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Leadership for sustainable success

Lessons learned part 1


The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on, and challenged, leadership. Each of us – across our screens, within our organisations and communities – has observed many examples of leadership. In some cases, leadership has performed well. In others, it has been seriously lacking. We will leave it to you to pass comment on who has been an example of what! Though we suspect many of you will find it easier to quote examples of the latter than the former.

Whilst we accept that no one is perfect and a cookie cutter approach to developing leaders is unrealistic, during the pandemic we have found ourselves asking ‘what are we seeing that helps to define leadership for sustainable success?’.

In this first article of a series on leadership for sustainable success, we summarise our reflections.


In our article Seven Elements of Sustainable Success, we summarised 20 years’ of learning gained from supporting our clients to create and sustain success. These elements are captured in ‘The Swirl’.

For us, leadership pervades and must master all these elements. It is required at all levels of an organisation. And, we observe, a leader concerned with sustainable success is an authentic, inspiring, growth-minded organisational steward who:

  • aligns people's hearts, minds and actions around purpose, values, vision, and strategy, making it clear what the organisation does and does not do (now and in the future);

  • invests in, and supports the success of, their co-leaders, creating distributed leadership and building a pipeline for succession;

  • creates a collaborative environment where the desired commercial behaviours, learning, performance, and innovation can thrive;

  • makes decisions that address the functions of leadership (managing the present, creating the future and nurturing identity), serve the interests of their stakeholders, and strengthen the long-term future of the business.

The success of leadership is ultimately measured by the confidence, belief and trust that their stakeholders have in them as a leader. The truth of which often becomes clearer after their tenure has ended.


We will build on these perspectives in subsequent articles. They will, of course, hint at how we have judged examples of recent leadership. And how we have worked with clients to support their own. More on this later. For now, we invite you to consider and reflect:

1. During the pandemic, what examples would you share where leadership has:

A. performed well?

B. been lacking?

2. For your leadership:

A. What does the current situation require of it?

B. How will it be judged by your stakeholders in time to come?

C. To what extent is it aligned and distributed through your organisation?

D. And, to what extent is your team fulfilling its leadership potential?

Leadership for sustainable success, Lessons learned - part 1

Written by Adam Campbell, Senior Consultant at Telos Partners 21 January 2021

Leadership for sustainable success - par
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