• Do you know intimately, several leaders who always come out on the right side of a company’s reorganization?
  • Have you observed those leaders in organizations who seem to effortlessly achieve greater career heights than anyone else?
  • Have you followed the career of a leader you knew was headed for the scrap heap but – seemingly, miraculously – overnight, he/she was saved, renewed, reinvigorated, re-engaged and was named a legitimate (and sought-after) member of the senior leadership team’s inner circle?

Sustainability – it’s a trending word today – represents the capacity to endure.  The role of a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) is to define the go-forward strategy that allows the company to grow organically and through investments and acquisitions and to orchestrate environmentally-supportive initiatives that benefit all stakeholders and constituencies.

The CSO may also be responsible for new products or services, new methods and procedures, health and welfare programs (internal and external), determining the build out of new facilities and the shut-down of older outdated facilities.  “One of the first instances of a CSO was as recent as 2004 with DuPont’s naming of Linda J. Fischer to the position.”

I view sustainability in a broader context.

The organization leader who brings a strategic sustainability approach and mindset to whatever role he/she is currently occupying – and uses that same mindset to build growth programs and innovations for the future – this leader will receive the career benefits of always being just the right talent for the next set of challenges facing the company.  For we know that it is never just one challenge or problem that an organization must resolve at any given time.

So, what is the connection between sustainability and career management?  How can you use green approaches to make your career bullet-proof?

Well, no one can promise a bullet-proof career.  What I can offer is a few thoughts on career management that utilize some key sustainability guidelines.

How to Use Strategic Sustainability Approaches to Upgrade Your Career

Become New

First, remember that the sustainability role as a member of the senior management strategizing and decision making team is a relatively new function.  Learn from the early-in CSOs.  They had to have the vision to ‘foresee’ the importance of sustainability as a viable next step in the evolution of the senior team and a next step in the evolution of a mature company. “Grow or die” is the prognosis. How can you grow when your company behaves like a utility – existing but in large part – an anachronism?

CSOs like Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs) were as rare as hens’ teeth but now are accepted future-oriented, must have roles.  (“Amy Radin became one of America’s first Chief Innovation Officers when Citigroup appointed her to the role in 2005.”)  This very newness allows for leeway, fewer boundaries around possibilities and more opportunities for ‘let’s try it on for size’. The CSO/CIO can “build the thing” to the best advantage of the organization’s long-term growth goals.

For the leader, this can mean an in-place ‘career symposium’ offering the time to refresh, re-invigorate, learn a new huge body of the theory and the application of strategy in sustainable and innovation arenas.  Teach – when you teach: you have to learn more and be more advanced and move faster to implementation than your students.

Study the Masters

Identify the leaders you know who have had the most long-lasting (sustainable) and meteoric (innovative) careers.  Measure this by your prediction of the successful leader’s continued career ascension and perceived satisfaction.  Be clear about what is a great strategic career path and what is upward movement at the cost of customers, the economy, the environment or society. Bring the best of a sustainable and innovation-oriented mindset to your current and future roles.

Take the Risks, Make Mistakes (not too many) and Utilize Your X – Competency

Anything new has the possibility of success or failure.  You have to take calculated risks based on your achievements to date, your interests, your talents and your one-of-a-kind competencies.  I define these unknown career enablers as the leader possessing a talent that helps them through crisis, helps them learn, helps them strategize or helps them expect a new and different outcome – and somehow it happens. The X-Competency can be the greatest game-changer for the talented leader.  If you don’t know your X-Competency, find it.

Assess the Impact of Your Initiatives

Constantly ask the questions that get to the heart of value of your contributions as a leader.  What is the ROI that can be attributed to you and your division/department?  What is the impact on the company culture (environment) of your initiatives?

Legacy Leadership

What long-lasting elements are you implementing in your leadership career.  I know of several new programs, products and operations improvements that were fondly referred to by the last name of the originating leader.

A question for you to consider:

  • What changes do you need to make in your leadership career that more closely aligns with the role of a CSO?

© All rights reserved.

Christine M. Glasco consults to company executives, business owners and non-profit leaders on career management/career transformation strategies and strategic leadership development solutions. To provide you with clarity on how to achieve the next steps in your career, go to www.christineglasco.com and request a complimentary copy of Is Your Career on Track? Assessment and e-Workbook

Email: info@christineglasco.com Phone: 1.940.367.0837

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4 Responses to Using Strategic Sustainability Approaches Can Trigger Career Gains For Leaders

  1. Dick Morgan says:

    When a business is out of balance, it cannot profitably grow for long! An astute leader also must clearly understand how a business makes a profit. There are only three factors that determine any firm’s profitability; level of sales, margin over all variable costs, and fixed expense level. The three factors are used to graph break even point and profit level. Fortunately, there are an almost infinite number of possible actions to take that will positively affect those three basic factors.

    It is also necessary to balance resources (human, financial, and physical) and functional activities (operations, finance & administration, and marketing/sales).

    A leader focused on sustainability should view the business in a “holistic” way, seeing and understanding both business economics and interrelationships, so that positive actions in one area avoid creating negative effects in another area of business activity.

    • Dick, thank you for your comments.

      I tend to underemphasize the basic business management tenets of ensuring profitability and financial accountability. I like your thoughts on viewing the business in a ‘holistic’ way and balancing the economics and relationships. If it is OK with you, in an upcoming Blog, I will quote you to bring balance to the example.

      Again, thanks for reading and thanks for showing the complexity of the leader’s world.

  2. […] as a company code, they take  pride in their products or services, they look for ways to develop a sustainable and growth-oriented leadership style  and they want to satisfy and retain […]

  3. […] Be clear about ‘What’s Your ‘Why’ – how will achieving each goal contribute to your purpose or help you to be of greater service?  Will attaining your five to seven year goals positively impact your ability to practice Legacy Leadership? […]

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