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What are the skills business sustainability leaders should have?

October 22, 2012
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sustainabilityA blog post from Taiga Company:

Identifying, developing, and retaining quality resources has always been critical to long-term business sustainability. However, some experts now believe traditional subject matter expertise will not be the limiting factor in the future. As we evolve into a new state of business sustainability post recession, the quality of a company’s leaders will play a defining role in every company’s transition. For this reason, our sustainability consulting returns its attention to the qualities that will define tomorrow’s business sustainability leaders.

Within the GreenBiz post, 9 Skills for Success in Corporate Sustainability Leadership, we find interesting insights into what characteristics which others believe leaders should posses. The article leverages a popular work from Timothy J. Mohin, which offers the following advice to aspiring business sustainability leaders.

  • Be flexible like Gumby and curious like George: Working in CR is a lifelong learning experience that rewards the flexible and curious.
  • Hold on to your core competency while learning new skills: The key to success is to walk the line between contributing knowledge from your core competencies, and being pigeonholed into a narrow role defined by these competencies.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate: There is no other single skill as important as communication for success in corporate responsibility. Whether in written communications, in speaking to large groups, or in persuading a small group of internal stakeholders, communications skills are essential.
  • Lead through influence: Leading through influence means building relationships with internal stakeholders, which can be tricky.
  • Read the system: An important skill is to understand the overarching paradigm of the business and culture you work in and how it shapes corporate behavior.
  • Learn and practice “corporate jujutsu”: The essential skill here is to absorb the force of the resistance with grace (gentle, supple, flexible, pliable, or yielding) but stick with your values and find creative alternatives to continue to work with your business partners to achieve success (manipulating the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force).
  • Be entrepreneurial: Success depends on being able to find, assess, and prioritize initiatives that can add value to the company. This can be done from any level in the company, but requires an entrepreneurial mindset.
  • Pay attention to detail, discipline, quality, and results: An important attribute to any successful corporate responsibility program is a disciplined management system. This means that you need to understand and clearly communicate the measurable goals that your program will deliver each year and develop the business processes that will produce these results.
  • Above all, passion for the cause: Whether you add value by developing detailed management systems or by running an entrepreneurial skunk works, the common element for most people in corporate responsibility jobs is passion for the cause.

Growing business eco awareness and resulting business sustainability risk has provided senior level executives with a fresh perspective on the organizations core competencies. Specifically, today’s groundbreakers are reevaluating the qualities that define the company’s business sustainability leaders.

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