave represents a strong force of nature. Sometimes calm and peaceful other times tumultuous, water occupies an intimate place in which ecological concerns come to take root. If the wave on our bottles could talk it would tell you that it symbolizes cleanliness, foam, and effectiveness. Figuratively, the wave is our source of inspiration and wealth that must be thought of every day. Its beauty is present in every room where there is a water source in our homes, from the laundry room to the kitchen.

It’s easy to forget to drink enough water every day, it’s equally easy to forget that we waste water every day. In Canada, we’re privileged by its abundance from coast to coast, from the base of the Rocky Mountains in the West to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in the East.

Let the wave on our bottles serve as a daily reminder throughout your household that water is precious and an essential part of our lives.

A Wave of Change

Just like our products, an actual ocean breeze does not smell like anything, yet it brings a sense of peace, wellness, and desire for change. Water scarcity is a worldwide challenge that is current and pressing, awakening a strong motivation for change. What if one day our entire product line contains no water and has no packaging?


To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.


About the Author

Anie Rouleau, a Montrealer born to a business-oriented family, Baléco’s Founding CEO knows how to do business without compromising her values and convictions. That’s why she chose to redefine the notion of clean by creating a line of ecofriendly home and body care products designed for conscious living. Fervent defender of local sourcing, she sits on different committees, including Made in Montreal. Women leadership and ethics being causes close to her heart, she is a mentor for young women in business. She is also part of Quebec entrepreneurship promotion groups. Mother of two, Anie is driven by her desire to protect future generations. By investing in innovation and eco-design within an industry which sets his sight far from sustainable development issues, she seeks with Baléco to define tomorrow’s business as a transparent entity, respectful of its employees, the community and the environment.


Photo by Alexandra Côté-Durrer

Five Ways to Activate the Plural Sector

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Five Ways to Activate the Plural Sector

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

This blog is provided by Erica Fowler. It is a companion to Henry Mintzberg’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal, Beyond, Left, Center, Right which aired on 1/21/20.


The International Leadership Association (ILA) held its global conference in Ottawa, Canada, in 2019 with the theme ‘Leadership, Courage Required’. Maureen Metcalf, an ILA fellow, hosted a series of live-recorded interviews with global leadership experts to explore their research, best practices, and expert view of the complex issues facing us today. In this interview, Henry Mintzberg discusses his recently published book ‘Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right, Center’ and the key to uniting and mobilizing our fragmented leaders.

There is no denying that today’s political and social climate is polarized. It is often described as a pendulum that swings back and forth, gravitating to each extreme, a large swath of people or issues frozen in the middle. Presently, the pendulum seems as if it is at greater risk of breaking in half than swinging to one side or the other. In discussing this polarization, Mintzberg illustrates the unrest with figures from the most recent ranking of democracies by The Economist. Less than 6% of the world population lives in a full democracy. The United States ranked #25 as a flawed democracy, and the global score was the worst since the rankings began in 2006. Despite the downward trend in recent years, all is not lost.

In his book, Mintzberg discusses the need to ‘rebalance society’ on its three pillars. Two we well know, the public (government) and private (privately held businesses and corporations), but the third isn’t as obvious to some. He calls this missing piece the ‘plural sector,’ and it’s comprised of the community, member-owned co-operatives, foundations, and most importantly, you and me. The plural sector mobilizes grassroots efforts and large-scale social change.

Similarly, in the well-known book Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses the concept of the flywheel. Under the right conditions, an exemplary leader, a shared passion, and a common goal, companies that steadily exert the pressure of their collective efforts can manifest change that builds quietly over time and finally reaches a tipping point, gaining momentum and breaking through barriers. In Jim’s book, years of perseverance under these circumstances often led to stock market returns that were many times higher than that of the average market or competitive companies.

Like good-to-great companies, grassroots efforts require the plural sector to unite behind a common cause and, as Mintzberg says, ‘put teeth into’ that cause. It demands action with not only their unification, their protests, and their words – but with their own sustained and focused action. The plural sector is the force or the pressure needed to turn the flywheel and elicit action from the public and private sectors.

