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Sandra Waddock

In today’s fraught world, which faces climate change and growing inequality among other ills, responsible leaders need to recognize their ethical responsibilities to work towards a sustainable, even flourishing, system for all human beings and other living beings. The need for what Stockholm Resilience Centre researchers call planetary stewardship has never been clearer. What that means for responsible leaders in all types of enterprises is that they need to understand and take action on their own organization’s impacts on society and nature to ensure that decisions and impacts are responsible, ethical, and contribute to long-term sustainability rather than the opposites of those tenets. Systemic perspectives, an understanding of connectivity, and articulation of constructive core values are fundamental to these objectives, along with a sense of taking responsibility for the whole system, not just fragments or pieces of it, by understanding and working with the nature of complex adaptive systems fraught with wicked problems. In this transition, one key is to understand the vital role that narratives and stories, with their underlying memes, play in guiding – but not dictating, which is impossible in complex wickedness – transformation processes.

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Sandra Waddock

Systemic problems, like climate change, inequality, political divisiveness and hypercompetition, mean that leaders need to learn how to think and act in the best interests of the whole system, not just their own enterprises, emphasizing not just individual or firm but also collective value. This shift is towards accepting the reality that humans and their enterprises operate within nature’s context – and its limitations. As quantum physics now tells us, we are truly one planet in which all is connected in a vast web of life. Our leaders and their enterprises and institutions need to reflect that reality.