Sustainable Leadership

The seeds of the Sustainability Revolution were planted in the mid 1800s by the New England Transcendentalists. They were writers, educators, and philosophers in the middle of an Industrial Revolution—visionaries catching a glimpse of what our world might have become if production, distribution, and consumption continued to dominate our existence.

What is Sustainability?

Fall is a time of vision. Shortening days, the smell of burning leaves, a Technicolor display of fiery foliage. The trees shed their leaves as the wind coaxes them to let go of their safe respite. Plants and trees drop their seed, promising us new life. Salmon run upriver to lay their eggs, ensuring a next generation. We plant apparently lifeless bulbs that emerge miraculously in the spring, signaling a new season. It is a time of family and impending holiday activity. Fall is preparation. It embodies a hope of life to come—an awakening. This section of the Web site is dedicated to the history, meaning and expressions of sustainability.

Why Sustainable Leadership?

Winter is a time of reflection. Leaves drop, bears hibernate, the ground lies cold and dormant replenishing its nutrients for new growth in spring. Imagine a time before electric light confounded human circadian rhythms. The sun goes down early and we tell stories by fire light. Going to bed sooner and waking up later goes with the season. Winter is for rest, restoration, and reflection. Winter is an ending but not the end. This section of the Web site will explore how the changing worldview is forcing us to examine old metaphors and consider new ways of living and organizing.

Where Have We Been?

Spring is a time of awakening. New growth, blossoms pollinated, and seeds sown in the earthy-smelling soil. Everything seems better in the spring. Winter sweaters are packed away in cedar, buds burst into flowers and leaves follow soon after. Daffodils and tulips signal the return of life. Spring is a new awareness of all that is. This section of the Web site examines where we have been, in terms of organizational and management theory, and where that has led us.

Where are We Now?

Summer is a time of living. Picnics, swimming and parades. Long summer work hours remind us of the life sustaining cycle of sowing and harvesting. Warm nights, fireflies, and campfires. Meeting together outside to hike or watch a baseball game. Summer is an enjoyment of nature—an appreciation of all that is alive. This section of the Web site contains links to organizations are practicing sustainability.

Many influential people have had their part in alerting us about the dangers of overuse and imbalance.

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring called to attention an unsuspecting public with her scathing indictment of the post-World War II, agro-chemical industry. In the 46 years since the book’s publication the concept of sustainability, although rooted in agrarian symbolism, has infiltrated our Modern organizations; from medicine to politics; spirituality to science; education to social justice; industry to the corporation; the sciences to the arts—everyone is going Green. Many aspects of daily life have been touched by the notion that our conquest of nature puts humanity in danger. Believing we can master nature using knowledge and reason, is an Enlightenment construct conceived of by well meaning and God fearing men in the 15th century. In light of discoveries made by 20th century physicists, the world can no longer be accurately thought of as a giant clockworks, wound up by a distant and separate God. Although we are ever governed by cycles—orbit and rotation, one generation giving way to the next, the ebb and flow of oceanic tides, seasons for sowing and harvesting—the Modern model of a mechanistic universe has informed our existence for the past 500 years. On this web site I will argue that we have evolved past the mechanistic management practices that deplete resources (both natural and human,) and propose that we apply the principles of sustainability to the leadership of all organizations to regain the balance of people, planet, and profit.