Mindsets for Driving Change

By: Bern Hoffmann

Mindset Of Sustainability Leaders“Look everywhere, and consider the question ‘can I drive change from there?’ You have to drive change from wherever you are!” This was the final exhortation from Laura Asiala, PYXERA Global Vice President, Net Impact board member, and event moderator, to attendees gathered for the June 22nd Fireside Chat: Mindset for Leaders in Sustainability event organized by the Washington, D.C. Professional Chapter of Net Impact and hosted by Virginia Tech’s Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS). Joining Ms. Asiala was Katherin Winkler, Senior Vice President, Corporate Sustainability and Chief Sustainability Officer for EMC Corporation; and Steve Schein, Ph.D. and author of A New Psychology of Sustainability Leadership: The Hidden Power of Ecological Worldview.

While I am no stranger to CLiGS, having graduated from the Executive Masters in Natural Resources (XMNR) in the spring of 2015, this was my first Net Impact event. I found it a thought-provoking event as well as an affirming perspective on the ‘capacity building for leadership in sustainability’ theme of the XMNR program.  

Owing to the moderators’ discipline in keeping the assembled professionals engaged in a discussion, a lot of ground was covered, but there was agreement on a couple themes for the night – themes that serve as the core of the XMNR program, reaffirming the value I gained from the program.

First, the sustainability profession is still working to break-out of the ‘Sustainability Department’ or ‘making the business case’ mentality.  Sustainability professionals need to continue to weave sustainability throughout their organizations as a matter of organizational culture and values; as well as to continue helping businesses evolve beyond the shareholder-centric, profit-driven short-termism that remains prevalent today.

Second, to be an agent of change and address the challenges mentioned above, sustainability professionals need to dig deeply into understanding the motivations, underlying worldviews, and unspoken values of the leaders of their organizations at all scales.

Finally, all three speakers encouraged the audience to leverage the collaboration and interconnectedness that was the hallmark of the amazing changes that were taking place in business today. We need to become what Steve Schein referred to as collaborator in chief and to continuously share lessons learned throughout our network of colleagues. “Adding arrows to our quivers as change agents”, as Schein put it.

So what about you, where are you driving change from and what ‘arrows’ have you added to your quiver lately?