Navigating sustainable leadership in todays turbulent times

Navigating sustainable leadership in todays turbulent times

Navigating sustainable leadership in todays turbulent times

Mark Hayton
Mark Hayton
Mark Hayton
In today's challenging landscape, the concept of synergy has shifted from efficiency to layoffs, highlighting the trade-off between short-term gains and sustainability. Leaders face a pivotal choice: prioritise immediate results or invest in long-term success. For professionals, it's time to reconsider roles stretched thin by the pursuit of synergy. It's time to redefine leadership by prioritising sustainability and impactful actions over superficial metrics, navigating the complexities of modern workplaces together.


We’re in strange times. Burn out and bore out are affecting employees in equal measure and at the same time companies are promoting their unbiased, sustainable approach to operations while being forced by regulations like CSRD to change the way they do business. We’re all simultaneously blissfully engaged, diverse and sustainable but checked out, stressed out, prejudiced and polluting, afraid to lose the jobs we hate.


In the leadership and management practice space there is a cyclical nature to frameworks and guidance that if you apply a long enough lens you can see evolves with industry. As markets grow and saturate we move from decentralisation to centralisation, from autonomy to accountability, from “flow state” to “six sigma”. Most terms are recycled and upgraded so what was six sigma, becomes continuous improvement and what was the Ohio State model becomes “psychological safety”. One of these buzzwords however, was so overused and so broadly touted as a panacea it is now taboo to mention in leadership forums and it might be why we’re all suffering today. 


Synergy, or as it was more often (and less accurately stated) synergies swept to prominence during the late 90s and into the dot com bubble. It was traditionally used in multiple fields such as evolutionary biology, computing and investment banking and in its traditional form was bound by fact-based verification instruments. So complementary code, species or investment opportunities tended to have measurable outputs such as survival rates, speed of program execution and profitability. In management theory however synergy between teams and departments is less easy to measure and as the dot com bubble burst synergies were put to work in a new form, not on bringing productive capacity together, but on refining internal processes. 


As a term of practice synergy fell out of favour for a simple reason, to employees it had become synonymous with layoffs, to investors it had become synonymous with mismanagement. Although the term fell away as many industries saturated and reeled from one financial crisis to the next, the practice of mixing and merging departments in the hope of the same output for less cost continued. In the short-term most people and teams can cope with the additional strain, so many transformation activities are declared wins, they become operational, but very rarely become sustainable. 


Already living with one lack of sustainability, many leaders and teams then bear the responsibility of becoming compliant with the other types of sustainable practices. For most leaders they don’t have enough people to do the job currently and then have to take additional time to ensure their working practices and recruitment processes are unbiased and to ensure their operations, materials, products and processes are on the path to becoming carbon neutral. When not impacting direct cost, at the very least, it’s taking up time leaders don’t have. 

If the legacy of “synergy” primed the pump for the bi-polar workforce we have today, the perpetual hunt for growth is the factor that lit the ignition. Profits are “stagnant” (also known as stable) but as regulations and standards tighten up and many industries deal with costs they probably should have been paying since the start, many leaders are choosing to protect their margins over their people. If a company cares about diversity and a fair hiring process, most often managers bear the costs of implementing them. If companies care about the planet, managers have to compile the reporting, but will do it with a 10% smaller budget next year. That is why so many of us have multiple hats and merged responsibility areas, many companies have been taking on the additional work of sustainability, but not staffing it correctly.


In the end this choice, between cost and sustainable practice, is a fallacy in many ways. There are people more qualified than me to make the case that in the long run sustainable practices will pay for themselves, but on a more practical and short-term scale, investors care about more than margins. Among other things I’m an investor (small scale) and in the same way that a CEO talking about synergy is a red flag, a company hitting its margins and not committing to sustainable practices tells me, I might not get my money back. It tells me the company is looking at the numbers and not the business.

There is a good book I can recommend by three-time Super Bowl champion Bill Walsh called The score takes care of itself. Its central thesis is that others will follow you based on the quality of your actions, not the magnitude of your declarations. Scoreboards, metrics, don’t make winners, commitments and actions do. With ESG jobs falling out of focus this year, it’s time to ask the right questions about Sustainable Leadership.

For all professionals, it’s time to go back to basics and ask, what’s my job, my remit made of? Am I committed to multiple departments and bosses? Covering multiple divergent processes? Have I taken on additional admin work in the name of “synergy”? If so, you’re probably doing (at least) two jobs. 


For leaders, it’s time to ask, am I focused on the scoreboard or the pitch? Am I trying to trick investors into thinking this is a safe bet or am I making this team and this way of working a safe bet now and in the years to come?


Thanks to Minna Maijala for explaining CSRD to me in detail and to Satu Heikinheimo for nudging me to write again.


