So, How Sustainable Are We? Leadership and the Pathway to Abundance

Zack Smith and Chad Stewart

by Zack Smith and Chad Stewart


Setting the Context for Leadership: Sustainability and Abundance

Chad Stewart

Zack Smith

When Sustainability is Unsustainable

There is a lot of buzz about being “green” and acting “sustainably” these days. Unfortunately, a great deal of it seems to be just that: Buzzing. Not to say people are not trying or lack commitment. Many community, organizational and governmental leaders are genuinely concerned and are trying to address social, economic and environmental challenges through a dizzying myriad of initiatives focusing on carbon footprints, renewable energy, resource depletion, and recycling to name but a few. In the corporate world leaders have seized upon everything from simple cost-saving initiatives to community involvement as proof of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and their dedication to sustainability. All of these initiatives are well-intentioned. Alone, they just aren’t sustainable.

In the Spring of 2009 The Economist surveyed and interviewed over 1200 executives from a wide range of organizations, diverse industries and sectors about their sustainability and CSR practices. In September of 2009 the MIT Sloan Management Review published results of a similar survey. The results show that although we are expending considerable time and energy becoming sustainable, we may not be succeeding. Most of the companies surveyed are not sure “what is enough” when it comes to sustainable business. Aside from public relations, the Economist survey reported that “less than 10% of respondents rated their efforts as outstanding…large majorities described themselves as average or worse.” (p. 20)

The MIT Sloan Management Review article uncovered similar disarray: “The majority of sustainability actions undertaken to date appear to be limited to those necessary to meet regulatory requirements” and “more than 70 percent of survey respondents said that their company has not developed a clear business case for sustainability.” (p.3) So what is going on? How many tons of carbon dioxide sequestered or reduced will make a company, city or community sustainable? How many dollars donated to charity, how many families fed? Is sustainability good business? How do sustainability and academia work together? What does a sustainable city or community look like? Leaders across every industry and every sector are currently wrestling with these issues and many, many more. Think tanks, designers and consultancies are doing research and developing programs and measurements for reducing energy consumption. Community change leaders are organizing sustainability campaigns for recycling and reducing plastic bag consumption. Governmental leaders are haggling about how to cap and reduce carbon emissions, create green jobs and kick start a green economy. Around the globe, commissions and committees are forming to investigate how to become more sustainable or “green.” There is no shortage of activity and movement. The question is where is it taking us? As we careen down these paths how sustainable are we? Is what we’re doing sustainable at all? There is a famous saying that there are many paths up a mountain. However, there seems to be confusion about what constitutes a “path” and whether some of us are even on the right mountain!

The Pathway to Abundance

To understand how sustainable we are, we need to understand what sustainability is. For many people it means being “green” and reducing environmental impacts. For others sustainability is closer to viability and survival. If our intention is to sustain our selves, then we need to find a way to sustain that which sustains us. To sustain that which sustains us, initiatives like recycling, reducing carbon footprints, providing effective health care, creating green jobs, saving energy, etc. are necessary but not sufficient. Most of those initiatives focus on treating symptoms, reducing harm, being less bad and complying with mandates and regulations. Yet, the measure of our sustainability is, ultimately, not in how well we can be less bad or comply with current regulations. To sustain that which sustains us means measuring and enhancing our contribution to the ongoing health and resilience of the systems, and the systems of systems, that support us. How prosperously we interact with, weave, support and sustain the complicated social, commercial and ecological webs that compose our own unique niches in these systems is the measure of our sustainability–period. If we do it poorly we will go the way of the dinosaurs. If we do it well, we’ll thrive.

value web
Figure 1: The Value Web

The constituents of these sustaining systems come and go, yet the systems evolve and remain. The systems form a Value Web (see figure 1.) The Web, itself, is woven together by our actions and their reverberations throughout the Web. Janine Benyus, the author of Biomimicry wrote: “Life creates the conditions conducive to life.” Our actions create the conditions for us to merely survive or to thrive. To borrow from Jeffrey Hollander, the Chief Inspired Protagonist of Seventh Generation, in our every deliberation we, as leaders, choose whether to walk a pathway of scarcity or abundance.

When taking a “scarcity approach,” the focus is often on being “less bad.” While this is good, it is still, in the end, just a variation on bad! A scarcity approach also often entails securing our own profit, people and place—often at the expense of others—especially during times of difficulty and contraction. We, ourselves, are often contracted physically, mentally and spiritually as well. We tend to focus on reducing and controlling the access to and use of existing and future resources and creating systems to allocate those resources to serve our limited interests. This approach inevitably creates winners and losers and tends to encourage those who win to accumulate resources and take more. This, of course, means that the losers tend to get less. With some exceptions this is the world we have created and currently live in. And, even though we are seeking to minimize impact, our actions are still propelling us (just slightly less slowly) toward some potentially nasty tipping points.

On the other hand, the pathway to abundance is focused on creating “more good.” While we continue to do “less bad,” creating “more good” means a commitment to more prosperity for the people and places with whom we engage. Our interactions in any economic, social and environmental conditions create healthy systems that continue to robustly sustain us and that which sustains us. We, the living, are creating conditions conducive to life. This requires that we open our selves to opportunities to work together, collaborate and see our needs differently. Moving from scarcity thinking and action to abundant thinking and action begins fundamentally with a shift in perspective and more broadly a shift in paradigm. It is a shift from “me” to “we.” Or, as Gary Snyder wrote: “home is as big as you make it.”

Leadership in Action: What You Be is What You Get

Be, See, Do, Get

So, as leaders, how do we make it so? How do we walk the abundance talk? To create, to get the conditions for abundance we and our organizations, institutions, cities and communities have to do the things that create life-giving conditions. To do it right, we have tosee–have the perception and vision to choose the right course of action. What we see is a reflection of who we are–who we arebe-ing in the world.

Positive Reinforcement: A sole focus on short-term gain yields long-term pain

We got to our current global economic crisis through a wonderful example of scarcity thinking creating its own version of instant karma. Individuals, mortgage brokerages, and whole investment banks did what they needed to do to take advantage of the opportunities they saw to maximize “my” short-term profitability while failing to see the effect that this giant, bubble-making money grab was having on our systems. They were either blind to or ignored the fact that they were creating the conditions for longer-term, wide-spread pain. What they saw reflected who they were. Agents of individual and/or corporate accomplishment, there is little evidence to suggest that their sense of self extended much beyond their immediate work and life space. Limited in scope, firm in single-bottom line trajectory and quarterly gains, and deeply mired in a bubble culture of mammon through their individual and corporate identities and actions they unintentionally, yet very actively, helped precipitate a global recession. This is not the first time we’ve been down this path. History is littered with the detritus left by boom-bust cycle tragedies. The “lost decade” of Japan, the Great Depression, the fall of the Roman empire are all variations on scarcity thinking in action. We do not have to repeat these cycles.

Positive Reinforcement: Hamburgers, Fish and Family

Burgerville, a quick service restaurant in the Portland Oregon area, and their supplier of beef, the Country Natural Beef Co-op, have developed a remarkably sophisticated relationship that gets nearly diametrically different results. Burgerville’s mission is simple: “To serve with love.” This is who they are. From that state of be-ing they see opportunities differently. Rather than expensive waste generating restaurants they have created nearly zero-waste establishments. This includes using compostable plastics, purchasing all of their electricity from wind generation, recycling cooking oil as biodiesel fuel through a partnership with SeQuential Biofuels, and providing health for all full and part-time employees to name just a few of their initiatives. Burgerville is leading the way in demonstrating how sustainability is good business and that good business should be sustainable.

For its part, Country Natural Beef (CNB) is composed of a group of ranchers who see that raising cattle can be done without the hormones, antibiotics and feeds common in larger agribusiness models. Community-oriented and family run they are be-ing true to their values by expanding their concept of home to include the cows they raise and the eco-systems they manage. The cattle are grass fed and herded in a way that mimics how bison herds used to move through the range. Through what they are doing they are proving that sustainable cattle-raising and wise land management practices can actually help improve land and water quality instead of degrading it.

Together, Burgerville and CNB have evolved a relationship that generates prosperity in many ways. For instance, they saw an opportunity to strengthen their relationship, reduce risk and waste, and step out of the boom-bust uncertainty of commodity markets. By implementing a system where CNB can generate more revenue per cow by changing the part of the cow from which Burgerville gets its cuts (during times of high demand for specific cuts like Easter and St. Patrick’s Day when brisket is popular, Burgerville is content to receive its beef from other parts of the cow). In exchange, Burgerville gets a fixed price and consistent high quality beef. Both sides also get superior risk management from their pricing arrangement as they are freed from commodity pricing volatility and large-scale agribusiness. A good example is the BSE scare that emerged a few years ago. While many of their competitors were reeling from the risk of contaminated beef, CNB and Burgerville customers were confident that their beef was disease free because of how CNB raises their beef. Also, by maximizing the cuts they get per cow, CNB ranchers have been able to invest more of their return in responsible land management. This investment in the land has generated returns in other unpredictable ways as well. On one ranch, native trout, have returned to streams as improved land quality led to improved stream quality. Finally, to return to family, as the children of many farmers across the US and around the world leave the family business, the ranchers of CNB are reporting that their children are staying put.

So, How Sustainable Are We? How do we Know?

Our current economic calamity clearly demonstrates how tightly we are all interwoven. We are interconnected, embedded. Everything we do, every choice we make directly and indirectly influences the rest of the world—and we are just as influenced by what happens “elsewhere.” As leaders, this interpenetration is not something we can contain and control. We are wild inside. Chaos surrounds us. We are complex open systems composed of and composing complex open systems. There is too much to process, too much to hold. It is humbling. It is wishful thinking to believe that the folks at Burgerville or Country Natural Beef planned out and designed all of the effects generated through their relationship. There are simply too many uncertainties, too many variables. So, how do they do it? As leaders, how can we be the change we need to get the results we need to sustain us and get on the pathway to abundance?

The benefits Burgerville and CNB and others like them are receiving and the system-wide prosperity they are generating are emergent results of the quality, commitment and coherence of their relationships with each other, their communities and the ecosystems in which they are embedded. Sustainability for them means maintaining the quality of these relationships. In doing do they contribute to the health of the nodes, the integrity of the whole Value Web. The pathway to abundance is leveraging the nodes and our relationships with them to generate greater systems-wide prosperity. However, we need to walk before we can run. And, from what we’ve learned from our research and assessments with organizations and leaders, many of us are still crawling.

spider web

Sustaining Sustainability: Six Levels of Engagement

Creating such an alignment will often…require a fundamental rethink of the business model, which is really, really tough to do.
–John Elkington as quoted in The Economist Intelligence Unit Report:
Doing Good: Business and the Sustainability Challenge

So How Sustainable Are We?

To really understand how sustainable we are, we need to find a way to see our effects on the entire value web. We need a way to understand the complexity of the relationships, and our capacity to change our impacts for the better. From our research and practice we see six key levels of sustainable engagement, each more sustainable than the one before it. These levels begin at Compliance by building a sturdy foundation for sustainability. The current ceiling is the stretch goal of creating abundance-generating systems-level influence through multi-stakeholder Constellations.


As leaders, to really understand the impact we are having and how to evolve our effectiveness, we need to know WHY we are having the effects we are. This goes back to what we decide to measure. For sustainability, “the triple bottom line” consisting of economic prosperity (profit), natural and built environment (place), and social and personal (people) prosperity can give us a general picture of the results of our actions. To this we believe we must add the reason WHY (purpose) we do what we do, and the ethics (principles) for doing what we do. When our purpose and mission help us to prosper AND benefit people AND improve our place, then we are on the pathway to abundance (figure 2). Without rock solid principles to guide thinking and behavior and a powerful sense of purpose to point us in the right direction, trying to “be sustainable” is, to quote John Elkington again “really, really tough to do.” In the Economist report, Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, says it this way: “In considering what you should do as a company, it really comes down to your own values…if you don’t know your magnetic north, then the compass is useless.” (p. 10) What you be is what you see, which is how you do and, ultimately, determines what you–and we–get.


