Sustainable Leadership – The Cornerstone of Sustainable Project Management
by Anastasia Moira & Nicos Kourounakis
The pressing global demand for sustainable development is compelling all businesses and organisations to undergo a profound transformation into sustainable entities. Project management is no exception; it must actively engage in this global shift by not only applying sustainable practices to projects but by fundamentally becoming a sustainable practice itself.
The journey towards sustainable project management requires a new brand of leadership known as Sustainable Leadership.
Sustainable development does not just happen; it is a deliberately crafted process.
Over the past decade, Sustainable Leadership, generally defined as leadership promoting sustainable development, has been implemented diversely across various sectors. Presently, sustainable development remains more of an aspirational goal than a tangible reality. The limited progress towards sustainable development, despite 50 years of global efforts, might stem from the absence of a comprehensive Sustainable Leadership model.
Sustainable leadership, however, is an all-encompassing model dependent on sustainable performance criteria, ensuring that every action serves sustainability. It’s a crucial element in fostering a sustainable culture within organisations, society, and humanity as a whole. Sustainable development is an ongoing, ever-evolving process influenced by the complex interplay of environmental, economic, and social aspects. Changes in one facet can trigger changes in others, altering the overall sustainability of development.
Therefore, in a dynamic environment, sustainability can’t rely on a fixed set of practices because what’s sustainable varies with changing conditions.
Sustainable development is an ever-evolving process, driven by the intricate dynamics of environmental, economic, and social factors, creating a need for adaptable, not fixed, sustainability practices.
So, where are we going wrong?
Despite the general consensus that sustainable leadership requires systemic thinking, its implementation doesn’t often align with systemic principles. We tend to rely on broad changes, such as legislation, campaigns, global goals, national or corporate strategies, or a select few sustainable leaders, to steer the course of development. However, sustainable development hinges on countless individual changes, defined by how each person functions.
What's the solution?
We need a sustainable leadership model that’s inclusive and universally applicable. This model should rest upon timeless and universal sustainable principles, dictating what constitutes sustainability at any time and place, and a set of ‘sustainable skills’ enabling us to identify and apply these principles.
The CAVE Approach© - a virtues-based model of sustainable leadership
The CAVE Approach© offers a distinctive virtues-based model of sustainable leadership, providing the criteria for sustainable functioning and the framework for developing ‘sustainable skills’ or the 14 virtues. Virtue development equips individuals with the ability to identify and expand opportunities for sustainable action in any situation. The general sustainability criteria offered by the virtues, when applied contextually, indicate the relevant sustainability criteria: the attitudes, behaviors, and actions constituting sustainable performance in a given situation.
The virtues empower project managers to apply general sustainability criteria and identify sustainable attitudes, behaviors, and actions in diverse scenarios. They also help project managers recognize and overcome internal barriers that hinder sustainable performance, a prerequisite for sustainability. Ultimately, applying sustainable management principles relies on a project manager’s ability to manage the fundamental elements influencing their performance: knowledge, emotions, aspirations, and passions.
See also these articles and posts:
- The CAVE Approach©
- Virtue Based Self-Leadership for Project Management
- The CAVE Assessment for Project Managers
- PM² Methodology and Sustainability: A Holistic Approach to Responsible Project Management
- Sustainability in Project Management: PM² vs PRISM
- Sustainability Considerations in Portfolio Management
- Lean & Green Project Management
- Project in Circular Economy
- Next Generation EU Plan