Mark Hayton, Sustainable Culture and Leadership Expert

mark.hayton82@gmail.com
+358 50 487 6621

In today's challenging landscape, the concept of synergy has shifted from efficiency to layoffs, highlighting the trade-off between short-term gains and sustainability. Leaders face a pivotal choice: prioritise immediate results or invest in long-term success. For professionals, it's time to reconsider roles stretched thin by the pursuit of synergy. It's time to redefine leadership by prioritising sustainability and impactful actions over superficial metrics, navigating the complexities of modern workplaces together.


We’re in strange times. Burn out and bore out are affecting employees in equal measure and at the same time companies are promoting their unbiased, sustainable approach to operations while being forced by regulations like CSRD to change the way they do business. We’re all simultaneously blissfully engaged, diverse and sustainable but checked out, stressed out, prejudiced and polluting, afraid to lose the jobs we hate.


In the leadership and management practice space there is a cyclical nature to frameworks and guidance that if you apply a long enough lens you can see evolves with industry. As markets grow and saturate we move from decentralisation to centralisation, from autonomy to accountability, from “flow state” to “six sigma”. Most terms are recycled and upgraded so what was six sigma, becomes continuous improvement and what was the Ohio State model becomes “psychological safety”. One of these buzzwords however, was so overused and so broadly touted as a panacea it is now taboo to mention in leadership forums and it might be why we’re all suffering today. 


Synergy, or as it was more often (and less accurately stated) synergies swept to prominence during the late 90s and into the dot com bubble. It was traditionally used in multiple fields such as evolutionary biology, computing and investment banking and in its traditional form was bound by fact-based verification instruments. So complementary code, species or investment opportunities tended to have measurable outputs such as survival rates, speed of program execution and profitability. In management theory however synergy between teams and departments is less easy to measure and as the dot com bubble burst synergies were put to work in a new form, not on bringing productive capacity together, but on refining internal processes. 


As a term of practice synergy fell out of favour for a simple reason, to employees it had become synonymous with layoffs, to investors it had become synonymous with mismanagement. Although the term fell away as many industries saturated and reeled from one financial crisis to the next, the practice of mixing and merging departments in the hope of the same output for less cost continued. In the short-term most people and teams can cope with the additional strain, so many transformation activities are declared wins, they become operational, but very rarely become sustainable. 


Already living with one lack of sustainability, many leaders and teams then bear the responsibility of becoming compliant with the other types of sustainable practices. For most leaders they don’t have enough people to do the job currently and then have to take additional time to ensure their working practices and recruitment processes are unbiased and to ensure their operations, materials, products and processes are on the path to becoming carbon neutral. When not impacting direct cost, at the very least, it’s taking up time leaders don’t have. 

If the legacy of “synergy” primed the pump for the bi-polar workforce we have today, the perpetual hunt for growth is the factor that lit the ignition. Profits are “stagnant” (also known as stable) but as regulations and standards tighten up and many industries deal with costs they probably should have been paying since the start, many leaders are choosing to protect their margins over their people. If a company cares about diversity and a fair hiring process, most often managers bear the costs of implementing them. If companies care about the planet, managers have to compile the reporting, but will do it with a 10% smaller budget next year. That is why so many of us have multiple hats and merged responsibility areas, many companies have been taking on the additional work of sustainability, but not staffing it correctly.


In the end this choice, between cost and sustainable practice, is a fallacy in many ways. There are people more qualified than me to make the case that in the long run sustainable practices will pay for themselves, but on a more practical and short-term scale, investors care about more than margins. Among other things I’m an investor (small scale) and in the same way that a CEO talking about synergy is a red flag, a company hitting its margins and not committing to sustainable practices tells me, I might not get my money back. It tells me the company is looking at the numbers and not the business.

There is a good book I can recommend by three-time Super Bowl champion Bill Walsh called The score takes care of itself. Its central thesis is that others will follow you based on the quality of your actions, not the magnitude of your declarations. Scoreboards, metrics, don’t make winners, commitments and actions do. With ESG jobs falling out of focus this year, it’s time to ask the right questions about Sustainable Leadership.

For all professionals, it’s time to go back to basics and ask, what’s my job, my remit made of? Am I committed to multiple departments and bosses? Covering multiple divergent processes? Have I taken on additional admin work in the name of “synergy”? If so, you’re probably doing (at least) two jobs. 


For leaders, it’s time to ask, am I focused on the scoreboard or the pitch? Am I trying to trick investors into thinking this is a safe bet or am I making this team and this way of working a safe bet now and in the years to come?


Thanks to Minna Maijala for explaining CSRD to me in detail and to Satu Heikinheimo for nudging me to write again.


Mark Hayton, Sustainable Culture and Leadership Expert

mark.hayton82@gmail.com
+358 50 487 6621

In today's challenging landscape, the concept of synergy has shifted from efficiency to layoffs, highlighting the trade-off between short-term gains and sustainability. Leaders face a pivotal choice: prioritise immediate results or invest in long-term success. For professionals, it's time to reconsider roles stretched thin by the pursuit of synergy. It's time to redefine leadership by prioritising sustainability and impactful actions over superficial metrics, navigating the complexities of modern workplaces together.


