Does the answer lay in sustainable development leadership?

I upgraded the classic Einstein quote ‘We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them’ by adding ‘with the same people!’ To me it seems particularly relevant to sustainability challenges needed in todays’ world.
Critical thinking
Prior to argue it let me first describe what sustainable development is?

Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
  • the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs.

I rationale that we should aim to achieve this necessary different approach to be able to change the devastating path we are currently on and as a contrast to today mostly used economy and leadership.

In my previous posts I have already described my concerns about neo-liberal economy approach, private ownership, different views (names of) current leadership tactics. Now we are just a few weeks past the COP21 in Paris on global climate changes that draw a commitment to ‘pursue efforts’ (not to take actions) to keep the temperature increase to only 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – admittedly, a formidable technical and political flowery phrase.

Unfortunately, this is not enough anymore! We are in need for a completely different attempt than we see today – like Einstein said.


SustainabilitySustainabilityAs already Al Gore, in his foreword to the book World changing: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century, pointed out that a shift where individuals join together to create a “turning point in human civilization ... that requires great moral leadership and generational responsibility … to build that future, we need a generation of everyday heroes, people who — whatever their walks of life is — have the courage to think in fresh new ways and to act to meet this planetary crisis head-on.

For this we need very unique and changed leaders than they are today and beside that much more conscious followers!

From the first conference on climate change in Tokyo back in 1987 a lot has changed but not enough has been done. While the international community and the politicians continue the talks on sustainable development and green economy time passes and pollution, poverty, destruction of our planet, depletion of natural resources have gone almost beyond the point of no return.

What we see today is the current leadership, depletion of resources and pollution not slowing but rising. The gap to sustainability is real and urgent, especially because complex problems we face require innovative /different thinking and networked / civilization(s) actions lead by such (new) leaders. And yes, not just those on the top positions but a whole generation needs to be inspired, motivated and engaged to think and act in a way that matches the scale of the challenge.

On top of all that, we need to accept the assumption that the response to those challenges requires also a decentralized, large-scale movement, the (social) networking and digital media capacities. It is important to state that on (social) network approaches, young people today are ahead of the curve. This ease with information and communication technology extends to young people’s ability to use those tools to further the work of the sustainability movement.

But, again, there cannot be sustainability without innovation!

What is the capability to be innovative?

We could use definition from the text of ‘Becoming a Sustainability Leader’ where innovation is described as the ability to “encourage decision-making across disciplines, understand interdependence between environmental, economic and social systems, open to new ideas, appreciate role of human ingenuity, [and] challenge the status quo.” A crucial point is how to rebuild innovation and creativity that has been lost (suppressed) during schooling years as our curriculums (usually) did not follow the socio-technology-economical changes?

The answer lies in a new way of teaching, a new way of leading, a new way of creativity that is engaged with future-decision-making and not repeating past mistakes!

We have already invented tools, accumulated knowledge and have communication tools that can serve this.

I know that there is a room for improvements (could it be done by the millennium generation?) and where we can make a change.


Through history we used games to learn. Even the Nature uses it. The games could be used more for strategic opportunity decision making and problem solving. Yes, we could learn a lot through ‘gaming’. I have written about this subject in my blog Internet games and Leadership. Internet gaming should not be meant only to spend time, it could be much more than that. It can be used to solve complex problems and have fun simultaneously.

Nowadays we live in exciting times as society(ies) is challenged to re-design and re-think many of its traditions about progress, development, about the finite capacity of the Earth and cohabitating with others.

There are few known and useful blueprints in sustainability living and work, therefore innovation will be a critical capacity for those who play a leadership role in society’s move towards sustainability.

To achieve needed sustainability of the whole planetary eco system, there is a need to inspire and engage a whole generation, some of whom are already motivated and will require only further training and others who may, without reinforced push, slip into apathy. Therefore, the ability to advocate a viewpoint that is in line with the broader sustainability agenda on this planet is both, critical and troublesome.

Sustainability leadershipLeadership for sustainability requires careful attention to one's own advocacy and its true source and an understanding of when and how to deploy it. Related, new leaders need to grapple with increasing amounts of information and be actively involved in imagining and creating futures that support the prosperity of future generations globally. They need to be trained. But the training to become a sustainability leader is not solely about deepening understanding of sustainability issues. It must include so-called ‘soft’ leadership skills like empathy, communication skills, team and project management, capability of bridging disciplines or sectors, critical thinking and long-term planning, influencing strategy and translating complex ideas into reality.

Finally, all those soft and hard investments will also determine the capacity of society to transition to sustainable development (or rather to surviving as species or better planet Earth).


  1. Everybody should follow this blog to polish their leadership skills and enhance their broader view concepts. We should keep on trying and keep moving.

    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging and nice words - jaro.

  2. Thank you very much for sharing such a beautiful article.


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