In his forthcoming research, Mintzberg is exploring how to mobilize the plural sector to rebalance society and offers some hints in this interview.

    1. Responsibility: Mintzberg insists that we must recognize that change starts with us. Technological advances, like the smartphone, have made it easier than ever for us to escape into our palms and ignore not only the needs of the surrounding community but ourselves. Pay the extra dollar. We are complicit in perpetuating polarization when we rejoice in the affordable consumption of goods that are manufactured by those that do not make a living wage.
    2. Relevance: Integrating into the plural sector allows issues facing the community to become relevant before they become personal. Mintzberg discusses relevance in the context of climate change. Melting ice caps and the plight of the polar bears is not proximal enough to most people’s daily lives to impact them in a meaningful way. But when the river next to their home rises enough to flood the basement, the changing climate is not as easily dismissed.
    3. Focus: Globalization and social media have ushered in freedom of choice and expression in ways unprecedented in human history. Our efforts are fragmented, and the pressure needed to enact change does not have the limitations needed for it to build up and breakthrough. Taking responsibility for issues that are relevant to your community allows critical mass to form behind an issue to build sufficient pressure.
    4. Perseverance: Change on a large scale or on the deep-rooted issues that drive polarization may require years or even decades of pressure. Instant gratification is a reality in so many facets of our life that we expect it in every interaction or endeavor. We become impassioned by new causes frequently and lose the focus and momentum that could, if sustained, breakthrough as real, meaningful change.
    5. Accountability: Hold accountable those who push to imbalance society for personal gain. Mintzberg recognized that Occupy Wallstreet was fine as a protest, but no meaningful change came from it because the behaviors behind closed doors remained unchanged. It’s a start, but it’s not enough to peacefully protest with our feet and our voices. We must also protest with our votes and our actions.




To unite the plural sector and manifest change through the public and private sectors we must immerse ourselves in our communities, recognize that we are required to become the change we want to see in the world, and peacefully fight for what we believe in with our votes, our voices, and our actions.


To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.


About the Author

Erica N. Fowler, Ph.D., is a strategy and analytics professional with a profound interest in developing data-driven solutions to improve health and business outcomes. She studied Public Health specializing in social epidemiology at The Ohio State University and holds ten years’ experience melding industry experience with academic discipline. Her experience includes analytics product development, measurement strategy, database operations, business intelligence analytics, and statistical modeling.

Dr. Fowler’s passion is professional development consulting as a certified Birkman Method consultant. She uses the Birkman Method, enhanced by her analytic skillset, to develop individual and group programs that foster emotional intelligence to improve communication skills and productive teamwork.

Her day job is Product Manager for the Applied Data Science and Omnichannel Experience teams at Syneos Health, the first end-to-end integrated pharmaceutical solutions organization. She serves as a contributing faculty member to the Health Education & Promotion program at Walden University, where she oversees the dissertation process for doctoral students. In her spare time, Dr. Fowler enjoys traveling the world, yoga, reading, and spending time with her family.

Photo by Pixource


The Declaration of Our Interdependence for 2020 Vision

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The Declaration of Our Interdependence for 2020 Vision

This blog is provided by Dr. Henry Mintzberg. It is taken from the website https://www.ourinterdependence.org/ and used with permission. This blog is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal, Beyond, Left, Center, Right which aired on 1/21/20.

How to restore balance in this lopsided world?

Encouraging is that so many concerned people are engaged in so many constructive activities—whether to restore social justice, reverse the change in climate and the decline in democracy, or build the social economy—and that so many more people are ready to go.

Missing, however, has been a guiding vision, a statement of purpose as a way forward—toward a consolidated movement for global reformation.

This is why a group of us developed this Declaration of our Interdependence. Please read it, and if you agree with it, sign it, and share it widely.

Let this be a happy new year—for 2020 vision.

The Story of This Declaration

This story can be traced back to 1991, when Henry Mintzberg, a professor of management at McGill University in Montreal, visited Prague just as the communist regimes were collapsing in Eastern Europe. Western pundits at the time were proclaiming the triumph of capitalism, but from here it looked like balance had triumphed, over imbalance. The communist regimes were severely out of balance, with too much power concentrated in their public sector governments, whereas the successful democracies of the West had maintained a relative balance of power across their public sector governments, private sector businesses, and—crucially—plural sector communities. This misunderstanding would drive the Western democracies themselves out of balance, in favor of private sector markets. These thoughts were outlined in a 1992 article, and eventually published in a 2015 book entitled Rebalancing Society.

Irene is a Canadian manager who has worked in the private and plural sectors. After reading an early draft of this book, she said “I’d like to do something. I just don’t know where to start.”  This became The Irene Question in the book, and has occupied much of Henry’s attention ever since. What can each of us do, and what can all of us do—in our communities, associations, businesses, and governments? The answers, it turns out, are numerous—witness all the activities of concerned people the world over, from marching in protests to growing their social economies. Lacking, however, has been a vision to consolidate these efforts into a widespread movement for global reformation.

Toward this end, in February of 2019, nine people gathered at a retreat near Montreal, out of which came a map to visualize balance across the sectors, a table to order various ideas for action, and the decision to create a declaration of interdependence. On the drive back to Montreal from the retreat, Henry and Jeremiah Lee, a consultant in Boston, went through the clauses of the American Declaration of Independence, one by one, and began to draft clauses for today’s interdependence, using the wording of the original declaration where helpful. Many drafts later, the nine of us who participated in the creation of this document (listed first in the signatories) agreed that this declaration was ready to be posted—for 2020 vision.


The Declaration of our Interdependence

For two centuries, the American Declaration of Independence served as the model to grow democracy. Now our world has reached the limits of growth driven by the pursuit of individual rights at the expense of shared responsibilities. Faced with the threats of warming, weapons, waste, and the lopsided distribution of wealth, we must declare our interdependence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created dependent—on each other, our earth, and its climate—endowed with the inalienable responsibility to maintain justice, liberty, and affiliation for all. Thus our societies must sustain balance across public sector governments that are respected, private sector businesses that are responsible, and plural sector communities that are robust. Some societies retain this balance; others have lost it; many never had it. We propose the following resolutions to guide the rebalancing of society:

1 Balance.pngBalance begins when each of us decides how we shall become part of the solution. By doing nothing, we remain part of the problem.

2 We advance.pngWe advance to action in our communities, networked to consolidate a global movement for peaceful reformation.

3 We commit.pngWe commit to the ideals of social conscience, fair trade, and good government, to replace the dogma of imbalance—that greed is good, markets are sufficient, and governments are suspect. We explore our human resourcefulness by resisting our exploitation as human resources.

4 We build.pngWe build worthy institutions in all three sectors of society—departments in government, enterprises in business, associations in communities—from the ground up, with widespread engagement that carries individual leadership into collective communityship.

5 At the tables.pngAt the tables of public policy, we strive to replace the compromises of self-interest with the coalescing of common interest.

6 We challenge.pngWe challenge the rampant corruption that is legal as vigorously as we expect our governments to prosecute the overt corruption that is criminal.

7 Sustainable.pngSustainable global balance requires substantial global government. We call on all democratic nations to rally for lasting peace, by containing any power that aims to dominate while holding economic globalization in its place, namely the marketplace.

These resolutions require concerted action, not by centrally orchestrated planning so much as through a groundswell of initiatives by concerned citizens the world over, to restrain our worst tendencies while encouraging our best. For the future of our planet and our progeny, this is the time to get our collective act together.

As one people indivisible under one big sky,
we pledge to defend balance in this priceless world.


You can sign the declaration here.


To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.


About the Author

Henry Mintzberg is a writer and educator, mostly about managing originations, developing managers, and rebalancing societies, which is his current focus. Henry sits in the Cleghorn Chair of Management Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University in Montreal.

He has authored 20 books, including Simply Managing and Bedtime Stories for Managers, which have earned him 20 honorary degrees. Henry co-founded the International Masters Program for Managers as well as a venture CoachingOurselves.com, novel initiatives for managers to learn together from their own experience, the last in their own workplace.

Henry may spend his professional life dealing with organizations, but he spends his private life escaping from them—mostly in a canoe, up mountains, and on a bicycle. You can find out more about his adventures on mintzberg.org, which includes his blog.

Photo by Min An


Corporate Citizenship – The De Beers Group

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Corporate Citizenship – The De Beers Group

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

This blog is provided by Cynthia Cherrey, President and CEO of International Leadership Association. It is a companion to the 12-week International Leadership Association Interview Series that began with Pat Dambe’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, titled Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship.


Global corporations shape the future of business. They play a pivotal role in the communities in which they reside and in the wellbeing of our global community. Governments have a similar, if not greater, responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their communities and the countries that they govern.

This podcast is the first in an International Leadership Association (ILA) 12-part series hosted by ILA Fellow Maureen Metcalf, creator of Innovating Leadership, Co-Creating Our Future on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel. In this episode, Metcalf interviews De Beers Vice President Pat Dambe about the partnership between the government of Botswana and the De Beers Group of companies.

It is a fascinating interview that gives us an understanding of Botswana’s way toward independence from the British in 1966, the discovery of diamonds one year later, and the leaders at the time who had the foresight to build a better future for Botswana. The leaders of De Beers and Botswana, practically from the start, entered into a joint venture committed to ensuring that every diamond found belonged to every person in Botswana, contributing towards education, healthcare, and infrastructure. That vision and commitment resulted in Botswana shifting from one of the poorest African countries 52 years ago to a prosperous African country today.

Pat Dambe, with Maureen’s insightful questions, shares that story, touching on the leadership vision, the partnership between the country and the company, and the successes and challenges of that partnership.

The interview is infused with leadership lessons. It reminds us how everything in nature is related to everything else and how companies and countries reflect these highly complex ecosystems. It reinforces the importance of cultivating relationships and optimizing the tensions to find the commonalities. It reminds us about the importance of leadership looking forward, toward a future for the greater good of all instead of the immediate good of a few. And it helps us to remember that each of us is important, and each of us has the ability and the responsibility to contribute and to give to the common good.

Helping to create a better world through our leadership work is something that we take seriously at the International Leadership Association. We hope you will listen to this thought-provoking podcast series over the coming weeks (episodes air each Tuesday at 2PM Eastern or on-demand) as Maureen explores in each interview various leadership approaches for the health and wellbeing of our future communities.


To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Cynthia Cherrey, President and CEO of the International Leadership Association (ILA), a global network of leadership scholars, educators, and practitioners. Previously, Cynthia served as Vice President and Lecturer in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She publishes in the areas of leadership, organizational development, and higher education including co-authoring Systemic Leadership: Enriching the Meaning of our Work, co-editing ILA’s Building Leadership Bridges book series, and her most recent publication is Women and Leadership around the World (co-editor). She is a Fellow at the World Business Academy and a recipient of a J.W. Fulbright Scholarship.

Cynthia’s interests and research explore new ways to live, work, and lead in a knowledge driven, interdependent, global society. She consults and speaks to for-profit and non-profit organizations around the world on leadership and organizational change.

6 Key Recommendations To Address Current Business And Social Challenges

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6 Key Recommendations To Address Current Business And Social Challenges

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

The following blog is a republish of an article appearing in Forbes written by Maureen Metcalf. It is a companion to the International Leadership Association Interview Series that is beginning this week with Pat Dambe’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, titled Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship.


For the last five years, I have attended the International Leadership Association (ILA) annual conference and written about what I’ve learned during this experience. The twenty-first conference was held in Ottawa, Canada. The theme was “Leadership: Courage Required.”

I was named a fellow of the ILA in 2019. This article reflects my experience with the presenters and participants at the conference. I share this experience with you because I value the insights I gain, and I believe that we, as leaders, need to come together in our thinking and actions to influence our organizations. To do this, we need to learn from the best models, frameworks and people who are already making a significant impact. We need to cocreate the future we want to leave for generations that follow.