The following six levels show how we can begin to answer that bedeviling question, “How sustainable are we?” They also are key milestones along the pathway to abundance. By measuring and describing how a leader and an organization understand and interact with complicated social, economic and ecological value webs, we get a sense for how sustainable their actions, vision and be-ing are. What follows are overviews of each of the levels of sustainability, examples of common behaviors at that level and their impacts on the Value Web. As mentioned above, simply doing and describing what you do as “sustainable” does not create sustainability. To create sustainable businesses, institutions, cities, communities and governance, we have to be sustainable in who we are and how we see the world. Reflecting on who we want to be and allowing that to guide how we see the world gives us our best shot at getting sustainable results. To quote Charlie Parker, “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.”

Level One

Leaders and organizations that can only comply with the external rules and laws placed upon them are at the ground floor of sustainability. Compliance can be seen as baseline best business practice. Strong competency in Compliance is marked by discipline, clear protocols and reporting. Without a strong foundation in compliance we tend to be constantly firefighting and fighting for survival. To work and play well with others in collaborative relationships we need to have strong operational stability. Compliance helps gives us this. Here is the overview:


  • Sustainability is extrinsic: externally mandated and internally enforced.
  • Example organizational sustainability activities: meeting workplace safety regulations, SOX compliance, ISO 14000 process reporting, and meeting EPA standards.
  • Being at this level is basically about staying out of trouble and reducing risk. We focus on compliance with rules, regulations and requirements in order to avoid penalties and stay in business.
  • What we tend to see at this level are the need to meet short-term, externally driven goals and maintain immediate profitability.
  • What we are doing is trying to establish stability as we establish ourselves, move into new markets and/or engage in new areas of business.
  • The positive value we get from Compliance is social and legal permission to operate and business stability.
  • Failure to evolve our capacity to include and move beyond Compliance mires us in reactive, risky, largely transactional and frequently win-lose relationships with people and organizations in the world around us as we seek to fulfill self-centered short-term needs and fret about regulation.

Although more and more organizations are finding it necessary to transform out of a Compliance focused mindset, we all know people and organizations that struggle in this area. As a leader, the best way to move out of a compliance focus is to develop strong operational standards and protocols that are part of a larger sustainability initiative. To resonate with a strongly Compliance-oriented culture, sustainability initiatives should be closely tied to financial bottom line improvements and positive visible change with clearly marked goals and milestones. Picking the low hanging fruit (and celebrating/rewarding success) is crucial.

Level Two

Currently, many leaders and their organizations are moving beyond Compliance, and begin to conform with the desires and expectations of key stakeholders. In Conformity we realize the importance of our reputation and brand and the need to protect and maintain them. Communicating with and meeting expectations of key stakeholders is an essential part of Conformity. According to the Economist survey, over 60% of the companies surveyed listed this as a key aspect of sustainability and one of their core competencies.

stage 3

  • Sustainability is extrinsic: externally mandated and internally communicated and harvested for internal and external public relations.
  • Example organizational sustainability activities: Creating a sustainability report, publicizing recent gains in workplace safety, promoting ISO certification, publicly celebrating reductions in energy and paper use and the associated cost savings.
  • Being at Conformity is about appearing sustainable in order to appeal to shareholders, consumers, potential employees, NGOs and the media.
  • What we see at this level is the power and influence of others over our business.
  • What we are doing is using sustainability as a means of improving shareholder and key internal and external stakeholder relations to keep control of our business and manage our image.
  • What we get from Conformity is good PR, enhanced brand reputation, and good relationships with key stakeholders in our work, and, perhaps, some collateral benefits to the value web.
  • Getting stuck in Conformity frequently results in an overwhelming focus on green washing and “spinning” activities to appear sustainable to avoid trouble and enhance image in the eyes of key stakeholders. This can be quickly identified as deceitful and inauthentic by stakeholders and may damage the organization’s reputation, brand and profitability.

