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Sustainable Leadership practices clearly benefit organisations as both practice and research show. Join former MGSM Professor Gayle Avery for her latest updates from the Institute for Sustainable Leadership at a free webinar and Q&A on May 24 at 4 pm.

Former MGSM Professor, Gayle Avery, and MGSM alumnus Harry Bergsteiner founded the Institute for Sustainable Leadership to help organisations improve business outcomes while caring for people and the planet – replacing unsustainable “locust” approaches with sustainable “honeybee” leadership practices.

REGISTER here for the free webinar and Q&A on 24 May at 4 pm AEST. Limited seats available.

Harry and Gayle developed the concept of honeybee leadership from the 12 European study tours they ran for MBA students, who were mostly middle and senior managers themselves. Harry and Gayle took the MGSMers to visit senior executives in high-performing, resilient European companies that are long-standing leaders in their sector. Well-known brands like BMW, Porsche, Roche, Munich Reinsurance, Kärcher, and Allianz, along with many lesser known “champions”, as Hermann Simon calls them.

The companies visited clearly practised a quite different form of leadership from the short-term, business-as-usual, shareholder-centric approach taught at many business schools. Executives at the host organisations talked about serving future generations and the long term, mutual employer-employee loyalty, investing in retaining and developing employees, preparing a career path for each worker, and valuing a range of stakeholders. The hosts assumed that everyone on the tour knew about the benefits of engaging in environmental protection, corporate social responsibility, ethics, respect, innovation and quality. Little did the hosts know that most employers of our Australasian participants typically fell way short of these practices.

Figure 1: The Sustainable Leadership Pyramid

Sustainable leadership is a system of practices, each of which adds value to the organisation. You can see this in Figure 1, which arranges the 23 practices that distinguish honeybee from locust leadership in a pyramid. At the apex are the (mostly measurable) outcomes. Fourteen of the 23 practices form the Foundation level of the pyramid, and are mainly the responsibility of management to implement appropriate policies for. The good news is that each honeybee practice adds demonstrable value to an organisation.

In the second row of the pyramid are six practices that employees are mainly responsible for – behaviours that management cannot command to happen. For example, employees cannot be ordered to trust each other – trust emerges from some of the foundation practices like being ethical and having skilled colleagues. Similarly, being intrinsically motivated comes from sharing a purpose and vision, and possessing the appropriate knowledge to pursue the agreed outcomes.

Finally, the third row in the pyramid represents what a customer experiences: innovation and quality in products and services, and how engaged the people customers come in contact with are. These practices in turn emerge from the lower-level practices, including the culture.

The pyramid is intended to be dynamic and work in all directions. The practices can operate individually or augment one another by working in bundles.

Leaders often ask, where should I begin? Since the policies and actions associated with the Foundation practices are in the hands of managers and support upper-level practices, this is a good place to begin. Perhaps with initiatives like developing a shared vision, offering ongoing training and development for all, ensuring ethical behaviour or introducing environmental and social responsibility programs.

Register here for the free webinar and Q&A on May 24 at 4 pm. Limited seats available.

The webinar shares more about sustainable honeybee practices and answers the question: Why be a honeybee? by showing how individual practices pay off for all organisations. The evidence is based on both research and practice and involves case studies such as the one on Kärcher.


Case study: Kärcher

Kärcher hosted several MGSM study tour groups, all of whom concluded that this company is definitely a “honeybee”. A global manufacturer of innovative cleaning products and solutions, Kärcher is headquartered in a small town in Germany with its 14,400 employees based in 78 countries.

Innovation is a key performance driver of honeybee enterprises and has been an integral component of Kärcher’s corporate culture since the company’s foundation in 1935. Today approximately 90% of all its products are five years old or younger.

The company claims that 85 years of innovation drove its record profits in 2020, and then again in 2021 when annual turnover reached three billion euros for the first time.

This growth has not come at the expense of CSR or efficiency with resources, for which the firm received the highly-regarded German Sustainability prize in 2021.

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