Our Leaders Have Failed The Challenge…

Catalyzers Must Fuel the Sustainability Revolution

As a planet we have passed the 10th anniversary of the complete disintegration of climate negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. In December 2019, at the UN Conference of Parties 24 in Madrid, history once again repeated itself. Once more, heads of state and corporate leaders left the world without a roadmap to combat climate change. As a planet we have failed to address the necessities of Global System Change. It is our responsibility look at the role our leaders in failing this challenge.

Our leaders failed to respond

What has emerged is a clear scientific case for urgent action on climate change. But global leaders—in politics and business—are not prepared to act practically. They are locked into a dated, defensive mindset focused on restraint and sacrifice, rather than an expansive approach to the vast business and investment opportunities that the necessary social transformation could generate. Our leaders failed to recognize the warnings and opportunities!

During this last decade, “unprecedented” became the buzzword of our global community. We are facing depletion of scarce resources at alarming rates; massive migration of refugees; dangerously high unemployment; underutilized youth talents in developing countries; and increasing concentration of wealth. These unprecedented impacts have exacerbated inequality and the climate crisis. There is much conversation in the media, business roundtables and political debate but little action. Our leaders generate hopeful sound bites, promote short term “wins” but don’t generate game changing sustainable impact!

Traditionally, leaders face such challenges with reductionist, siloed thinking by investing resources to increase their short-term profits and value to the stakeholders. Our ‘broken” world demands integrated. holistic and complex solutions. When faced with exponential change on all different fronts, leaders move from inaction, to overwhelming confusion, to accessing their power interests and then act for the status quo. When these leaders awaken to the global threat, they default to comfortable models of vested interest. The gaps between their words and actions block creative agreements and movement required for Strategic Transformation. Our leaders failed to truly prioritize sustainability and actively resolve the gaps between their proclamations and action.

As a globe we face this overarching challenge… Are emerging and current leaders prepared to act decisively to create a more just and sustainable world? The fact is, for the most part, No, they aren’t. Most leaders are trained in traditional business schools with one dimensional and dated curriculum. Targeted advanced trainings/certificates focus on one aspect of the necessary transformation. For example, entrepreneurial incubators are focused on profit-only outcomes, while leadership trainings improve emotional intelligence. Accenture’s New Rules for Engagement Research suggests “leaders will have to embrace a more balanced approach blending left and right brain skills if they are to be successful … Further, 65% of the C suite surveyed are weak in empathy, self-awareness, intuition and relationship building. If they harness these skills, then they can expect, on average, 22% higher revenue growth and 34% higher profitability growth.” Our leaders don’t have the skills or holistic training required  to fuel sustainable ventures!

Catalyzers must lead

During the last five years, with the newfound sources of digital power and the heightened awareness of climate change threats, the mindsets of emerging leaders have undergone a transformation. The Rising Voices (Next Generation, women and the marginalized) are demanding a sustainable future and have the insights and courage to disrupt the structures and systems which block this necessity. These agents of exponential change must be supported and given access to collaborate with current leaders on a roadmap to regenerate our global ecosystem. Catalyzers must transform the use of capital resources to mobilize action strategies that fuel sustainable impact. For example, the adoption of circular business models driven by a Quadruple Bottom Line will impact people, planet, profit and prosperity of all stakeholders. These Catalyzers must act to fill the leadership gap!

What’s required to transform?

Our global priority is to transform current leaders and these Rising Voices into Catalyzers. We must be laser focused on four transformation forces to meet the 2030 climate change goals: personal transformation of leadership team; inclusive transformation of Rising Voices; digital transformation of organization’s strategies (connectivity) to scale outcomes; and stakeholder transformation of organization’s impact on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to regenerate the planet. The synergy of these transformational spaces is required for emerging leaders and executives to leverage exponential changes and generate sustainable outcomes.

