Andrea Learned

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Profiles in Sustainability Leadership

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In the past few years, we’ve seen a lot more attention paid to women in CSR and sustainability. Needless to say, I’m all for it, but perhaps not for the obvious reasons. While I do have a deep marketing to women background (I co-authored a book on the topic), it isn’t so much that I celebrate the recognition for women. It’s more that I celebrate the stories of people demonstrating the universal leadership traits that seem especially critical in today’s economy.

The various collections of stories about these women do something very important: they “norm-alize” a certain style of leading (in other words, they make this way of leading the social norm). And, what is that?

These leaders either naturally have, or have developed, incredible communications skills for engaging with the widest variety of stakeholders.  They also readily practice empathy in their business dealings, again, to be able to deeply engage with people along the way. The key point: communications strengths and the practice of empathy are no longer considered, nice-to-have, “soft skills,” but have instead become absolute leadership skills.

The women profiled in the TriplePunditWomen in CSR” series or included in the similar GreenBiz “How She Leads” collection, demonstrate leading ways that demand to be studied and taught – for everyone – as we look to forward sustainable business overall.

I’m honored to have been recently profiled for the TriplePundit series, even as I see myself as an outsider reporting on the others. THEY are the ones deeply in the trenches, doing incredible work as corporate change leaders.

To be clear, none of these people has “it all figured out.” Instead, they are examples of women reflecting what will continue to be smart practices in the corporate sustainability leadership journey.

All that is to say, I’d keep an eye on these sorts of stories if I were you. To build your own teams of values-based, socially and environmentally responsible executives and managers, both men and women, the clues are there.