To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Gross National Happiness: lessons for sustainability leadership

Sander G. Tideman (Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

South Asian Journal of Global Business Research

ISSN: 2045-4457

Article publication date: 16 June 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to look behind the veil of the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which has been initiated by the fourth King of Bhutan as an alternative to the traditional development concept of gross national product, by analyzing it as an expression of a particular view of leadership originated in the philosophical tradition of Mahayana Buddhism and exploring its relevance for leadership of sustainable development and sustainable (business) organizations.

Design/methodology/approach

Review of literature on GNH in a historical and current context, linking it to trends and concepts in sustainability and leadership. Complemented by author’s observations on regular visits to Bhutan since 2003.

Findings

The GNH leadership view consists of a set of principles: first, interrelatedness of economy, society and eco-systems; second, the economy, society and eco-systems can flourish if their needs are served; third, governance is the agent for serving these needs by the creation of societal happiness; and fourth, societal happiness should include the enhancement of subjective happiness and well-being of people. By tracing these principles to the philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism, especially the Bodhisattva ideal, and comparing them to the principles driving sustainability, the paper argues that GNH leadership signifies an innovation in leadership for sustainability.

Practical implications

This paper examines how GNH leadership can be applied to organizational and business sustainability, and how it contributes to the emerging theory and practice of sustainability leadership.

Social implications

The social relevance of the paper lies in the examination of how GNH leadership can be applied to organizational and business sustainability, and how it contributes to the emerging theory and practice of sustainability leadership.

Originality/value

The paper concludes that GNH leadership – as it corresponds to the principles driving sustainability – represents a new model for sustainability leadership.

Keywords

Citation

Tideman, S.G. (2016), "Gross National Happiness: lessons for sustainability leadership", South Asian Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 190-213. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAJGBR-12-2014-0096

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited