In the face of mounting global challenges, the role of leadership in stewarding meaningful climate action has become more crucial than ever. Climate change presents a complex web of interconnected problems that need bold and courageous leadership to navigate the uncertainties ahead. Brave leaders rise to the occasion to inspire change and what we learned from our second Let’s Talk Leadership event is that any person has the ability to inspire change within their sphere of influence – no matter your job title, the industry you are in, or your experience in a sustainability role. 

If you missed attending, we wanted to reiterate that the Let’s Talk Leadership events are not recorded to encourage open and honest conversations. In lieu of a recording, we had a graphic recorder put together an illustration capturing some of our collective thoughts. By exploring the relationship between brave leadership and taking collective climate action, we were able to uncover the powerful potential of courageous leaders to drive systemic change, redefine norms, and to understand how we can forge a path toward a low-carbon, socially-inclusive future.

So how can you inspire brave leadership within your sphere of influence? We’ve compiled a couple key of takeaways from the event:

Embracing vulnerability

The role of vulnerability in leadership isn’t talked about enough despite being one of the most important drivers of change. While vulnerability may seem counterintuitive to traditional notions of leadership strength, Biboye Aganaba pointed out that displaying vulnerability can actually foster trust, authenticity, and create stronger connections with your team. 

Examples of displaying vulnerability included:

  • Be open, honest, and willing to show your true self, including acknowledging your limitations, asking for help, and admitting mistakes. Be sure to share your personal motivations related to the work and its impact.
  • Develop self-awareness by actively seeking feedback from others and reflecting on your own actions and behaviors.

  • Engage in active listening when interacting with your team members. Show genuine interest, provide your full attention, and create a space for them to express themselves openly.

Building a culture of risk-takers

Building a culture around risk-taking is crucial for promoting sustainability and driving effective climate action. Risk-taking can encourage innovation, foster creativity, and empower individuals and organizations to take bold steps forward. But building a culture around risk-taking is easier said than done and requires intentional and thoughtful action from leaders. As Juvarya Veltkamp said, it can be slow to create alignment, to gain buy-in, and to build the culture you want but the momentum will be sustained for the long-term if you do. 

Examples of how to build a culture of risk-takers included:

  • Encourage collaboration: Collaboration brings together people with different backgrounds, experiences, and expertise. When individuals from various disciplines and areas of knowledge collaborate, they bring unique perspectives to problem-solving and decision-making processes. This diversity of thought enables innovative ideas and solutions to emerge, encouraging risk-taking behavior. 
  • Learn from failure: Make sure employees know that it’s okay to fail. Encourage individuals to see setbacks as opportunities for improvement and learning. Recognize and reward those who take calculated risks, even if the outcomes are not always successful.

  • Promote a growth mindset: All three speakers agreed that asking good questions can often be more valuable than receiving good answers. Good questions can spark curiosity, encourage deep thinking, and prompt individuals to analyze sustainability issues from various angles. In contrast, good answers may provide immediate information but may not necessarily foster big-picture thinking or build problem-solving muscles on the team.

Involve your employees (or other key stakeholders)

When talking about building a culture around risk-taking, the topic of overcoming fear as it relates to organizational change was brought up. Brendan Seale emphasized that people don’t necessarily fear change, but they may fear being changed. Meaning that change can cause people to lose their sense of control, and the unknown outcomes that change brings can be intimidating. Leaders must recognize that people’s reactions to change are not necessarily a reflection of their aversion to innovation or progress. 

Ideas for how you can involve your employees included:

  • Invite perspectives from across the organization and involve employees in the change process. Include all levels and role types, as well as individuals from different departments or groups. By seeking their input, involving them in decision-making, and providing opportunities for collaboration, individuals will feel empowered and will generate a sense of ownership which can help mitigate the fear of being changed.
  • Incorporate elements of playfulness and creativity when possible. When individuals are able to achieve a state of flow by balancing their skills with the level of challenge and feeling secure, their creativity skyrockets!
  • Keep the ambition high, and invite a sense of collective momentum towards exciting new futures.

Our Next Let’s Talk Leadership Event:

An inclusive and just transition recognizes that climate change disproportionately affects marginalized and vulnerable communities. These are communities who bear the brunt of extreme weather events, experience displacement and loss of livelihoods, and face heightened health risks. Despite contributing the least to the crisis, they are the ones who suffer the most, highlighting the urgent need for equitable and inclusive sustainability transitions which ensure their active participation in decision-making processes.

In this event, we’ll start by hearing from three leaders who will share their own insights on the interconnectedness of climate change and social justice and approaches to ensuring that our climate action work is equitable and inclusive. Following the speakers, participants will be broken out into small groups to discuss how leaders can embrace diverse perspectives to help shape inclusive transition pathways forward, ensuring no one gets left behind.

We’ll cover topics like:

  • What can we do to ensure that sustainability transitions are equitable and inclusive?
  • How can we be more inclusive in our climate action, within our spheres of influence?
  • Why is it critical that we explore justice and equity when talking about sustainability?