The conference opened with a reception at the Canadian Museum of History. Considering the entire arc of history, we are walking the planet at a time when our actions have a disproportionate impact on the future. Early people impacted us, and what we do will have a larger legacy. The principle among many indigenous peoples that this consideration should extend to the next seven generations reminds us our actions matter in the long term.

  1. We are continually hearing about polarization, the strengthening of the extremes and subsequent weakening of the “middle” or more balanced ideas. I left the conference reenergized because of the research and the actions I saw to reduce polarization and rebalance our companies, communities and countries. This can be done by bringing constituents from for-profits, governments, co-ops, nonprofits, nongovernment agencies and others together to address our biggest challenges. I recommend continually seeking out people with different points of view when you are making difficult decisions and actively working to understand what smart people who perceive the world differently see that you may have overlooked. Below are lessons from people who are solving these problems in their contexts.  A great example of this model playing out is the partnership between a large jewelry company and the government of an African nation, as discussed by a conference panelist. Diamond mining is funding a major investment in the country’s ability to build infrastructure, educate the population and grow 21st century business ventures. This case study illustrates that the theoretical framework is transforming a country in Africa. If it can work at this scale, it can certainly work on a smaller scale in our communities and companies.
  2. Another example of bridging significant societal differences is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The commission documented the historic abuse of indigenous children in residential schools and offered 94 Calls to Action for all levels of government to take to repair the harm done to indigenous peoples and create space to move forward with reconciliation. Answering these calls requires a great deal of work to build trust and take the best interests of the overall country into consideration along with the interests of individual constituent groups. While most of us aren’t involved in redress for abuses, I recommend we take to heart the spirit of truth, respect and fairness to all people. Different people with different perspectives create stronger solutions to complex problems.
  3. Innovation happens when we are curious about difference, yet research indicates that about half of those surveyed don’t want to follow a leader who was a different gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The unwillingness to follow a leader of a different political party goes up to about two-thirds. To me, this data is a call to action — we need to see differences as the opportunity to build a more innovative and holistic future. If we discount people or don’t understand their perspectives, we create less robust solutions. We all lose!
  4. Women in leadership are an integral part of business and society. In addition to numerous panels, presentations and workshops led by women, we heard from the first female prime minister of Canada and several successful female leaders and businesswomen, two of whom received lifetime achievement awards.  These women were the first in their organizations and have worked tirelessly for decades to continue to impact their fields. They serve as advocates, role models and people who break stereotypes. They exemplify what is possible when we stay committed to our purpose and work together to ensure we can create a better world. We have read for years now that the inclusion of women is required to deliver innovative and robust solutions to challenges and bottom-line results. We have many female role models to inspire us with their experiences.
  5. Peace starts from within. It is contagious. We can build peaceful organizations when we start small, with how we manage our own feelings, as well as starting big with significant research about what creates peace in our evolving world. The process of being self-aware, managing our emotions and meeting anger with curiosity is key.
  6. Character can be defined and measured. During a time when many of us are disappointed in the leaders and institutions we have trusted, there are robust frameworks and models that offer organizations a way to talk about leadership character, hire for it, test it and develop it. If the saying “What gets measured gets delivered” is true, it is important to have these measurement tools to provide us a path to elevate the conversation about character.

If we want to tackle the issues in front of us and act purposefully so future generations prosper, creative destruction is required. We need to disrupt ourselves, our mindsets, our behaviors, our cultures and our systems if we are to cocreate the future that is possible for all of us. The inspiring news is that we have thought leaders, academics, business leaders, public sector and nonprofit institutions and political leaders aligned with solving issues. Who is serving as a model in your life to move forward?


To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, coach, consultant, author and speaker.

Photo by Johan Bos


Synergise – Developing 21st Century Leaders By Maureen Metcalf

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Synergise – Developing 21st Century Leaders By Maureen Metcalf

This post is a companion to the Voice America show Synergise – Defining 21st Century Leaders with Maureen Metcalf & Dr. Robin Lincoln Wood. The post is written by Dr. Wood.
“As the twenty-first century unfolds, a new scientific conception is emerging. It is a unified view that integrates, for the first time, life’s biological, cognitive, social, and economic dimensions. At the forefront of contemporary science, the universe is no longer seen as a machine composed of elementary building blocks. We have discovered that the material world, ultimately, is a network of inseparable patterns of relationships; that the planet as a whole is a living, self-regulating system.

