At Holos we have already defined Post Conventional businesses as those that intentionally disrupt their own business model, before someone else does it to them.  This is a trend that has been developing and accelerating over the last 20 years to the extent that in 2011 only one of the largest five companies in the world was Post Conventional and by 2016 all five were.  

Our view is that Conventional businesses will not survive at scale in a Post Conventional world – but what lies beyond Post Conventional?  What is the new opportunity for businesses to face? To see beyond Post Conventional we have to look at the wider trends going on in society.  We have already discussed Digitisation, Decarbonisation and Ageing at length through our writings and speaking on Megatrends.  What we have not discussed so much are society’s awakenings around mental health, diversity, waste, pollution, habitat loss and species extinction.  

In September both the Financial Times and the US Business Roundtable called for a reset of capitalism, to a form of capitalism that sees social and environmental responsibility as a critical component of commercial success. We can now add a fourth Megatrend, which is sustainability and here we are using the word in a broad sense to refer to sustainability of ecosystems, of species, of individuals in their work and of organisations. Sustainability is a fact, not a choice.   

Any organism or community that behaves unsustainably for long enough will reach a point beyond which it is not sustained.  To be clear “not being sustained” means ending, termination, death. As W Edwards Deming said “Survival isn’t mandatory.” As far as humanity is concerned; the further we push the environmental bubble in one direction the further and more violently it will swing back in the other.  

Sustainability is circular, not linear. Plants and animals do not always behave sustainably, but ecosystems do.  Nothing is wasted, everything is re-used.  Our human systems have become effectively linear, resources are extracted, exploited briefly and discarded.  Oil, minerals, plants, animals, people. Beyond Post Conventional is a world where businesses operate like ecosystems, where waste is a thing of the past, where reuse and recycling are fundamental and where systems and processes are generative, rather than depleting, where people, animals and plants are enriched by their interactions with business and society. Ecology and economy in harmony. 

There are businesses that are already well on the way to circularity. Apple take reuse and recycling seriously – buying devices back from customers, refurbishing and reselling or dismantling and recycling into new devices.  Distributed in packaging made from responsibly managed forests and made using renewable energy.  As you can see from this report on the iPhone XR they still have a long way to go, but they are taking circularity seriously. Patagonia take both worker welfare and environmental impact seriously – holding suppliers to high standards of worker welfare, creating long lasting garments, which avoid pollution and take responsibility for every aspect of their environmental impact including construction techniques, energy use, storm-water runoff, landscaping, water use and employee transportation.  See more here 

It is perfectly possible for us to live sustainably on this planet, even with a very large population, our ecosystem is mindbogglingly productive.  To achieve this all we have to do is to stop stealing from the future.    Stealing from the future is the default mode for those operating as Boss style leaders, primarily motivated by status, they pursue results that they believe give them status regardless of the cost to people or planet. As a society we face a choice – do we want to continue to push the bubble and let nature take its course and rebalance the ecosystem by eliminating large numbers of people or do we want to reinvent business and society as sustainable, circular systems beyond Post Conventional and make a large population sustainable? 

The climate, environmental and mental health crises that we face are all connected, they are not separate.  And all of them are caused by the crisis we have in leadership.   We continue to operate, far too frequently with a style of leadership that is better suited to aggressive expansion and exploiting new territories.  Except that until we colonise Mars, there are no new territories.  

 We need to transform our concept of leaders and leadership to enable sustainability of people, planet and profit.  The style of leaders we need to train, elect, select, recruit and promote are authentic style leaders.  Authentic Style leaders make huge efforts to be the best version of themselves as much of the time as possible and to continuously learn and develop to make that best better.  They enable sustained and sustainable success in organisation by creating a culture and a climate around them where others can be the best version of themselves as much of the time as possible. 

Authentic Style leadership is the antithesis of Boss Style, Authentic Style leadership is primarily motivated by purpose and does not stealing from the future, which means they avoid exploiting people, animals plants or planet in ways that are unsustainable.   For businesses and governments this means sustainable profits, avoiding boom and bust cycles.  For employees this minimises unhealthy stress.  For our ecosystem it minimises pollution and CO2 emissions.  Businesses that are not explicitly sustainable and lack authentic leaders will increasingly struggle to attract and retain talent and will be shunned by investors, customers and increasingly for insurance.   

At Holos our vision is Universal Authentic Leadership, because it is only through authentic leadership that we can create an environment, that is sustainable for humans and all other species that form our ecosystem. 

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