Sustainability is the new Mindset.

With Great Power comes Great Responsibility

What kind of Leadership is needed to tackle the 21th century’s biggest social and environmental problems today? What is the role of leadership to drive positive change in our business models and social systems ?

Leadership is a movement, it is an act, but without a noun in front of it has no impact.  Leaders are called for that action so it is important how we define them. 

You can be a bold leader, You can be a charismatic leader or an emphatic one.. 

Those are general personality traits, but being a responsible leader is different because it comes with a choice: The choice to go beyond assuming only the power of a leadership position, and also rising up to the responsibility for the consequences of this power.

A decision making power that would equalize social systems, closing gaps in minds and living conditions will make a difference. It also requires collective action.

Today’s leadership journey will be marked with the number of choices we made on those decisive moments, the ones that we will choose in favour of the systems, the greater good for all. But to do that, we will need to be equipped with the right tools and perspectives around the concept ‘’Systems Thinking’’.  

Lets get deeper knowledge about Systems Approach. How organisations like European Innovation Committe deals with it? Why NGO’s like BMW Foundation and Schwab Foundation – sister organisations of WEF- poures their resources to the dissemination of responsible leadership? 

Let’s Define Systems Thinking 

There are many definitions of course but I fancy the Wikipedia one: Systems thinking is a way of making sense of the complexity of the world by looking at it in terms of wholes and relationships rather than by splitting it down into its parts. 

It is pretty straight forward but to get serious about it we need methodology, practice and compassion for our problems. When we transfer the paradigm into the business world things get complicated as the foundations of creating a business is mostly for profit, benefiting a specific group of stakeholders engaged.

Therefore the challenge is a big one that requires a decision making power leveraged in favor of stakeholder capitalism rather than shareholders only. That is why there is increasing ambition to influence leaders on C suite.

The CEO Mindset

The role of the CEO’s are changing as they are being expected to deliver short term results as well as long term goals that are in line with the society’s well being. 

This is the greatest dilemma. 

  • Can it be achieved?


It is about being part of a broader system that if we can contribute positively, it raises all boats. As CEOs are taking on the systems-value view, they acknowledge that no business can succeed in a vacuum and long-term success requires collaboration with others. This marks a shift from transactional engagements to more relational engagements.

It is important to note that CEOs see this shift in perspective as business sense, not corporate philanthropy. Business that takes the systems perspective, gradually moves away from customer centricity and customer needs towards systems centricity and system’s needs.

Strange Times, Unusual Practices

The subject of this article was mainly about ‘’Responsible leadership’’ from the perspective of the C suit. But I want to end up with a different note highlighting the importance of change agents, intrapreneurs struggeling in corporate environments to accelerate change. 

So far, little is known about the work of Social Intrapreneurs and their challenges. There is a research piece under the name ‘‘Business as Unusual’’ launched at the World Economic Forum in January 2020 and anyone who wants to read a copy can download the research from here.

Soon after great leaders of the World exchanged their views on the growing importance of stakeholder capitalism and ‘’business as unusual’’ at WEF Davos Convention in 2020, we entered into a period of a giant health crises and we remembered our fragility as a species.

A perfect reason for us all to take sustainability personally, be the leader we want to see. The responsibility falls more on C level executives because they have more power, but we can’t wait for their enlightenment.  We need to follow Greta and her like minded peers as they didn’t wait. 

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