HR Leader: Why you should be promoting sustainable, emotional, and ethical leadership - Michelle Gibbings

Thanks to Jack Campbell and HR Leader, Michelle was invited to share her insights on the promotion of sustainable, emotional, and ethical leadership.

Creating a healthy workplace begins with leadership, and fostering leaders who are sustainable, emotional, and ethical can help a business to thrive.

Sustainability is quickly becoming a key concern for employees, and it can determine who they decide to work for. A Deloitte study outlined that 69 per cent of employees said they want their companies to invest in sustainability efforts, including reducing carbon emissions, using renewable energy, and reducing waste.

According to careers expert Michelle Gibbings, promoting sustainability in leadership will be very important in the future of work: “Sustainable leadership is about focusing on outcomes that balance current needs with long-term objectives.”

“Leaders embracing this leadership style prioritise practices promoting resilience, ethics, continuous improvement, and operational tactics and approaches that actively consider environmental and community needs. Sustainable leaders can focus on the present while always keeping a socially responsible eye on the future to ensure long-term sustainable progress.”

Ethics are relevant to sustainability, too, and can be leveraged to create a happy and thriving workplace. Ethics can elevate plenty of areas of business, such as culture, legal compliance, employee satisfaction, image, and engagement.

Gibbings continued: “Having ethical leaders is more critical than ever as leaders confront decisions they have not faced before, as technology, particularly generative AI, impacts roles and how we work, connect and engage.”

“Ethical leaders know who they are and what they stand for and inspire their team to act responsibly and ethically. Operating with integrity, they will make the tough decisions and do what is right, not what is easy. Consequently, having a solid reputation, they can more successfully forge strong partnerships and contribute to a thriving and healthy workplace culture.”

Hand in hand with both sustainability and ethics are emotions. Emotional intelligence has become something of a buzzword in recent years, distinguishing leaders who are in touch with their feelings and, therefore, come across as more human.

“The question implies that leaders can put emotions aside. As we know through the brilliant discoveries in neuroscience, emotions are an intrinsic part of who we are. They guide our feelings, thinking and actions,” said Gibbings.

“The key is to notice emotions and how they impact how you react to what is happening around you. Dig into the meaning you are giving those feelings and what they are telling you to do. Your emotions matter. They change your physiology, perception, and where you place your attention.”

She continued: “When you notice the impact, you can then consider how to move from ‘reaction’ to ‘wise-response’ mode. As leaders, pay attention to the emotional environment you create at work so it is safe for you and your team members to talk about their feelings.”

As outlined by Harvard Business School Online, the four components of emotional intelligence are:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management

These themes are all crucial for effective leadership. Gibbings noted that emotions are essential for providing support: “Notice the opportunities you have to support and hear others. Just like you want to feel validated, so do they. So, if you are on the receiving end of someone expressing their feelings, listen to them. Acknowledge them.”

“Hear what they are saying. Notice what is said and unsaid. Stand beside them and be ready to listen deeply. Be open with your team about the criticality of self-care and create a safe environment for your team to share their feelings and seek support.”

She concluded: “As part of this, be alert to the warning signs of elevated stress in yourself and your team. These signs may include feeling ineffective, more cynical, and having reduced energy. As a team, agree on the boundaries regarding what is acceptable regarding requests for work outside standard working hours so team members can switch off. Encourage your team to take breaks during the day, share self-care practices and role-model this behaviour.”

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