5 Practical Steps to Becoming a Sustainable Leader

General Electric. Allstate. Yahoo! These companies share some enviable traits—they’re all household names and they’ve all been in business for years. Not easy to achieve in today’s frenetic marketplace. What do leaders at these companies know that you don’t?

They know what it takes to build a sustainable business; a business that will be around for years. According to USA Today, every year, nearly 1.5 million Americans start their own business. If they survive the first three years, chances are they’ll stay afloat.

So how do you create an enduring business? For starters, put a “sustainable” leader at the helm. That means having a leader who improves employee morale, workplace environment and the community. Forget about boosting profits with a no holds barred, pillage and plunder approach. Sustainable leaders strengthen the bottom line by creating loyalty with employees, clients and the community— the result of showing they value their staff and taking civic responsibility according to acclaimed executive coach and author Karlin Sloan.

“Sustainable leaders leave the people around them, their company, clients and the greater community all better off from their service,” says Sloan. “They build organizations that are sustainable and can thrive for years to come beyond their individual contributions.”

In her coaching seminars and her book SMARTER, FASTER, BETTER: Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership, Sloan encourages casting aside the old notions of leadership and take five practical steps to building a sustainable business:

1. Measure more than the bottom line
Think about the big picture and the impact your business has on the community and the environment. Then take action to improve in weak areas.

2. Practice sustainable working styles
Happy, healthy employees are more productive. Many companies offer employees perks such as ‘movie days’ or free car washes. They also advocate a balance between work and home life. Remember, lower absenteeism and job turnover also save money.

3. Get everyone working together
Collaborate as a company to improve sustainability and generate a sense of teamwork, excitement and ownership. Plus it enhances your ability to attract the best people.

4. Give back to the community
Create employee matching programs, encourage community involvement and corporate philanthropy. People in your community help keep you in business—return the favor!

5. Reduce your carbon footprint
Take stock of your energy usage and invest in alternative ways to power your operation or reduce your consumption. ‘Think green’ and incorporate simple changes such as reducing paper usage, recycling and switching to energy saving light bulbs.

While those are just five simple steps that will help anyone improve their work performance, Sloan believes real-life business scenarios demonstrate how the paradox of actually slowing down, taking time to reflect and focusing on the greater good can create a leader who is smarter, faster and better.

“All leaders are unique and there is no secret formula for success, no step-by-step prescription for greatness,” says Sloan. “However, any leader’s greatness can be measured by how well they serve the groups whose trust they hold.”


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