Do ethics make a leader more sustainable?

Umesh Mukhi


 Exploring the nexus of Spirituality, Leadership and Sustainability with Professor Shiv Tripathi

The Interview is an exclusive part of Mindthis Sustainable Leadership Series which features cutting edge thought leadership from change makers across the world.

What does Sustainability mean to you? Can you underline three key sustainable issues which we should be dealing on urgent basis?

To me, sustainability is all about maintaining the universal equilibrium of all living and non-living things in a way that ensures the continuity of the equilibrium over the period of time infinite. This approach appears idealistic but at the same time we need to understand that being idealistic makes sense if there is threat of not being in existence. I think the major sustainability related issues requiring urgent attention are more related to the sustainability management process than the indicators. For example it may include: bridging the gap between individual and collective concerns towards sustainability issues; linking sustainability efforts to individual ethics and morality and addressing sustainability issues in totality rather than piece-meal program based approach.

What is the role of business schools in integrating Sustainability? Can you share some thoughts about responsibility and challenges we face in academia?

Business schools have great role in shaping the ‘sustainability-driven’ leaders. In fact most of the sustainability issues are diluted because of our existing decision priorities and fundamental assumptions. I fully subscribe to the ‘business of business is business’ logic but at the same time we need to be careful about defining ‘business’ and this is the point where B-schools have to play a critical role. This is responsibility of all the stakeholders in academia, particularly faculty, industry and deans. The major challenge is changing the fundamental assumptions in B-schools. I know it is important but it doesn’t bring me returns and this approach must be changed.

Given your expertise in Spirituality and Management, can you shed some light on the role of “mindset” in determining Sustainability at the individual and organizational Level?

As I mentioned earlier, one can’t be sustainable in collective behavior if one is not having sustainability concerns at the individual level. It requires complete internalization of the sustainability values and underlying philosophy, which in other words could be explained as sensitivity towards our actions as human and its’ impact on other. This requires a complete spiritual integration of mind, body and soul.

Some recent articles have shown that Spiritual practices like meditation have positive influence on our lives. How do you see the link between Spirituality and Sustainable Development?

Spiritual mind is free from the biases. Meditation helps in developing spiritual orientation of mind and it should be treated as pure science. When one thinks with spirituality the entire paradigm, changes, one can see beyond the conventional limits and can analyze the impact of actions much beyond the accepted conventions. Don’t you think it’s’ all about sustainability? No exaggeration to say that spirituality is an essential step towards developing sustainable concerns.

Why is the concept of Sustainable Leadership different from other types of leadership?

To me, sustainable leadership not only takes care of sustainability concerns in her own actions rather develops the organization where everyone gradually develops the mindset. In other words we can explain it as the leadership for sustainability by making the others sustainability focused.

What would be the three key pieces of advice for someone aspiring to become a Sustainable Leader?

Develop a sustainable mindset; think beyond return-driven social responsibility; and be ready to coach others in becoming sustainable leader.

About Shiv

Shiv Tripathi, Ph.D. is a Professor at Mzumbe University Dar Es Salaam Campus where he teaches courses on strategy, supply chain management. Prof. Tripathi is an IFP alumnus of IESE Business School, Barcelona and International Program on Management of sustainability (IPMS, Netherlands). His special research interests include human values, ethics, anti-corruption and sustainability, as applied to management systems and processes. He’s authored more than 75 publications and is member of UN PRME working group on ‘Anti-corruption in Management Education’ and ‘Anti-Poverty and Management Education’.

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