As The Economist survey implies, many organizations find comfort at this level—perhaps too much comfort. As leaders, remaining focused on Conformity limits our effectiveness to collaborate because we are more interested in appearing than we are in doing. Projects may be chosen based on their PR value versus their value web impact. The best way to move beyond a conformity focus is to create and clarify a more compelling need for sustainability other than using it as a tool for public relations. This is hard. It entails operationalizing, monitoring and managing a number of key success factors. These include: increasing leadership and organizational awareness and understanding the positive and negative impacts we are actually having on the world, developing the competencies to listen and learn from the feedback of external voices and key stakeholders, and strongly advocating for and embedding principles and a sense of purpose to drive sustainable thinking and behavior in the organization. Creating transparency through strong internal and external communication of both successes and failures is essential as well.

Level Three

At the Cooperation level, we start to cooperate with others as a way to give back and help out. We engage in philanthropy and charitable giving because we’ve decided or believe it is the “right” thing to do. Cooperation may also include strategic giving and partnerships as well as isolated or targeted improvements to processes, systems and supply chain relationships so they become more operationally effective and sustainable.

level 3

  • Sustainability at this level focuses on a mix of internal and external drivers calling for “giving” and “helping out.”
  • Example organizational sustainability activities: Charitable giving, service days, volunteerism, targeted but disconnected internal and external CSR campaigns, employee-specific giving schemes, standards for suppliers, stated socially responsible principles and purpose.
  • Being at Cooperation is about philanthropy. We feel a sense of responsibility to help and support causes of personal interest and meaning.
  • What we see at this level is our capacity to do good, help out and support social and environmental responsibility.
  • What we are doing tends toward transactional giving and improvement. We help you so we feel good and look good. We help ourselves. We tend toward “doing for” others rather than “doing with” others.
  • The benefits we get from Cooperation include improved operational sustainability in targeted areas and the very real sense we are making a difference in the lives of the people and conservation efforts we choose to help.
  • Remaining in Cooperation limits the effectiveness of the time, energy, financial and human resources we apply to socially responsible action and sustainable business. Activity gets confused with accomplishment.

Our research and consulting with client organizations mirrors the findings in the Economist, McKinsey and Sloan surveys which indicate that most organizations are currently operating around the Conformity and Cooperation levels. Further research by partners in the US found that over 60% of the companies they surveyed were operating between Compliance and Cooperation. In terms of sustainability, we believe our greatest challenge and opportunity as leaders is moving beyond these levels because our thinking and behavior at these levels has brought us to where we are today. Simply put, Compliance, Conformity and Cooperation alone are proving to be unsustainable. This answers the question “when is sustainability unsustainable?” It also begs the question: What is truly sustainable? We believe that sustainable perception, thought and practice begins in Collaboration.

Nearly 2,600 corporate foundations gave an estimated $4.4-billion to charity in 2007 and a Forbes survey of the top 78 most generous corporations had them giving away a combined $3.8 billion. (Kurdahy, 2008) There is strong and growing evidence that the value these companies are giving away could be used to help the same people and the same causes in much more effective, lasting and sustainable ways. Moving beyond Cooperation requires viewing and enacting sustainability as something done systemically in aligned or coherent ways with partners. Leaders and their organizations have to recognize and see the value in co-creating, co-evolving and collaborating on solutions internally and externally. Leadership has to take a strong role in “walking the talk” and promoting systems and processes that support collaboration. Cross-functional, systems thinking and action are crucial. When corporations make the shift from “doing for” to “doing with” they can revolutionize the value generated from the hundreds of billions of dollars currently being given away.

