It’s Not Always Unicorns and Rainbows – Authentic Leadership and Sustainable Partnerships

Sometimes people need a little gentle reminder that within the sustainability area it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. People may try and paint a picture that it’s all hugs and love and one family, but the brutal truth, right now, is that humanity is still quite far from this.

Credit: Simon Robinson

Credit: Simon Robinson

The majority of us are still caught up in our egos, and however much we talk about our networks and sharing and community and the new economy, unless a network of people has deep-seated shared values and lives by them, truly lives by them, there isn’t a network at all, but what I call a knotwork (networks with ego).

In Holonomics we discuss the dynamics of seeing, and this can be amazing if you are truly committed to developing yourself as the best leader you can be, the best you that you can be.

But if you do not have values, then the dynamics of seeing can be used not to expand your own consciousness, but to limit the awareness of others, to manipulate the understanding of others, to tell false stories and narratives to aggrandise yourself at the expense of others’ efforts and contributions.

Credit: Simon Robinson

Credit: Simon Robinson

So yes, in the world of sustainability, people will steal your stuff, plagiarise your work, cut you off if they feel threatened, stick their noses up at you, ignore you, make promises they have no intention of keeping, put you down, say stuff about you which simply isn’t true.

Co-creation? Phft. Faux-creation more like.

This happens in all walks of life and just because the subject is sustainability doesn’t suddenly magically change reality.

The squiggle of Knotworking

The squiggle of Knotworking

It takes a massive commitment to living your values, and although many people and organisations have done work on finding their purpose, without values behind that purpose, the path to attaining that purpose can become a moral hazard. Like attracts like and perhaps some people will end up in a knotwork without actually being able to see it.

Now here’s the thing. The reason why people often do these rubbishy things is that they lack confidence. They are insecure and they sense that they lack the content and the abilities that you have. So they have to go on the attack in often very subtle ways. But there’s no need to sweat any of this.

Confident people simply do not act in these ways, and these are the people you need to seek out and make as your peer group.

Insecure people can only think in terms of either/ or. They don’t share because they have this idea that if they share something that makes you successful, they will lose out. They can’t see the win/ win as confident people can, and so they will do all they can to shut you out. Like I said, no problems.

At Sustainable Brands last week Maria and I were lucky to meet many inspiration people doing some fantastic projects. I would like to mention two people who we met personally. Nowadays we often only like to write about people who we have actually met, as there is often this big gap between people’s words and actual reality of what they are doing and how they go about their business.

Credit: Sustainable Brands

Credit: Sustainable Brands

The first person I would like to mention is entrepreneur Dave Katz, one of the co-founders of The Plastic Bank. The final session of Sustainable Brands was a really excellent group exercise designed to help us maximise our connections and develop our personal action plans, and David was on our table.

We had a real mix of people in terms of their backgrounds, and three of four were from not-for-profit organisations looking to develop partnerships with major brands. We discussed the challenges of how to create successful partnerships with the likes of Walmart, New Balance etc, and then Dave offered this great advice on partnering:

  • Don’t get distracted partnering with large competitors. Try to partner instead with people at your own scale.
  • Some people don’t begin as they get overwhelmed and don’t believe they can achieve their goals. You have to plan your vision and then inch by inch everything is a cinch.
  • People have to have passion. Don’t have people who will poison your vision. Only hire people with values.
  • Mindset is everything, which will result in commitment. Your biggest challenge is to decide to get it done.

So here we see the huge importance of really knowing who you are partnering with, and ensuring right up front that they share the same values as you. If not, then simply don’t pursue.

The second person I would like to mention is Jim Hanna, Director of Environmental Impact at Starbucks. Maria and I attended the breakout session with Jim where he spoke about how to get buy-in in an organisation for sustainable initiatives. You can here him discuss these aspects in this video recorded at the event:

The day before this session, Maria attended another session where she asked the panel what happens when the imperative for growth contradicts the sustainability values. This is a tough, but honest and important question, and to be honest the members of the panel struggled to provide a convincing answer.

Maria asked Jim this same question in the Q&A session, and his responses was utterly different. Jim really emphasised the way in which every sustainability initiative is connected to specific corporate objectives. For Starbucks, there is no either/or, they absolutely see the commercial benefits in having authentic sustainability and corporate social responsibility targets.

Starbucks Sustainability ReportWe both really felt that Jim offered a great example of authentic leadership where there is an absolutely belief not only in their personal values, but how these can be aligned absolutely with the corporate values and objectives as well.

This world of ours is facing huge problems, and all us now need to up our game. We can’t be held back by people actively wanting to hold us back. If your vision is authentic and you have made the decision, it will happen, although maybe not always in the time frame you would like. But you will always make progress by teaming up with people with values, so for those of you at the start-up phase, really try and keep this in mind.

Go out. Be amazing. Good luck.

Related Articles

Beware of Knotworks – Networks with Ego

Successful Leadership in the Sharing Economy – The Journey to Authentic Dialogue

Narratives, Knotworks and Authentic Networks

The First Question to Ask Someone Asking You to Collaborate and Share

3 responses to “It’s Not Always Unicorns and Rainbows – Authentic Leadership and Sustainable Partnerships

  1. Did you ask Jim Hanna about how much tax Starbucks pays in the countries where they operate? That has a bearing on the sustainability of those economies, doesn’t it?

  2. Pingback: Never Give Up on Your Dream – Taking Inspiration from Bono and U2 at Live Aid | Transition Consciousness·

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