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Sustainable leadership practices for enhancing business resilience and performance

Gayle C. Avery (Professor of Management at Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Sydney (gayle.avery@mgsm.edu.au) and Director of the Institute for Sustainable Leadership (ISL), .)
Harald Bergsteiner (Director of the Institute for Sustainable Leadership (ISL) and an Honorary Fellow at the Australian Catholic University, Sydney harrybergsteiner@internode.on.net),)

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 10 May 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present an alternative leadership model to the prevailing shareholder‐first approach that research, management experts and practice indicate can lead to higher performance and resilience of a firm.

Design/methodology/approach

This conceptual paper is based on published literature, empirical research, and observations conducted in firms worldwide.

Findings

Avery and Bergsteiner's 23 principles differentiate sustainable or “honeybee” practices from shareholder‐first or “locust” leadership. Sustainable practices are arranged in a pyramid with three levels of practices and five performance outcomes at the apex. A total of 14 foundation practices can be introduced immediately. At the next level in the pyramid, six higher‐level practices emerge once the foundations are in place. Finally, three practices cover the key performance drivers of innovation, quality, and staff engagement – all of which end customers' experience. Together the 23 practices influence five outcomes, namely brand and reputation, customer satisfaction, operational finances, long‐term shareholder value, and long‐term value for multiple stakeholders.

Practical implications

Given that research and practice show that operating on sustainable principles enhances business performance and resilience, executives are urged to adopt these practices over business‐as‐usual. If self‐interest does not motivate this change, as it appears to have already done at Wal‐Mart, then major stakeholders or legislators can be expected to force such changes in the future.

Originality/value

This paper provides an answer to the question of whether there is there an alternative to the shareholder‐first leadership model. Its response is: yes, a demonstrably effective alternative already operates among many successful enterprises around the world.

Keywords

Citation

Avery, G.C. and Bergsteiner, H. (2011), "Sustainable leadership practices for enhancing business resilience and performance", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 39 No. 3, pp. 5-15. https://doi.org/10.1108/10878571111128766

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited