Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/Sustainable leadership

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Sustainable leadership:
What are the leadership qualities needed for sustainable enterprises?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1: Image of coral reef bleaching.

Our future has never been more uncertain due to a lot of environmental issues. The past few centuries have seen a great development in a lot of areas and there has been a great drive in medical development, scientific research, and technological development. These developments have seen a steady rise in life expectancy. Between 1959 and 2016, there has been an increase in life expectancy of at least 10 years on average in the United States alone (Robert et al,. 2008) and there has been a decline in child mortality rates. There has also been a great drive in manufacturing development acorss the globe, with a gradual increase in modes of transportation form automotive manufacturing and air travel development. With all these developments one thing that only started becoming more prevalent is how most of the resources that are being used are affecting the natural environment. Take for example, the use of fossil fuel production can be dated back to the mid-17th century, with some of the early recorded concerns on its effect to the earth’s climate dating back to the year 1986. Although these concerns were met with criticism, it was later found that there was a serious issues with green house gases around the 1950s that were linked to the use of fossil fuels (Hook & Tang, 2013).

Our consumption of non-renewable natural resources has become unsustainable, as it has also seen a big rise in climate change with the global temperature rising by 0.2 degrees celsius per decade (Hansen et al, 2006). This has major effects on the eco system, the temperature rise has also seen the thawing of our polar caps, a rise in the oceanic temperature which has also cause issues such as coral bleaching as shown in figure 1. With the recognition of the negative effects that people have had on the climate, there has been more awareness raised on the sustainable actions that can implemented and actions needed to make the world a better place. This has also seen a rise of sustainable leadership, which was created as a form of leadership aimed at sustainability. Sustainable leadership is a leadership style that was born out of the need to cope with global need of sustainability (Iqbal, et al., 2020).  It is used to help organisations by creating future and current profits, benefiting all the stakeholders, and promoting sustainable values of the individual, organisation, and social groups.

Focus questions:

  • What is sustainable leadership?
  • What are some of the values sustainable leadership would focus on?
  • Which groups would be considered stakeholders for a sustainable enterprise?

Sustainable leadership[edit | edit source]

Figure 2: United nations Environmental program emblem

Climate change as classified by (Tol, 2020) is one of the most pressing global issue of the 21st century. In the past few years, we have started experiencing and seeing the effects of climate change such as global warming and more natural disasters caused by the worsening condition of the climate. These effects have seen a big push by countries and certain global powers to take initiative and create a goal to rectify these issues. When we look at sustainable leadership we need to consider organisations such as the United Nations, Tesla, Inc and Governments such as the Australian government, where these organisations have been pushing for more sustainable alternatives within particular industries and resources.

The need for sustainable leadership has been caused by many factors, inclusive of but not limited to, greenhouse gas, natural causes and human causes (Hardy, 2003). Motivation plays a very important role when we consider the leadership qualities that are needed for sustainable enterprises. Taking into consideration psychodynamic motivational theories and concepts, motivation can also be utilised to excel goals, and targets and we need to consider how they interact with people in both micro and on a macro scale. We can look at what research shows on Maslow's hierarchy of needs and how this can also influence the leadership styles and quality. Some of the thoeries worth considereing are as follow; Alderfer's ERG theory, McClelland's acquired needs, Vroom's Theory of expectancy, The Hawthorne Effect, Skinners Operant conditioning theory and Locke's Goal-Setting theory.

Leadership qualities and motivation[edit | edit source]

Leadership is defined by (Vroom & Jago, 2007) as a process of motivating people to work together and that a good result of good leadership is getting people to peruse a common goal.

Vision, goals, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

Figure 3: suatainility goal to work towards ending world hunger

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can be very important for attaining both visions and goals that an enterprise might look to archive. Intrinsic motivation is behaviour that is mainly motivated by internal factors/values, such as hobbies. Extrinsic motivation is behaviour that is mainly motivated by external factors/values such as punishment for doing something wrong or reward for doing the right thing. Intrinsic motivation is widely considered as the most effective form of motivation and has shown other benefits as well, such as good psychological well-being, whereas extrinsic motivation is commonly used to motivate behaviour that individuals might not find intrinsically interesting (Legault, 2020).

Vison can be very instrumental as a quality of leadership. Vision and goals are something that is shared among groups and can also help people or enterprises gain support. Vison can serve as a method to energise and motivate followers (Kantabultra & Avery, 2006). This is something that can be instrumental to a sustainable enterprise as an extrinsic value. One of the main goals of a sustainable enterprise is getting as many people to work towards sustainability collectively, by working towards a goal that would work to benefit all the stakeholders of an enterprise. An organisation can create incentives to motivate its benefactors and use the same incentives to challenge teams and individuals to produce good results. Intrinsic motivation is harder to impart to stakeholders, it might be a value the individual has, which makes them behave in accordance to their own personal values. A method that could work would be to try and get more stakeholders who already hold the same values as the organisation, such as ending world hunger see figure 3 or incorporating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Most if not all motivational theories are based on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Alderfer’s ERG theory, which are covered in more depth below. These theories posit that, if an individual's external needs are met, the individual is able to reach self-actualisation and this can create intrinsic motivation.

Case study

Ever since Sam was a child, he was always encouraged by his parents and teachers to work harder in specific subjects, because they believed that these would have better career prospects for him in the future. He had always been a talented artist. Sam would be rewarded for passing his science related units by getting gifts from his parents and stars from his teachers when he had good marks in those subjects and being punished when he failed.On the other hand, he never got any recognition for good grades in art subjects. As he got older Sam majored in engineering and graduated as a robotics engineer, he never pursued art but kept doing it on the side as a hobby. Now that he has his own family and career, he finds it more fulfilling doing his art than the work he studied for.

1 Based on the case study above, what sort of motivation did Sam’s parents and teacher use by motivating his actions through reward and punishment?

Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory.
Adler's ERG theory.
Extrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic Motivation

2 Between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation which one applies to Sam’s hobbies?

Intrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic motivation

Attribution theory and success[edit | edit source]

” Attribution theory is basically dealing with the formation of individual opinions about the reasons of particular events or observations.” (Winkler, 2010). Previous success can be a quality people would look for in leadership. (Hahm, et al., 2009) in a study that looked at the election of Lee Myung-bak in South Korea. The research found that people believed in his ability as a leader because of his previous success as mayor and these created illusions that he was effective and because of the praise he received for being a very tough-minded decision-maker.

A study was conducted to see the effects attribution had on learning and performance of students. They were able to find strong evidence that pointed towards significant implications the attribution theory had on the educational process, siting that, causal attribution had an influence on the likelihood of undertaking achievement activities (Weiner, 1972).

Leadership styles and qualities[edit | edit source]

Leadership and morale are another element that can improve the success of an enterprise. Morale is something that can be instrumental for stakeholders, and it can also have an influence on motivation. “Morale is an elusive quality which involves feelings, emotions, attitude and perception towards the organisation and its members” (Shaban, et al,2017). In general moral is commonly known to yield high productivity, but these do not always exhibit a positive correlation, there is a strength morale carries within work groups which is high morale does show a positive correlation to better working environment (Shaban, et al, 2017). Different leadership styles exhibit different different qualities that sustainable enterprises could use, see table 1 bellow.

Table 1: Leadership styles
Leadership style Description Strengths Weaknesses
  • This leadership style is centred around the person in the position of leadership being the only person who makes the vital decisions without any input from others. (Dyczkowska & Dyczkowska, 2018)
  • Leaders tend to give direct instructions on set tasks which also means tasks ae persomed effectively
  • Unimpaired programme
  • Rules give secuirty
  • Discipline
  • It does not instill learnign mentality.
  • Not consulting subordinants can increase missed opportunities and risk underestimation.
  • Reduced creativity for the sake of employees being strictly comiited to work they are told to do.
  • Pacesetting leadership style is best exemplified by leadership that leads by example and the leaders set high expectations and require quick results. (Jasper, 2018)
  • Meets goals fast
  • Shows team strenghts and competences
  • Fast resolution of issues
  • High levels of stress for employees
  • Low trust from leaders
  • and limited engagement
  • This leadership style is a more hands off style of leadership, the employees have the most power and authority (Khan & Khan, 2015)
  • Freedom to choose
  • No burden on the team members
  • Own social structures
  • A lot of freedom
  • Misuse of Rules
  • No responsibility
  • No initiative
  • Weaker members are held back
  • This leadership style is a direct contrast of the Autocratic leadership style. Democratic leaders look for consensus decisions and they consult with subordinates. (Dyczkowska & Dyczkowska, 2018)
  • Encourages feed back and discusions with employees
  • Stimulates quality asuring behavior
  • Self-sufficient
  • Motivating
  • Varied ideas
  • Freedom of opinion
  • Equal rights
  • Time consuming
  • Difficult for the leaders
  • No optimal solutions
  • Affiliative leadership style focuses on how leadership can create harmony among its followers. (Wachira, et al, 2018)
  • More praise to the followers by the leadership
  • Poor performance is typically unchecked

Effective communication[edit | edit source]

Great communication might be one of the most important skills on leadership. People need to understand what an individual or a organisation stands for and this can help gain more followers by ways of increasing their reach and influence. We can look at how former American president Barack Obama was able to capitalise on new media platforms such as Facebook (Hughes & Allbright-Hannah, 2010). They understood the campaigns ability to reach people who would have typically been missed by using this platform.

Case study

The World Wide Fund for nature also known as WWF, in its early stages of the organisation saw that they had solid funding which came from their investors and also from the general public. This was because they were able to capitalise on air time, TV and radio. In the past 10 years, they have seen a steady decline, (Young, 2009) in their studie showed that Australians between 2001 and 2007 had seen an average drop of 15.8% viewership across 6 different channels around prime time as people have stopped watching free to air tv and listening to the radio, rather opting for streaming entertainment services, such as Netflix, Disney and Spotify. These challenges might have affected their range of influence and now they are wondering what ways they can get more people to fund and volunteer to help for their cause. The organisation barely has a social media presence and seeing as this has become one of the most common spaces for communication. Looking at the leadership qualities, they figure out that they have not been able to adapt and they decide to create a social media department for the organisation. They start engaging with people on the different platforms. (Tritama & Tarigan, 2016) linked the significant influence social media had on a company's product and their brand awareness, this could increase their ability to reach out to more people and for more people to find out about their cause.

Motivation theories[edit | edit source]

There are other motivation theories that can be used when considering sustainable leadership, as stated above these can flow into the two main categories of intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation or even both. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows both forms of motivation.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs[edit | edit source]

Figure 3: image of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow based his hierarchy of needs as being a key motivator based on a five tier model of human needs (McLeod, 2007). As shown in figure 2, Maslow's focusses on these five stages, Psychological needs, safety needs, belongingness & love needs, esteem needs and self-actualisation. His theory states the needs on the bottom need to be fulfilled before a person focusses on the higher needs. These tiers also fall into 3 subcategories Psychological needs and Safety needs would fall under basic needs, belongingness & love and esteem needs would be grouped under psychological needs and finally self-actualisation under self-fulfilment needs.

An enterprise can look at this theory and use it in place to work within the organisation and also look at real world applications of this theory. What Maslow suggests is that when people's psychological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs and esteem needs are met, the person has room and the ability to work on self-actualisation. Within the organisation, if they notice that there has been a decline in productivity and creativity, they can look at this needs structure and see where these needs might be lacking and see what ideas they can implement to help get productivity up. The other needs to consider are the needs of the people/public. In the case that they have been effectively communicating their goals and people understand what is at risk, but there is no action of compliance they can also look at this hierarchy of needs and see if there are certain areas that they might be able to improve. See case study bellow.

Case study

In a pollution study, a group of scientists decide to survey six countries. The condition of the survey was that three of the countries had to be considered as 3rd world countries and the other three had to be 1st world countries (in economical terms). The study found that people in the third world countries, even after being educated at the same level as the those in the first world countries, showed no improvement in the pollution levels, but the first world countries showed improvements. One of the researchers suggests that the underlying reason they did not find an improvement was that people in the first world countries seemed to have most of their needs met in accordance to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and in having that, they tended to care more about social-economical problems. The other countries did not have their basic needs met and were generally more worried about other needs appart from polution.

Something to consider: Would you care about sustainability when the only thing you can do for a living to provide for your family was in an industry that was unsustainable or would your first responsibility be for you and your family's wellbeing?

Alderfer's ERG theory[edit | edit source]

Alderfer's ERG theory originated from when Alderfer was attempting to address some shortcomings with Maslow's theory of hierarchy of need he came up with was that a person is motivated by only three core needs. These needs were existence, Relatedness and Growth needs (ERG) (Arnolds & Bosshoff, 2002). This theory does resemble almost a shortened version of Maslow's theory, the difference being that the ERG theory seems shorter. The Existence needs resemble the basic needs that a person needs to survive, Relatedness needs resemble the need to have some interpersonal relationships, such as social groups and family, and Growth needs resemble self-actualisation, and the desire for personal growth. Since Alderfer’s ERG theory is similar in concept to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs this can be applied in the same way in an enterprise.

McClelland's acquired needs[edit | edit source]

David C McClelland theory of motivation similar to Alderfer's ERG theory in that it had three central ideas on motivation. This theory states that motivation is closely associated with learning concepts, the needs are learned through one interaction with their learning environment (Pardee, 1990). McClelland focuses on these three needs, the need for achievement, the need for power and the need for affiliation. The need for achievement is when a person tries to be better and archive more, this can be likened to Maslow's self-actualisation stage. The need for power is when a person strives for power or control and they use this as their main motive to have the power. The third need is the affiliation need. These are individuals who are motivated by social connections.

Hawthorne effect[edit | edit source]

The Hawthorne effect was founded on the investigation of the effects of how changing the environment can increase productivity, and this was conducted by Hawthorne in his company. His investigation was to see if improving or reducing the lighting in the factory had an effect on productivity (McCarney, et al., 2007).

Case study

A sustainable enterprise has a global goal to improve the carbon footprint of the nation, but they notice that it is had been difficult to get people to worry about the future impact of global warming while they are busy worrying about things that are happening around them. So they start looking at satisfying some of the basic needs and by making sure that the people's needs are met people and over time the same group reaches a level of self-actualisation and start coming up with better and more economical ways that help them deal with the issues of sustainability.

1 Looking at the case study above, which theory of motivation would you say that the enterprise is using?

Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory.
Alderfer's ERG theory.
McClelland's acquired needs theory.

2 True or false that Alderfer's ERG theory draws its inspiration from Maslow's hierarchy of needs?


Leadership and relationships[edit | edit source]

Figure 4. Rimac automobili electric car

Relationships and quality of relationships are very instrumental to leadership, enterprises by way of building and sustaining relations stand to gain from them as well as having other sources that can bring recognition to their organisation. World Wildlife Fund is a sustainable enterprise that has developed relationships with different countries and also different stakeholders. One of the most important relationships for leaders are the followers and the people who might not be followers but want to follow them. This can bring in to play a lot of factors such as public perception, word of mouth and also getting the message spread about the goals of the organisation.

Organisational relationships[edit | edit source]

Cooperation between organisations can work to create mutual benefits. Rimac Automobili which is an up starter car company which used to specialise in creating batteries for other car manufactures like Koenigsegg, was able to start making their own fully electric cars whilst still providing batteries for other manufactures. They are able to do this by receiving funding and investments from other organisations such as the VW group whilst the VW group gains battery technologies that they can use in their cars. In this industry, we have also seen similar relationships between car manufacturers.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

As the world continues to develop there is increasing need for more sustainable enterprises and continued development of current ones. Just like many forms of leadership there are also many strengths that specific leadership qualities can bring to a sustainable enterprise to help them succeed. This can be accomplished by empowering the stakeholders through ways of motivating their behaviour and working towards a better and more sustainable future.

A sustainable enterprise can be considered a not for profit or for-profit organisation that works towards achieving sustainability. This can be in a wide range of industries. Sustainable organisations have a big task at hand. The challenges can only be overcome with great leadership skills, the ability to change with the times and building relationships. From what has been covered in this book chapter we can see how multifaceted and sustainable enterprise has to be able to reach their goals. Sustainability is not a challenge a single organisation can take on by itself but is a challenge that an organisation with good strategies and leadership might be able to make an impact on, by getting as many people to engage on the strategies and coming up with innovative ideas.

By applying motivational theory, we can also see how these enterprises can effectively improve productivity and also have a greater influence on the public which would also add to their success. Sustainable leadership is a new form of leadership and has shown promising results of paving a new lifestyle that is beneficial to both nature and humans. It will only improve over time as we learn more about it and develop better methods of this leadership.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Arnolds, C. A., & Boshoff, C. (2002). Compensation, esteem valence and job performance: an empirical assessment of Alderfer's ERG theory. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 13(4), 697-719.

Dyczkowska, J., & Dyczkowski, T. (2018). Democratic or autocratic leadership style? Participative management and its links to rewarding strategies and job satisfaction in SMEs. Athens Journal of Business & Economics, 4(2), 193-218.

Hahm, S. D., & Choi, Y. H. (2009). An early assessment of the lee myung-bak presidency: Leadership style and qualities*. Korea Observer, 40(4), 615-638. Retrieved from

Höök, M., & Tang, X. (2013). Depletion of fossil fuels and anthropogenic climate change—A review. Energy policy, 52, 797-809.

Hardy, J. T. (2003). Climate change: causes, effects, and solutions. John Wiley & Sons.

Hughes, S. G. F., Allbright-Hannah, K., Goodstein, S., Grove, S., Zuckerberg, R., Sladden, C., & Bohnet, B. (2010). Obama and the power of social media and technology. The European Business Review, 16-21.

Iqbal, Q., Ahmad, N. H., & Halim, H. A. (2020). How Does Sustainable Leadership Influence Sustainable Performance? Empirical Evidence From Selected ASEAN Countries. SAGE Open, 10(4), 2158244020969394.

Jasper, L. (2018). Building an adaptive Leadership style. Strategic Finance, 99(9), 54-61.

Kantabutra, S., & Avery, G. C. (2006). Follower effects in the visionary leadership process. Journal of Business & Economics Research (JBER), 4(5).

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Khan, M. S., Khan, I., Qureshi, Q. A., Ismail, H. M., Rauf, H., Latif, A., & Tahir, M. (2015). The styles of leadership: A critical review. Public Policy and Administration Research, 5(3), 87-92.

Legault, L. (2020). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Encyclopedia of personality and individual differences, 2416-2419. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1139-1

McCarney, R., Warner, J., Iliffe, S., Van Haselen, R., Griffin, M., & Fisher, P. (2007). The Hawthorne Effect: a randomised, controlled trial. BMC medical research methodology, 7(1), 1-8.

Pardee, R. L. (1990). Motivation Theories of Maslow, Herzberg, McGregor & McClelland. A Literature Review of Selected Theories Dealing with Job Satisfaction and Motivation.

Robert, L., Robert, A. M., & Fülöp, T. (2008). Rapid increase in human life expectancy: will it soon be limited by the aging of elastin?. Biogerontology, 9(2), 119-133.

Shaban, O. S., Al-Zubi, Z., Ali, N., & Alqotaish, A. (2017). The effect of low morale and motivation on employees’ productivity & competitiveness in Jordanian industrial companies. International Business Research, 10(7), 1-7.

Sharma, L., & SINGH, S. K. (2013). CHARACTERISTICS OF LAISSEZ-FAIRE LEADERSHIP STYLE: A CASE STUDY. CLEAR International Journal of Research in Commerce & Management, 4(3).

Tol, R. S. (2020). The economic impacts of climate change. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy.

Tritama, H. B., & Tarigan, R. E. (2016). The effect of social media to the brand awareness of a product of a company. CommIT (Communication and Information Technology) Journal, 10(1), 9-14. DOI: 10.21512/commit.v10i1.1667

Winkler, I. (2010). Contemporary leadership theories: Enhancing the understanding of the complexity, subjectivity and dynamic of leadership. Springer Science & Business Media.

Wolugbom, R. K., & Samuel, J. (2020). HONESTY IN BUSINESS: A PANACEA FOR BUSINESS SUSTAINABILITY AMONG SMALL AND MEDIUM SCALE ENTERPRISES. Nigerian Journal of Business Education (NIGJBED), 7(1), 367-379.

Vroom, V. H., & Jago, A. G. (2007). The role of the situation in leadership. American Psychologist, 62(1), 17.

Young, S. (2009). The decline of traditional news and current affairs audiences in Australia. Media International Australia, 131(1), 147-159. doi: 10.1177/1329878X0913100116

External linksu[edit | edit source]