… Evolution is no longer seen as a competitive struggle for existence, but rather a cooperative dance in which creativity and constant emergence of novelty are the driving forces. And with the new emphasis on complexity, networks, and patterns of organisation, a new science of qualities is slowly emerging.”

Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi

Right now we are at one of the major turning points for our species. The decisions we make going forward, especially in the next decade, will shape the future of homo sapiens and life on earth for many centuries, if not millennia, to come.
Our beautiful blue pearl of spaceship earth is host to 7.5 billion earthlings, in the midst of at least eight major transitions through Eras 2, 3 and 4, from agricultural through modern to regenerative civilisations. Our biggest challenge is neither technological nor scientific, but psychological, organisational and social.

How can 7.5 billion human beings be aligned in order to co-create thriveable futures, and ensure a viable biosphere for us all by 2050? We humans possess tremendous adaptive capacities, grounded in our having successfully transitioned through three major evolutionary eras.

We can build on our Era 1 ability to forge strong tribal bonds to ensure our local survival and thriving. These ethnocentric bonds and expressive talents are native to all of us, enabling us to take care of each other and the places we care for and hold sacred, while also exploring and connecting with nature and each other at a local level.
We can build on our Era 2 ability to manage cities, regions and nation states in more thriveable ways, respecting the rule of law and building intelligent infrastructures and systems fit for the future, based on enlightened entrepreneurship, conscious business sense and innovation. These civic-centric and enterprise-centric talents are increasingly evident around the world, from the developed nations to what were previously termed “developing countries”.

And we can build on our Era 3 ability to evolve our global systems embodied in our global treaties, corporations, markets and flows of people, goods, information and goodwill, so that our global systems also become a driver of a thriveable future for us all. These world-centric talents are now evident in nearly one billion global citizens, who are sufficiently educated and travelled that they can appreciate the glorious diversity of our species and other species.

As we enter Era 4, we now have the capacity to rapidly accelerate the evolution of our species, based on thriveable cultures, mindsets, principles and metrics. The forces and trends shaping our world and us are creating crises that demand a momentous leap from our previously lose-lose/win-lose “us versus them” mentality, to a co-creative, collaborative win/win/win approach.

This “triple win” is fundamental to aligning the interests and mindsets of all people on the planet, whatever kind of transition they are in and whatever their era: a win for each of us as individuals and for our communities, a win for the cities/towns/nations we live in, and a win for the planet as a whole. That is the whole point of synergistic innovation: co-creating triple wins.

There is much in this new approach that will appeal only to those who are willing to embrace complexity with a degree of openness to new perspectives that might at first appear surprising and counter-intuitive. Yet at the same time, there are several frameworks designed to provide simplified interfaces to topics that are devilishly complex for the uninitiated. In particular, the following frameworks are designed to enable you to remember and work with those elements of the book that are “psychoactive” i.e. designed to activate your own potentials and capacities for action to be an agent of thriveable evolution:

· The Four Eras Model – showcases the key aspects of the past 100 000 years of human evolution, to highlight the strengths and talents we have developed as a species to adapt and innovate. The core message from the way in which we have evolved and are still evolving, is that our socio-cultural ability to learn, communicate and innovate is the key to our survival, and our thriveability, enabling us to lock-in certain features of our world to the permanent benefit of us all. Put another way, we are who we are today because of the 10 000 major innovations that have locked in over the past 100 000 years, and which make it possible for you to even read and understand these words and then go and do something beneficial based on the fresh insights you have gained;

· The Eight Transitions Model – offers insights into the current state of the 7.5 billion humans on our planet through the lens of the eight transitions our species is currently experiencing. Some of those transitions are simply linear progressions from one Era to another, while some transitions involve a leapfrogging from Era 2 to Era 4 or Era 1 to Era 3. All of these transitions can be made more thriveable through the application of appropriate methods and technologies, including socio-cultural and mindset shifting approaches;

