How to Kill a Sustainable Enterprise: A Not so Fictional Case
In Leadership for Sustainable Futures, Avery (2005) derives 19 criteria from research into successful companies operating world-wide to reflect two fundamentally different, but self-reinforcing and self-sustaining, leadership systems known as Anglo/US and Rhineland leadership. Among the most critical opposing elements in the systems are: shareholder vs multiple stakeholder focus, short-term vs long-term perspective, distrust of vs subservience to the financial markets, and seeing staff essentially as a cost rather than as a primary asset. By changing only one of the 19 elements, namely staff retention, a hitherto sustainable enterprise begins to break down. Finally, Rhineland leadership turns into Anglo/US leadership. Innovation, trust, risk taking, self-management, collaboration and other Rhineland elements collapse when 10 percent of the workforce is dismissed. The paper illustrates the importance of recognizing the systemic nature of leadership practices and how the practices adopted can strengthen or weaken a firm’s chances of sustainability in many areas.
Keywords: Leadership, Sustainable Leadership
Dr. Harald Bergsteiner
Researcher, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Macquarie University
Prof. Gayle C. Avery
Professor, Graduate School of Management, Macquarie University