As the 16-year-old Boyan Slat was diving in Greece in 2011, he discovered more waste than fish. And soon decided to start the Ocean Cleanup project. In the last few years thousands of people joined to support his initiative with providing money, technical solutions, promotion and so on. Although the first bigger cleaning attempt in California did not yet bring the wished results, the motivation of now company leader Boyan Slat stays unbroken and they go on improving their ideas and following their mission-of-heart to free our oceans from plastic waste
What is leadership impact?
Leadership brings companies, communities and our planet up or down. History and our current news are full of examples of leaders who either started wars or founded hospitals or schools. Each of these stories contribute to the better or worse to our evolution as a human race.
Next to politicians and public administrators, there are the company leaders and entrepreneurs who have a huge impact nowadays. About half of the population spends a significant share of their time within companies. Often, they have more contact with their colleagues than their families. And they either feel well or suffer from the company cultures they are exposed to. Leaders again have a main impact on shaping these company cultures. Ergo: most decisions of a leader impact the wellbeing of the employees.
And companies have huge impact on other stakeholder as well: Their clients, suppliers, partners, authorities, public, competition, the fauna and the flora of the environment, current and future generations..
Leadership matters. Leaders try to turn a problem into a solution, improve status quo for a better state. I personally see the main purpose of leadership, to make the world a better place. The “world” can be the planet or our closer environment within our outside the company.
Can we evaluate leadership impact?
This is a question of quantity and quality:
Leadership Impact = Quantity x Quality.
The quantity of leadership is usually always bigger than nothing (0) and thus a positive number. Whereas the quality can be a positive or negative number. Only positive quality multiplied with big quantity results in big improvement. That also means the big quantity combined with negative quality creates big damage.
Obviously, the formula looks like common sense and a simple conclusion could be: Strive for high quality and high quantity and you have a great leadership impact. But it is not always easy to define what good, positive quality actually is. Many initiatives, even revolutions have started with positive intention and ended with negative, sometimes disastrous outcomes. A few examples:
- Smartphones make our live much easier – and they make many people addicted.
- Electro scooters contribute to the reduction of CO2 output – and make people move less physically
- An ambitious and short cycled performance system increases productivity – and has perhaps a negative impact on the work live balance.
That means, if we strive for scaling up a business, it could be that together with positive consequences also negative ones will grow. And in the worst case we realize later, that we created a monster.
But what exactly is this qualitative aspect of leadership impact? As so often, the answer to a questions depends on who is evaluating and on which values these assessments are being based. Having a look at the stakeholders of a company, each of them might work based on different values or a different combination of them:
- Management of a company
- Client service
- I myself
And even if we look only at ourselves we probably encounter different voices inside us like
- Our conscience
- A spiritual entity or authority like god
- Our parents or partners
This sounds complex and it really is. When I look at my own leadership impact, it’s not easy to make sure that it’s only positive. What I like to do here to make sure that I’m constantly heading into the right direction is to establish a routine of asking myself frequently questions like:
Did my work of this day, week, month, year, life contribute to a better world, a better working environment?
How do you deal with that? What do you do to foster your positive leadership impact? If you have any experiences of how to install such a routine or other ideas of how to improve your leadership impact, please reach out for an exchange.