· The Eight Capitals Model – explores the eight essential ingredients that need to be regenerated in order to have an abundant and thriving future for all life on earth. The mix of these ingredients will vary depending upon the life conditions and culture being experienced in the system-in-focus, and the nature of the socio-technical systems being applied. A way of measuring the potential for ThriveAbility in any human system at any scale is explained in the ThriveAbility Equation, providing a means by which the outcomes of different options and innovations can be measured, integrated into a single outcome variable known as “True Future Value”;

· The Six Pathways Model – maps the journey from our current degenerative, exclusive societies to a regenerative, inclusive world are illustrated with dozens of examples, known as “pockets of the future in the present”. The pathways are based on the eight capitals integrated with the natural evolutionary paths of the current major industries that power our planet and our lifestyles today. Some innovations are simply incremental extensions of current technologies; products and practices confined to a single pathway. The most powerful synergistic innovations manage to combine elements of all six pathways, leading to breakthroughs that make the impossible possible;

· The Six Ingredients of Synergistic Innovation Model – applying the “Six C’s” model to any human activity system we are engaged with provides a powerful framework that enables any participant/observer to identify synergy zones and opportunities, as well as zones of compromise and conflict. The goal of any thriveable systems designer is to help the system they are focusing on, to go into healthy “upstretch” mode rather than shifting back down to a “downshift”.

Despite an increasingly volatile and uncertain world, we can take comfort in the fact that, despite the chaotic, hyper-complex life conditions we are currently experiencing in our various transitions into Era 4, evolution is unfolding as it should. The trajectory of evolution is, in the end, toward a global synthesis of all forms of life in a harmonious whole.
Evolution is Driven by the Synergies of Diversification and Integration Creating More

Complex and Conscious Wholes

As Daniel Wahl puts it:[ii]
“Modern evolutionary biology suggests that life evolves by a process of diversification and subsequent integration of diversity through collaboration. As the focus shifts from individuals and individual species as the unit of survival to the collective of life — its complex dynamic interactions and relationships — we begin to see that collaborative and symbiotic patterns and interactions are of more fundamental importance than competition as a driving force of evolution. Life’s key strategy to create conditions conducive to life is to optimize the system as a whole rather than maximizes only some parameters of the system for a few at the detriment of many.”

For those of us who seek to activate thriveable shifts in the people and systems we engage with on a daily basis, knowing this offers us a special reward – the knowledge that our lives have a purpose and meaning much higher than ourselves, and that we are called to be stewards of the greatest shift, the most momentous leap that humankind has ever made. I will leave you with these final eloquent words of Michelle Holliday to reflect upon as you being your own journey down this glorious path”

“The call of stewardship guides us toward continuous generativity – toward cultivating fertile ground and manifesting new possibilities for the future. To enable the system to take on a life of its own and to help it become truly, gloriously generative, the challenge of stewardship is to navigate a thoughtful mix of control, guidance and nurturing; to tend to both individual and collective; and to support the system’s wisdom, learning and enrichment, as well as its accomplishment of tasks and milestones.

Climate Change Battles; Where is the Collaboration? By David B. Savage

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Climate Change Battles; Where is the Collaboration? By David B. Savage

I am saddened by the constant battle for higher ground in the Climate Change Public Relations Wars. Where is the intelligence? Where is the collaboration? Where is the innovation? Where is the commitment? Our planet and our grandchildren deserve far better than this.

Like the famous painting shown here, the battle rages on and while there are peacemakers, where are those making the necessary changes? Or in the energy battles, will we continue to cut down those with great technical knowledge and reduce those with a great social conscience?

Like politics, in the climate discussion, the battles take the forefront while the war is being lost. It matters little who has a more acceptable or stronger social message, we must fix this mess. We must reduce emissions of all kinds. We must stop this dangerous trend.