Level Four

At this level companies begin truly collaborating with others to really solve problems, innovate and impact the Value Web. A commonly occurring question is “why are we doing what we’re doing?” This is often driven by a desire to be more involved and inclusive internally and externally. Like Cooperation, external stakeholder engagement is still largely targeted and arbitrary, although the quality of engagement is less transactional due to the collaborative nature of involvement.

level 4

  • Sustainability is intrinsic: internally mandated, and guides internal and external partner and project selection and areas of collaboration.
  • Example organizational sustainability activities: stewarding NPOs on good business practices, co-development of green technologies, cross-functional and multi-level internal initiatives, including NGO’s, local communities and other external shareholders in the project and product and service development process.
  • Being at this level is focused on engaging with others in sustainable work. An organic expansion of Cooperation, we begin to reach out and look for opportunities to work together on targeted and selected projects.
  • What we see at this level is the power and value in including and embracing multiple perspectives, “multi-win” relationships and transparency in our work.
  • What we are doing is reaching out to and opening dialogues with suppliers, external stakeholders and even those we formerly perceived as adversaries or competitors to include them in the scope of our sustainability practices.
  • What we get from Collaboration are deeper relationships with external partners that typically involve learning and development on both sides. This tends to generate more impressive PR and better management of risk as multi-win and longer-term relationships become more common.
  • Remaining centered in collaboration is marked by multiple and fruitful initiatives and relationships that, though multi-faceted and value generating, are not fully integrated and coordinated into our business, work and lives.

As stated above, we believe that in Collaboration we start to be, see and do in ways that may actually be sustainable. The McKinsey, Economist and Sloan surveys support this conclusion. The companies that tended to rate their sustainability or philanthropy efforts as most effective were those that engaged and collaborated with other businesses and stakeholders. The reason for this is that, at the level of Collaboration, we begin working in interconnected, mutually dependable and mutually influencing ways. Communities of interest and practice develop and become self-organizing and self-managing. We discover opportunities for new value streams and create the potential to transform adversarial relationships into partnerships. Our style of work, interaction and value generation begin to leverage the Value Web by mirroring the non-linear workings of open systems.

Level Five

Coherence is signified by an organization or reorganization around a clear sense of purpose and deeply embedded principles that promote sustainability beyond the scope of simply doing business in the conventional sense. The organization and its people begin to fulfill an intentionally larger role in the communities and ecosystems in which they operate.

level 5

  • Sustainability is intrinsic: generated from clearly articulated principles and purpose that are embedded in action and measured and managed to ensure long-term resilience.
  • Example organizational sustainability activities: Strategically integrated and mutually reinforcing long-term/multi-win relationships with supply-chain partners, community enhancement programs that connect employees with community stakeholders to accomplish concrete people/place/profit goals, creating and enacting strategic business practices and processes that create zero waste and actually restore land and stream quality while significantly lowering risk and increasing revenue and value for the business, suppliers and local communities.
  • Being at Coherence is striving to “be the change you want to see in the world” while being successful at generating effective Triple Bottom Line results.
  • What we see at this level is a multitude of potential opportunities and ways to co-create them through engagement with others in the Value Web.
  • What we are doing is “walking” our sustainable “talk” by leveraging value web relationships to generate multi-win, interconnected, short and long-term value—as the example activities cited above demonstrates.
  • What we get from Coherence is dramatically improved risk management, long-term stability, and increasing value through a healthier, more robust Value Web.
  • Remaining at Coherence has little in the way of negative consequences unless the culture becomes stagnant, insular or arrogant. As the company evolves it is highly likely that opportunities to begin doing Constellation level business will appear. To seize these opportunities the role of proactive leadership throughout the organization, high levels of awareness, communication, innovation and resilience are necessary.

One of the most Coherent companies, we have found is Burgerville, a Portland, Oregon area quick service restaurant chain. Their mission is simple: To serve with love. They embody this mission in their relationship with what would traditionally be called their suppliers, employees, and customers as well as the communities and market in which they operate. Although their mission can be seen as simple and direct, their implementation of the mission is well suited to the complex adaptive system of the Pacific Northwest. In terms of Value Web engagement they are actively generating postive, clearly visible interconnected returns in nearly all of the nodes. They don’t so much have suppliers as they have deep, mutually enriching, value generating relationships.

