Having a sense for what’s around the corner is one thing that leaders do better than almost anyone else. You aren’t a leader for very long if you don’t have a knack for spotting trends and figuring out ways to get your organization out in front of them. And your sense of things had better be right more often than not if your organization is going to survive.
If you are someone with leadership potential, those powers of prescience don’t just shut off once you turn out the office lights. You apply them constantly to the world around you.
Anyone with that kind of vision who has been paying attention to either business or society for the past few decades has noticed some troubling trends. Climate change is threatening to raise the average global temperature to three or more degrees above pre-industrial levels, bringing floods, famine, and drought along with it. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how vulnerable the world is to the spread of deadly disease. And conflicts heating up everywhere from Europe to Asia puts the fragility of global supply chains and relationships in focus.
That’s all before we get to the surge of developments in machine learning, which some believe could add AI-apocalypse to the civilization-ending BINGO card.
It’s a litany of ways the world can end, at least for humans. And it will end, in fact, without decisive intervention.
But there’s another quality found in people who have leadership skills: they’re the type that want to do something about it. And with the right education in organizational leadership, you can put yourself on that list no matter what industry you are planning a career in.
When Change Is a Necessity, Leadership Is What Makes It Happen
When you start digging into all these trends, what is clear is that they can’t continue. The definition of unsustainable runs into reality at some point, even after decades.
It’s entirely the role of leaders to both spot big risks coming and to come up with ways to mitigate and avoid them.
On a global scale, you can see this happening in real time. The Glasgow COP26 Conference, the Paris Agreement, the establishment of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change… all of them the end result of leaders in politics and ecology going full-bore for decades to get movement and agreement on climate action.
Every single one of those actions took enormous leadership effort. Any kind of organizational leadership education will show you exactly why: the psychology of social behavior is inherently conservative. Groups don’t like change.
The tough message of climate change and other big risks is this, though: that change is coming, whether we like it or not. The only choice is between choosing changes to avoid the risks or having to make changes in reaction when those risks occur.
In both cases, leaders are crucial. Much of the education of an organization leader is in change and conflict management. Those skills are going to be in play in a big way over the coming decades.
Why Your Leadership Skills Will Matter for Sustainability No Matter Where You Work
The final secret about big changes is that they don’t just happen in one field or industry. They happen everywhere, impacting every part of society. No matter what your profession or type of organization, change is coming.
So it’s not just going to be leaders in public administration or environmental non-profits that take charge of the world-saving changes needed. It’s going to be leaders in all kinds of industries, with every sort of responsibility in every corner of the world.
Degrees in organizational leadership are going to be essential in preparing leaders in all those industries for handling the changes to come—and driving them forward for the good of all. Just a few of these specializations will give you some idea of how change leadership will be crucial in the coming years:
1. Sustainability Leadership
Of course, even though not all leadership roles vital to global sustainability will actually be in the sustainability field, a lot of them will be! Managers in sustainability roles in every major company and government agency will be expected to lead the charge in greener, more efficient transformations. Degrees in this field will offer both the technical expertise and proven change management skills to help get the job done.
2. Civil Engineering and Construction Management Leadership
New green buildings are going to be critical in energy efficiency, but it can be a tough slog to get traditional building crews up to speed with new materials and techniques. Construction management leaders can help the industry deal with a coming surge of new buildings using modular construction, reclaimed wood, and green insulation materials.
It’s not just new buildings that need to be green. The global infrastructure for transportation, utilities, and communications will also have to get significant upgrades to deal with the climate crisis. Civil engineering leaders will be tasked with everything from new designs to cope with the realities of a clean energy electrical grid broader charging networks to support electric vehicles at scale.
3. Logistics and Supply Chain Management Leadership
Nowhere will changes in transportation be felt more than within industries built around the domestic and international transport of goods and supplies. It’s been clear for a while that supply systems aren’t efficient or resilient enough to cope with future demands. Logistics management leaders are going to bear the responsibility for coming up with new and innovative ideas in supply chain management, such as low-carbon shipping methods, local sourcing, and redundant supplier arrangements.
4. Entrepreneurial Leadership
In periods of disruption, such as the pandemic or the ongoing climate crisis, there will always be opportunity. That’s why leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset prove to be crucial. Having the vision, the strategic skills, and the motivation to seize opportunities for change could make a huge difference in ways that aren’t even clear yet. It’s going to be an entrepreneur who spots the right carbon capture technology to scrub the atmosphere, the latest battery innovations to drop costs dramatically, or the blockchain breakthrough that makes carbon credit markets effective.
5. Finance Leadership
It’s becoming increasingly clear that green technologies can be more cost-effective than the alternatives in the long run. But engineering our way through the transformation to a green economy is going to take leaders in the finance sector who recognize the capital potential in green solutions as they compete with cheaper, carbon-intensive energy sources. They’ll bring to bear their knowledge of markets, math, and the predilections of financial professionals to make project financing possible and show the way to more profitable, more sustainable operations.
6. Non-Profit Administration Leadership
Not all the breakthroughs and advances required for a more sustainable world will come through creative financial calculations or profit motives. There will be a big and ongoing role for non-profit organizations looking out for the best interests of people without a voice or profit incentive attached to them. It takes leaders to call attention to these issues and find buy-in for solutions, putting strategic communications, persuasion, and analytical skills front and center in non-profit leadership.
7. Public Administration Leadership
Similarly, government will continue to have a big role in ensuring a more sustainable world. As the ultimate arbiters of law and fairness, public administrators will have to bring the strong ethical foundations of organizational leadership with them to the office every single day. They’ll also have to seek understanding and buy-in from a wide range of diverse interests and other organizations to effect real change.
8. Public Health Leadership
As challenging as the COVID-19 pandemic was for public health leaders, the real risk is something even worse: the real likelihood that COVID-19 was only the first of a new wave of public health emergencies, and maybe only the least of them. Facing this chance requires persistence in the face of public burn-out on pandemic controls, effective connections with other government leadership, and effective communications skills.
Every major industry has a role to play in saving the world, and it will be managers and executives that are earning their degrees in organizational leadership today who are at the forefront of those efforts.