Here is what I experience today (click the links to websites as you read);

1) Before the Flood: Leonardo DiCaprio hopes his new film will inspire climate action

Before the Flood article

2) Director of DiCaprio’s Before The Flood documentary ‘horrified’ by Alberta oilsands

Horrified by Tar Sands

3) this is where backgrounds, perceptions, and judgments divert us all into separate “camps”. Let’s move forward with additional perspectives.

4) Emissions by Country

EPA CO2 Emissions by Country

5) The oil sands industry currently accounts for approximately 0.12% of global GHG emissions. (Environment Canada 2015)

Share of Global CO2 Emissions

6) The IEA forecasts that in the next 25 years oil sands production in Canada will increase by more than three million barrels per day, “but the emissions of this additional production is equal to only 23 hours of emissions of China — not even one day,”

IEA on Oil Sands Emissions

7) Cowspiracy

What’s 10 x fossil fuel’s impact?

8) Transitioning

How do we go to renewables?

9) Energy Education

Primary Energy Information

10) More energy sources including nuclear

Nuclear and other energy

11) Four Reasons Why the Transition From Fossil Fuels to a Green Energy Era Is Gaining Traction
Change is happening now

12) Cumulative Effects
realize that cumulative effects are the elephant in the room.

Cumulative Effects

Call to Action;

Remember the saying; “Bull shit baffles brains”? Too often, special interest groups and powerful organizations divert us from finding our own truth. Let’s collaboration, learn what is true for us, explore and commit to innovation and, most importantly, change our own behaviors and purchasing.

Rather than give more of your money to King Leonardo with his massive yachts, or Al Gore as he flies the world to end (the use of jet fuel?) emissions, support oil interests, or keep buying large vehicles and consuming cheap energy like there is no accountability, let’s take our own decisions and put our time and money where we intelligently decide.

You have access to the internet, do your own fact checking! You have a global network, collaborate for a better tomorrow. Let’s talk.

As we explore (and Break Through to Yes: Unlocking the Possible within a Culture of Collaboration , here are few suggestions that I take to heart to reduce my own impact on climate change and GHG emissions;

a) walk most everywhere. Take public transit wherever it is too far to walk. Ride your bike! Cars are can be used as a secondary transport system for long distances as a backup, not a primary source. Think of moving around your neighborhood after supper rather than turning on the TV.

b) turn off stuff, especially lights. An estimated 25- 40% of our home energy use is “vampire power” (those 27 clocks and flatscreen TVs that must be ready to immediately turn on 24/7, the internet of everything (where everything in our homes is being connected to the internet…) homes

c) elect to purchase renewables from your electrical provider.

d) educate ourselves on energy and buy/ consume accordingly. Can we have an intelligent learning conversation on wind, sun, nuclear, oil, natural gas, geothermal,…?

e) get involved in networks/ organizations/ conversations that encourage healthy learning from diverse perspectives (rather than blaming and shaming).

f) eat less beef and more veggies…

g) start an energy literacy group and understand interests, outcomes, and directions.

h) Live in a Net Zero home

Net Zero Homes

i) Think sustainability, think collaboration, lead as if the future matters.


What you can do?

What will you do today?

The Collaborative Global Initiative is a group of professionals with very diverse views and backgrounds on energy and environmental protection that are changing the conversations between stakeholders to create a better future for all. CGI

Be the change.

Let’s start this change now. Let’s work together.

Let’s Break Through to Yes with Collaboration.

2017 weekly series starts January 26th!

The Global Compact: The Leader Summit 2016

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The Global Compact: The Leader Summit 2016



The Global Compact is an incredible alliance created by the United Nations in 2000 which is a call to all companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. By doing this, the private sector and institutions in all countries can take and generate actions that will advance societal goals.

One of the ideas of the Global Compact is that ‘Business as a force for good’. With this in mind, companies commit to world sustainability; here is where business takes a shared responsibility for achieving a better world.

I was be in New York City attending the United Nations Global Compact’s LEADER SUMMIT, where leaders convened to translate the Sustainable Development Goals into business action and innovation everywhere.

Join me as we learn how to make global goals our local business and how businesses can be a change agent in attaining a better world.



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