We’re in strange times. Burn out and bore out are affecting employees in equal measure and at the same time companies are promoting their unbiased, sustainable approach to operations while being forced by regulations like CSRD to change the way they do business. We’re all simultaneously blissfully engaged, diverse and sustainable but checked out, stressed out, prejudiced and polluting, afraid to lose the jobs we hate.


In the leadership and management practice space there is a cyclical nature to frameworks and guidance that if you apply a long enough lens you can see evolves with industry. As markets grow and saturate we move from decentralisation to centralisation, from autonomy to accountability, from “flow state” to “six sigma”. Most terms are recycled and upgraded so what was six sigma, becomes continuous improvement and what was the Ohio State model becomes “psychological safety”. One of these buzzwords however, was so overused and so broadly touted as a panacea it is now taboo to mention in leadership forums and it might be why we’re all suffering today. 


Synergy, or as it was more often (and less accurately stated) synergies swept to prominence during the late 90s and into the dot com bubble. It was traditionally used in multiple fields such as evolutionary biology, computing and investment banking and in its traditional form was bound by fact-based verification instruments. So complementary code, species or investment opportunities tended to have measurable outputs such as survival rates, speed of program execution and profitability. In management theory however synergy between teams and departments is less easy to measure and as the dot com bubble burst synergies were put to work in a new form, not on bringing productive capacity together, but on refining internal processes. 


As a term of practice synergy fell out of favour for a simple reason, to employees it had become synonymous with layoffs, to investors it had become synonymous with mismanagement. Although the term fell away as many industries saturated and reeled from one financial crisis to the next, the practice of mixing and merging departments in the hope of the same output for less cost continued. In the short-term most people and teams can cope with the additional strain, so many transformation activities are declared wins, they become operational, but very rarely become sustainable. 


Already living with one lack of sustainability, many leaders and teams then bear the responsibility of becoming compliant with the other types of sustainable practices. For most leaders they don’t have enough people to do the job currently and then have to take additional time to ensure their working practices and recruitment processes are unbiased and to ensure their operations, materials, products and processes are on the path to becoming carbon neutral. When not impacting direct cost, at the very least, it’s taking up time leaders don’t have. 

If the legacy of “synergy” primed the pump for the bi-polar workforce we have today, the perpetual hunt for growth is the factor that lit the ignition. Profits are “stagnant” (also known as stable) but as regulations and standards tighten up and many industries deal with costs they probably should have been paying since the start, many leaders are choosing to protect their margins over their people. If a company cares about diversity and a fair hiring process, most often managers bear the costs of implementing them. If companies care about the planet, managers have to compile the reporting, but will do it with a 10% smaller budget next year. That is why so many of us have multiple hats and merged responsibility areas, many companies have been taking on the additional work of sustainability, but not staffing it correctly.


In the end this choice, between cost and sustainable practice, is a fallacy in many ways. There are people more qualified than me to make the case that in the long run sustainable practices will pay for themselves, but on a more practical and short-term scale, investors care about more than margins. Among other things I’m an investor (small scale) and in the same way that a CEO talking about synergy is a red flag, a company hitting its margins and not committing to sustainable practices tells me, I might not get my money back. It tells me the company is looking at the numbers and not the business.

There is a good book I can recommend by three-time Super Bowl champion Bill Walsh called The score takes care of itself. Its central thesis is that others will follow you based on the quality of your actions, not the magnitude of your declarations. Scoreboards, metrics, don’t make winners, commitments and actions do. With ESG jobs falling out of focus this year, it’s time to ask the right questions about Sustainable Leadership.

For all professionals, it’s time to go back to basics and ask, what’s my job, my remit made of? Am I committed to multiple departments and bosses? Covering multiple divergent processes? Have I taken on additional admin work in the name of “synergy”? If so, you’re probably doing (at least) two jobs. 


For leaders, it’s time to ask, am I focused on the scoreboard or the pitch? Am I trying to trick investors into thinking this is a safe bet or am I making this team and this way of working a safe bet now and in the years to come?


Thanks to Minna Maijala for explaining CSRD to me in detail and to Satu Heikinheimo for nudging me to write again.


Mark Hayton, Sustainable Culture and Leadership Expert

mark.hayton82@gmail.com
+358 50 487 6621

Let's make a positive impact together

‭info@planetdiplomats.com

+358 40 758 7805‬

This website has been built with low-carbon

principles and produces 0.19g of CO₂ for each visit.

Planet Diplomats © 2023.

Let's make a positive impact together

‭info@planetdiplomats.com

+358 40 758 7805‬

This website has been built with

low-carbon principles and produces 0.19g of CO₂ for each visit.

Planet Diplomats © 2023.

Let's make a positive impact together

‭info@planetdiplomats.com

+358 40 758 7805‬

This website has been built with low-carbon

principles and produces 0.19g of CO₂ for each visit.

Planet Diplomats © 2023.