  •  Personal transformation is based upon the value of trust. Leaders must incorporate values and purpose as a compass for the organizational culture. Their self-reflection and consistent application of values across the organization generates trust among all stakeholders. Trust releases the potentiality for transformation…changing the business model and framework for decision-making. It unlocks the dimensions of catalytic thinking, reframing the previously unmovable dots in a decision matrix and unlocking digital perspectives, networks, value engagement and sustainable impact criteria. The EY study in India noted, “true transformation requires trust, it is our most important deliverable.” Trust ultimately helped to drive profitable growth in innovation by engaging and empowering the stakeholders throughout the supply chain.
  • Inclusive transformation is based upon the value of empathy. Organizations must collaborate across generations and listen to and engage the Rising Voices to fuel equitable and just outcomes. Catalyzers must be equipped to leverage the vast sources of information and data diverse mindsets They need to be guided to include five generations in transforming the gaps in intent and action while uniting the C-suite, “Everybody comes in with a different version of the truth…different perspectives on where you are today, on what the KPIs are based. And we haven’t united the language of leaders …and what they hold people accountable to.”
  • Digital transformation is based upon the value of transparency. Organizations must incorporate the three digital differentiators (network connectivity, rich data, exponential technologies) to effectively deliver and scale outcomes to the community and globe. Digital Transformation is a strategic priority for 80+% of the C suite, yet 42% do not know where to start and 40+% of senior leaders said they believe their business transformation efforts have been “a waste of time” and failed. World Economic Forum suggestsWith increasing pressure on the world’s resources and an urgent need to cut emissions, digital transformation can help set the world’s economy on a sustainable footing.” Catalyzers must incorporate the pervasiveness of digital in the organization and how to leverage to it globally.
  • Stakeholder transformation is based upon the value of sustainability. All stakeholders strive for Harmony in a dynamic environment of change (resources, investments, technologies and institutions) that enhances their potential to meet human needs and aspirations. Sustainability requires a high social sustainability standard for due diligence of impact driven ventures. It depends upon transparent communications, data, information and financial accountability.  Transparency powers the economic engine.Without it, investors are unable to make informed decisions about where to allocate their capital, which hurts companies’ ability to attract it and puts a drag on economic growth.” Stakeholders must have open access to critical factors (e.g., talent recruitment and retention and constraints on natural resources) to make informed investment decisions.

Invest in sustainability

 Thus, our global priority – address the requirements of SDG Agenda 2030- is to immediately invest in talent and solutions. Building a global cadre of Catalyzers is a critical necessity to fuel the “sustainability revolution…as the largest investment driver in history” and regenerate our future.

 These Catalyzers challenge traditional investors who support incremental changes in the status quo. They see the signs and events as precursors of the future and the reflections of our threatened global ecosystem. Preparing a new breed of change agents (entrepreneurs, impact investors, donor advisors, C-Suite, asset managers) is critical to fixing our broken world. These Catalyzers are immersed in a culture of constant change… evaluating what is needed, discovering sustainable solutions and investing in social impact. They default to engaging their TEST Values (trust, empathy, sustainability and transparency) as filters and criteria for empowering action and igniting value. Actively viewing operations through the lens of these values changes their calculus of decision making toward sustainable outcomes.

Catalyzers must accelerate transformation by adopting strategies that align leadership intent with values. The harmonization of purpose and value generates new sources of transformative power to drive Strategic Transformation and System Change Investing (SCI).

 Do you feel our leaders have failed to respond to the threats of climate change ?

If so what are your solutions?

Ira Kaufman PhD, Transformation Strategist, CEO, Social Entrepreneur and Educator. Ira participates in the Forum and is Founder/Director of the Transformations Academy. This blog was originally published February 26, 2020 on LinkedIn.  You can contact Ira at  ira9201@gmail.com

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1 thought on “Our Leaders Have Failed The Challenge…”

  1. Hello Ira,
    Thank you for your analysis and susgestions. I agree our leaders have failed the challenge of climate change, also of global poverty, and others. I also think out NGO and activists groups have failed us. They lack leadership skills, money and a big strategy. My solutions are 1. develop evolutionary leaders at all sectors of society, 2. work from a big strategy for change , ie the SDG TF, and 3. find the money to fund a bog system for global transformation.

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