Leadership and the Power to Make A Difference

For most people, November and Leadership may not be two things that typically go hand in hand. After all, let’s face it. November doesn’t have the spirit of renewal and reimagined sense of purpose that typically comes with January and the New Year nor does it have the reflective mind set and altruism that comes with the year-end of December (all qualities and traits that we’ve ascribed to great leadership, mind you).

However, November bears a pointed significance to me and, on a larger scale, the organisation that I am proud to lead. For me, it is a time that evokes a unique understanding of what it means to be leader. More specifically, it always conjures new thoughts in the discussion of how leaders can continue to evolve beyond traditional roles to better embrace their roles at both the forefront and the background in sustainable development.

Using the Power to Make A Difference

But why November particularly? What is the link it shares with leaders and building successful societies? It actually has a lot to do with our social investment initiative, the Power to Make A Difference which is traditionally launched around this time of year.

Over the 16 years of its existence, this programme has become a mainstay in the way we engage our wider communities and work in concert with people across different markets to champion sustainable development. But its annual launch every November has come to mean even more than that. It has become a yearly renewal of our promise to look after the well being of the communities we serve and a call out to the many leaders of those communities to join forces with us in the pursuit of creating a legacy of effective leadership.

What stands out the most, as we routinely welcome brave men and women to lead the fight for a better tomorrow, is the selfless investment of time, effort, and resources that we see across the board and the empowerment of the next generation of leaders.

The New Leaders and Sustainable Development

Let’s take a step back. With the creation of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) signed by more than 150 countries across the globe, a clearer global path toward sustainable development took shape with the overall aims being to end poverty, hunger and inequality, take action on climate change and the environment, improve access to healthcare and education, and build strong institutions and partnerships.

The 2030 Agenda stands as a map to building truly successful societies where fewer people are left behind and its adoption in 2015 proved a landmark achievement; outlining a shared global vision towards comprehensive sustainable development.

Not surprisingly, achieving success calls for effective leadership; not just from the governments and businesses creating and implementing effective public policies, but also from the people on the ground – the NGOs and CBOs who know first-hand what is required to make these transitions.

Sustainable development is truly an “all-hands on deck” project and, if it is to be successful, must involve innovative leadership and management at every step of the way as various organisations across a multitude of sectors look to integrate these development goals into their strategic plans and operational activities.

Leadership and the Power to Make A Difference

While the Power to Make A Difference programme predates the 2030 Agenda by just over a decade, the shared tenets are undeniable. Today’s challenges for attaining sustainable development are complex and interdependent. Surmounting them calls for everyone working together. This is the Power to Make A Difference.

In addition to investing significant resources into worthwhile causes, the Power to Make A Difference programme has always been about bringing leaders together, working with them, and in so doing, illuminating the way for others to take a page from that book. The programme is premised on the fact that leaders, rather than simply eking out quick-fix solutions to immediate problems, need to continue creating opportunities for people to come together and generate their own answers. For example, it is not about investing money in a school for those with special needs; it is about giving encouragement to the differently able to dream and aspire to greater, and providing the avenues to achieve those goals.

Going one step further, the Power to Make A Difference promotes the philosophy that effective leadership in sustainable development must not only bring diverse groups of people together. It must encourage creative participation, help more people understand and embrace a relationship with their self-awareness and self-worth. It must be about coming to terms with the fact that the greatest asset of leadership is the ability to work together to solve problems, even when values may differ. And whenever tension, conflict and uncertainty may arise, true strength comes from within and from each other.

Perhaps the most poignant example of this is the rapid rise in a staff volunteerism programme that continues to produce a wide range of leaders – committed individuals powered by a sense of shared responsibility to help others, and united by the understanding that the need for collaboration as teams is just as important as the need to promote greater self-sufficiency as leaders. Walking the walk, as it were, these leaders must be willing to exhibit compassion and promote ethical behaviour at every step of the way.

Leadership and the Power to Make A Difference, therefore, whether at the Group or staff volunteer level, are always defined and understood as an inclusive, cooperative and reflective process rooted in values and ethics. In many ways, the two are one and both must be embodied in the actions and mindsets of the leaders who champion them.

A November to Remember

It’s November again and the Power to Make A Difference programme is launching soon. More importantly, with that launch, the pursuit of something greater, the pursuit of joining forces with others to help build successful societies will once again be renewed. While the Power to Make A Difference has always had social alleviation and empowerment at its heart, on a much larger scale, it is also driven by that need to work with others to further inspire more people within the community to become leaders in their own rights.

As we seek to unlock each other’s greatest potential, the Power to Make A Difference will always speak to that fundamental truth within that simply says, “Building a better tomorrow calls for better leaders today.”

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