Level Six

Constellation is characterized by reaching across industry, sector and national boundaries to create multi-sectoral collaborations of organizations capable of making systemic level change that benefits a multitude of stakeholders including, of course, the constellation members. These constellations are characterized by high degrees of transparency and innovation in a rich learning and opportunity-realizing environment. They are driven by a strong sense of purpose to build systemic capacity wherever they may be operating.

level 6

  • Sustainability is internally driven and collaboratively realized in multi-stakeholder interventions
  • Example sustainability activities: Kalundborg, developing a workable and meaningful approach to transforming the ways we influence and deal with climate change, expanding the Burgerville/Country Natural Beef example cited above throughout Cascadia, the “integral cities” movement.
  • Being at Constellation involves innovating and organizing from an abundance mindset.
  • What we see at this level is our capacity to influence and create systems level change and benefits with an array of other capable stakeholders.
  • What we are doing is creating long-term value and resilience in the systems in which we do business—therefore making them, our selves and our actions more sustainable.
  • What we get from Constellation is a strong, healthy, positive-value, business opportunity generating Value Web.
  • Operating at Constellation is our best bet at sustaining the systems that sustain us and allow us to economically innovate and ecologically flourish.

We are just beginning to see Constellation level work emerge. The simplest way to imagine it is collaboration at a systems level. The project, instead of being a clean tech. development project would entail a focus on a node or multiple nodes of the Value Web.

So How Do We Know?

Knowing your level of sustainability is about taking an honest look at the ways in which you are being, seeing, doing, and the impacts and results you are getting. Being is about your identity, who you and your organization are and who you want to become. Your principles, purpose, mission, vision and values spring from this focus. Seeing depends on who you are. If you are most concerned with staying out of trouble and making a fast buck what you will see are Compliance-level scarcity-minded opportunities. Longer-term is not on your radar. To see more, strive to be more. What you do is a product of who you are and what you see. If we see every problem as a nail, we’re going to get pretty good with a hammer—even when what is in front of us may be a stained-glass window. What you get, then, is directly related to what and how you do, see, and who you choose to be. If you believe in collaborative innovation and solutions to problems you are going to seek out and have a lot of collaboration in your work. You will look for and hire people who can do the same. So, how do you know? Ask yourself:

  • What are my principles and purpose as a leader? • What are our principles and purpose as an organization?
  • “How” and “why” do we say we do business?
  • How do we actually do business?
  • Do we really do as we say? How do we know?
  • What level of sustainability does this point to?
  • How do we work together—internally and externally?
  • What results (positive and negative) are we getting?
  • Are these the results we want?
  • Are these the results we need to be sustainable?

If you’re honest with yourself and willing to listen to what you are hearing from internal and external sources, you’ll know. If you’re not comfortable with what you find, you have two choices: 1) ignore it. We’ll face the consequences of your action together. 2) Make the necessary changes in how you are doing, seeing and being—a step at a time–down the pathway of abundance. See you there.


For Further Reading

About the Authors

Zach Smith is a principal at Interkannections, an organization development consultancy focusing on leadership development and sustainability and talent management systems. He is also Executive Director of Abound, a non-profit organization committed to the development of leadership in sustainable organizations. As a practitioner he specializes in whole-system change, organization systems design, talent management and leadership development. Zach is also a skilled facilitator and executive coach. He has developed and implemented projects for a number of Fortune 500 and 100 organizations, and also has extensive management experience in human resources and business development. He currently serves as a Co-Director and co-founder of Eco Nikko, an organization headquartered in Nikko, Japan that utilizes yoga to foster personal and community development. Zach also developed the Ikan Sustainability Value Web and Ikan Sustainability Framework to help embed sustainable thinking and practices into communities and organizations. You can read more from Zach on the Capacity Evolution Blog and on the Abound website.

Chad Stewart  is a founder and principal of Interkannections, CSR Committee Vice Chair for the American Chamber of Commerce Japan (ACCJ) and Co Director ofIntegral Japan. He has led change management, leadership pipeline and organization evolution projects with global corporations, SMEs, local governments, NPOs and the UNCRD since 1995. Chad also serves as a global executive coach, co-created the Capacity Evolution Change Agent training program and has lectured at the Kyoto University MBA School. Chad’s second vocation is spending time with his wife, daughter, son and two ferrets.

Leave a Comment