A Sustainable Leadership Challenge

Daren Blonski

For those of you who haven't seen the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth featuring Al Gore, it highlights the Earth's immediate climate crisis. With all due respect, the film is moving, but it should not take a dramatized documentary for us to realize the crisis we face. Clearly, we have an effect on our environment-scientific data leaves no other conclusion. Part of the problem is that we utilize our environment with no regard for it. In addition to the consequences of global warming, environmental resources will become scarce as the world's population increases. Census data tells us that the world's population is currently six and a half billion and is expected to reach nine billion by 2050. At what point will the earth no longer be able to support its population? No one really knows.

For Generation X, there are many impending catastrophic issues. Unless we change "business as usual" and take a collective global stand against the degradation of the environment, our doom is sealed. Although I believe greatly in the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to intervene, one cannot help but wonder if we will reach a point where there are no more opportunities for intervention.

The only solution to the environment/population collision starts with you and me. Whether a CEO of a Fortune 100 Company or a member of the local community action group, you should have a vested interest in finding ways to shift our current path. The solution is complex, and each of us needs to be a leader in the process. As The Leadership Challenge states "Leadership is Everyone's Business." Leadership is the ticket to a sustainable future.

The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®, provide us with an ideal framework to enlist others to want this sustainable future:

  • Model the Way - Learning to Model the Way is essential to any leader's success. To be an effective leader you must be a shining example of the message you intend to deliver. Leadership is inherently about relationships and is experienced through various forms of communication. Modeling the Way is about communicating your message from a place of integrity. Leading others to a sustainable future means that first we must live in a sustainable way.
  • Inspire a Shared Vision - Changing our attitude toward the environment is going to take an incredible adjustment in the way we currently think. No longer will we be able to wash pollutants downstream and think that they will never show up in drinking water. Nor will we be able to continue to cut down our trees and think that it does not have an effect on the ozone layer and eventually temperatures around the world. We need to understand that we live in an interconnected world. The leaders of today and tomorrow must Inspire a Shared Vision of interconnectedness. A simple solution that would provide some relief would be to buy the things we need, and not the things we want. Ninety percent of what we think we need is more realistically only what we want. I envision a world where we all lust after a little less, knowing that we will, in the end, all get a little more.
  • Challenge the Process - Each of us has the power to adjust how we live. In The Five Practices® this is called Challenge the Process. Creating a sustainable future is all about challenging our current patterns of behavior. We can all make a little difference in our day-to-day lives. It is no secret that many companies create products that they know will be obsolete in a short amount of time. It is time to start creating socially responsible products that will not intentionally end up in land fills. Perhaps you are the head of a large company, faced with making a tough decision that would decrease your profits slightly, but would greatly benefit the climate. Will we step up to the challenge, or will we wait until the world is no longer inhabitable?
  • Enable Others to Act - When I speak of sustainability, I am not talking about left or right political agendas. In order for an effective sustainable movement to take place, all parties need to embrace the values of sustainability. Consuming less simply needs to become the "cool" thing to do. All who depend on air and water to live have a vested interest in embracing principles of collaboration and "green-ness." We need to empower each other to act responsibly, helping others to understand and to behave in ways that give thought for the future.
  • Encourage the Heart - The first unit of change is the heart! In The Leadership Challenge this practice is called Encourage the Heart. Effective leaders must recognize, appreciate, and celebrate the success of those whose efforts have made a difference. Doing so will build the desire to continue along a path that re-creates a world that will sustain us for generations to come.

One of the Master Facilitators for the Leadership Challenge® Workshop, Sharon Landes, concludes her two day sessions by reciting a piece from the Hopi Elders. This powerful statement provides a few moments of self-reflection and consideration of personal responsibility.

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.

Here are the things that must be considered:
    Where are you living?
    What are you doing?
    What are your relationships?
    Are you in right relation?
    Where is your water?
    Know our garden.
    It is time to speak your Truth.
    Create your community.
    Be good to each other.
    And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel like they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination.

The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off toward the middle of
the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.

See who is there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all
ourselves! For the moment we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lonely wolf is over.
Gather yourselves!

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary.

All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

The Elders,
Oraibi, Arizona
Hopi Nation

We have a pending crisis on our hands. Waiting for others to solve it will not work. What legacy will you leave? Will you step up to make a sustainable difference in your community?

Daren Blonski is an authorized affiliate of the Leadership Challenge. Daren studied at UC Davis where he received his bachelors in Organizational Studies. His passions are leadership philosophy and entrepreneurship. He enjoys spending time with his wife Shae and finding adventures outdoors.

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