A family member, who also happens to be the president of a very large corporation, actually laughed when I told her about us doing a talk recently at a Sustainable Enterprises Conference on, “Sustainable Leadership in Chaotic Times.” Her response was, “Or, unsustainable as it may be!” She laughed despite how stressed out and frustrated she seemed to be.

That’s the way many in leadership feel these days. A magnitude of responsibility is weighing on leaders to not only lead more effectively but to also to do it in a way that doesn’t burn them out. And for many women, sustainable leadership is not something we were honed for in our trainings or experiences. And to many, sustainability commonly means reducing carbon emissions on our planet and recycling! Go green, right?

Sustainability as a movement was ahead of its time thirty years ago. The time is now for bringing in a new dawn of more sustainable leadership practices. It is a timely solution to the viral pathos of declining engagement within business cultures today which is at an all-time high. What’s the remedy? Well, of course, becoming a Sustainable Leader!

Women in C-Suite, upper management, as entrepreneurs or experts in their domains in leadership positions, have hoops to navigate. If they do too much they’re called bossy or masculine. Your multi-tasking goal completion magic can be threatening to others. There’s a lot of pressure on your style of leadership which impacts rapport and your success tract. If you fail to notice you’re needing to learn something new, a negative impact on your business will result.

With women now more than ever before stepping into increasing visibility in business, there might be some envy and judgment by others of any rise in power. And confusing as it may be, it’s perceived as a rise of power and not the actual reality.

Is power really leadership?

Take for example my family member, how much power does she really have over policies? I know that she’s really aware of the deficit of engagement in most corporate cultures. Understandably, without truly allowing those in leadership positions to actually make viable shifts in the internal business culture, there’s a lack of sustainability across all divisions and teams.

It’s important to understand that leadership really doesn’t have all that much to do with power.


Then let’s create a uniform understanding of what leadership is.

The word Lead comes from the Indo-European root “leith” which means going forward, crossing a threshold or even dying. In my humble opinion, a critical point to pay attention to is that a threshold must be crossed so that something new can emerge. Letting go of something we think we know or control can be experienced as a death, as stepping into the void. Power has little to do with it except for your skillfulness in discerning the best choice decision in each circumstance.

If the role that’s calling to you now in both your business and personal life isn’t nourishing and sustaining you in more ways than just financial, it’s the time to untether yourself from “it.” Whatever that “it” is it’s not sustainable long term. Is it the time right now for you to untether something that’s not serving you in leadership? Perhaps begin with your own perception of what leadership is.

With the stakeholders pointing fingers at those of you in leadership, your ship might be sinking. If you still want to be doing what you’re doing, it’s your path to become more sustainable in the way you approach your role as a leader. Your other option is to go down with the ship.

When you look at what the results of cultural dysfunction due to spotty leadership causes, it can be an eye opener. Here’s some examples of a potpourri of scenarios:

  • Pushed back deadlines
  • Marketing campaigns aren’t delivering
  • Employees you personally taken under your wing are jumping ship for other companies.
  • Low morale and teams ineffective at collaboration
  • Profit, growth and revenue seems harder to meet projection goals
  • Not exemplifying a desired ideal across all levels!
  • You’re working too many hours and are exhausted and stressed out!

If any of the above sounds familiar, then maybe the time is now for you to release what’s not working and electrify new opportunities.

Most of you probably upgrade your mobile phone every year or so, right? The technology is moving so quickly that if you held onto your old phone for three to five years, it would become a relic.

Sustainable Leadership may feel beyond entertaining as a benchmark goal. What if you began to look at leadership in a different way? Do you really have to do it all alone?

You may think that you have to do it alone for the “right way” results. But really, what’s needed in today’s chaotic environment, where business isn’t predictable and everything shows up unexpectedly, is to become more resilient and less isolated. That’s how to take yourself to a higher level of sustainability.

And that means developing within you an unlimited leadership capacity. And while you’re at it, why not take the rest of your teams with you too? That’s certainly more sustainable long-term!

In other words, embrace collaboration as your new “go to” leadership trait. Allowing others to grow their leadership skills too will upgrade not only efforts, profit, growth and efficiency but also increases engagement and loyalty too. When you demonstrate how you can take a situation of something that’s not working and by using a flexible mindset make refinements, speaks volumes of your leadership skillfulness.

A recent online summit hosted by The Shift Network, featured the topic, “Thriving in Your Third Act: Women Finding Fire & Fulfillment After 50.” Marianne Williamson spoke on “The Healing Power of Forgiveness.” To paraphrase her potent thoughts on forgiveness, each one of you carries memories of a burden, a heartache, a belief about not being enough in some way, that gets in the way of sustaining peace of mind, confidence, happiness, self-love…you name it! All the rich layers that have formed who you are. Forgiveness releases any negative thoughts that diminish your effectiveness in leadership.

Particularly relevant to leadership is that when you form new wisdom inside you, others in your orbit can also rise up fostered by your leading. To do that you must consider that a “top of the list” possibility that’s important to achieve.

Whether you’ve had children or not, you’ve birthed something new, haven’t you? A new idea? A new business? A relationship? Project? You’ve brought it forth. And whether you are over fifty years of age or in your thirties, you might consider that when you are most juicy, most alive, excited and creative in your role as a leader, you’re birthing something new. It could be a new marketing campaign or product launch. Or mentoring a younger woman as she begins stepping into her own unique leadership shoes. Of course, you also get to lead a diversity of genders too. Sustainable leadership gives others’ confidence in emerging or existing skill areas.

Step into Sustainable Leadership. Begin by asking Yourself:

  • What’s your own leadership confidence level?
  • Do you doubt or get stressed by challenging decisions?
  • Do you fret over small details you could delegate?
  • Are you trying to swim uphill or coast downstream 80% of the time?
  • Are there some areas you need to build more skills in?
  • Do you have a daily practice that replenishes you?

Humans have a natural drive and tendency to grow.

With the cultivation of skill growth in others, the entire business culture can make more of a positive impact on others. It’s the anti-boredom antidote. And the skills do not even have to be limited. What if someone on your team wanted to develop more confidence speaking to someone they’ve just met or in negotiating or in collaboration? Feeling they can share an innovative idea and running with it as a project? Those are all important skills that boost confidence and overall energy levels to feel less stressed out and more engaged at work.

Begin with increasing your own possibilities. Use your own awareness to grow to another level and take on new skills, even if that feels uncomfortable, hard or impossible.

What if as a leader you looked for opportunities or gaps to invite others to step into? It’s another piece of the sustainable leadership puzzle.
The new solution to true Sustainable Leadership is to focus on the WE and not only the YOU! That’s when you can shine in being the true leader you are inside.

It’s begins from the inside out. Business as usual is about selling a product or service. Engaging employees with sustainable leadership makes business as usual a growth opportunity for all.

When you make the choice to expand, you also begin saying a “NO!” to atrophy and staying stuck. You’re actually inviting in NEW POSSIBILITIES to be on a success tract as a sustainable leader.