The five qualities of climate change leadership


The climate emergency requires transformation across all sectors of society, including the workplace. To achieve the necessary change a different kind of leadership is required, but what does it look like?

Here are five things good climate leaders do:

1. Recognise their organisation’s social contribution

Climate change cannot be tackled if a firm’s guiding principles are solely focused on protecting the bottom line and delivering shareholder value. Climate leaders must recognise the role their organisation plays in wider social progress. This means more than just obeying sustainability regulations, it means delivering genuine benefits that are felt beyond the organisation. It also means recognising the need for collective action.

2. Drive collective action

Meaningful action on climate change will not happen if some organisations take the initiative while others ‘freeride’ on their efforts. Society-wide action needs collaboration between diverse groups in pursuit of collective goals, as well as the sharing of knowledge, skills and technologies. This means challenging traditional organisational boundaries to create new relationships and partnerships.

3. Facilitate leadership

Delivering long-term sustainability solutions requires a commitment from everyone involved. This cannot be achieved through top-down directing, supervision and control. Instead climate leaders make space for other leaders. They allow ideas and innovation to flourish and engage teams by giving people responsibility.

4. Have self-awareness and courage

To tackle the climate crisis, the human race must change almost everything it does. Deciding upon and implementing the kind of bold action needed requires self-awareness and bravery. A climate leader must know what they and the organisation they work for truly stand for. Are their organisation’s goals in-line with what is required to avert climate catastrophe? If not, courage is needed to speak up so the necessary transformation to culture, values and operations take place.

5. Encourage diversity

The impacts of climate change will not be felt equally across nations, social classes, genders and races. However, we can only find solutions that serve all sections of society if the leaders of the debate reflect the groups set to suffer. Climate leaders therefore recognise the importance of diversity in finding just solutions to the climate crisis.

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