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Sustainable leadership– leading without a banana mindset

The folk singer, Roger Whittaker, during one of his concerts said: Politicians are like a bunch of bananas; they all hang together; they are all yellow and there is not a straight one amongst them.

In one of my previous articles, I wrote: “Although facetiously said, this resonates with countless people. Possibly, it is because we have this inherent belief and hope that those that choose to lead will serve us and when they do not we become utterly disappointed. Then, after it has occurred a number of times we, the ones who choose to follow, move beyond despondency, we become cynical and display apathy and we find Whittaker’s opening remarks a comic relief for the negative [unsustainable] leadership we experienced.”  

To me, the essence here is the difference between a ‘statesman mind-set’ [sustainable] and a ‘politician mind-set’ [unsustainable]. Therefore, what I am referring to is not the politician or the statesman in the normal sense of the word. I’m referring to a way of thinking and a way of being.

The mind-set of the politician is shaped around the theology of the unholy trinity: I, Me and Mine. When the tsunami of the financial crisis hit the ship we saw them running in ‘a state of confusion characterised by unpredictability and uncontrolled change’ – hence the explanation of ‘going bananas’ indicating a state of doing irrational things. This narcissistic and jealous trinity quickly feels threatened, views and structures relationships as transactional and co-dependent, and shows very little remorse when sacrificing people on the altar of shareholders or voters.

The mind-set of the statesman is vastly different. It has a courageous, systemic, long-term view, and is in touch with human fundamentals. It is a mind and a will seeking effective behaviour, and with character achieves results worthy of the planet, the people and wealth creation. It relinquishes mediocrity forever. When facing the impossible it commits fully to release the dormant possibilities of the impossible. In this quest, the globally responsible and sustainable leadership mind employs, according to Peter Koestenbaum, four companions, namely the prophet, the merchant, the warrior and the healer.

The Prophet-mind sees the bigger picture, acknowledges the stark realities, and then offers a positive vision of a future reality for all that inspires people, and mobilises them. Many times, it ‘observes the masses and goes in the opposite direction’. It does not abide to the theology of the unholy trinity: each one for himself.

The Merchant-mind ensures being fully in touch with the current reality, entertaining no illusions, on top of its game, understanding the law of increasing demand, the economic roles and interactions of stakeholders, the limits of resources, and the creation and sharing  of wealth, and understanding that ‘my business is a subsidiary of society’.

The Warrior-mind is the seat of the will, the source of courage. It displays the ability of leadership to push on, in spite of the current reality, to the ideal future where people, profit and planet interact in harmony. It does not shy away from the demands on personal responsibility and accountability. This mind deals with risks, knowing that they present something of value and that dealing with them wisely and courageously is at the heart of creating sustainable wealth. This mind is not ‘yellow’.

The Healer-mind understands the merchant’s commercial fundamentals and deals with them by focusing on human fundamentals. The core of its character is ethics, being of service to others and the planet. The healer-mind views people not as a means of production, not as cogs in a clock-work, but as having a free will, as having a choice and having the virtue of responsibility whether active or dormant. ‘I am responsible for myself; no one will come to save me. I demonstrate a strong sense of duty to others and to the environment; I am ‘straight’ and therefore avoid the wrong, seeking to do right to others and the planet.’

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