I hold a first class honours degree in Business Management from a UK university. My degree required the study of strategic management, project and operations management, organisational behaviour and marketing. My MSc included the study of sustainable business, environmental management, corporate social responsibility, disaster management and the management of risk. My Master’s dissertation examined the relationship between sustainability, economic growth and stakeholders. I am currently reading for a PhD part time with the career goal of undertaking lecturing and consultancy work. My academic interests include changes to business models, social enterprise, corporate social responsibility and stakeholder management and communication. I am a member of the Chartered Management Institute and of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment.
Attributes and actions of transformational leaders with specific reference to Juliet Davenport
Profile a leader who you consider embraces transformational change. Identify this leader’s key attributes and actions and consider how these could be more widely adopted.
The leader being profiled for this assignment is Juliet Davenport, CEO and founder of ‘Good Energy’. Good Energy is a UK company based in the south west of the country to provide renewable energy in response to climate change. Good Energy supplies renewable energy from wind and solar farms and also promotes the use of renewable energy. It does this by challenging current perceptions of the energy market by means of advocacy and disseminating information in an attempt to create a more open and transparent energy market (Good Energy Website 2013).
The three main roles of transformational leadership include ‘creating a new vision, and institutionalising change’ (Tichy et al. 1986, cited in Buchanan et al., 2004:742). Buchanan et al. (2004:743) cite research by Metcalfe et al. (2002, 2003) that lists a number of behaviours of transformational leadership such as encouraging change, resolving complex problems, building a shared vision, and networking.
Good Energy’ seeks to address changes in the global economy that require solutions to complex issues, such as sustainability which includes climate change. Summers (2004:189) argues that leadership can promote an environment that encourages ideas and creativity to meet challenges. Good Energy encourages this learning by supporting a PhD student undertaking the study of renewable energy (Good Energy Website 2013). This ongoing improvement through learning (Buchanan et al., 2008:110) further builds on the values of sustainability in terms of taking action now to improve the future whilst Cerruti (2011:11) argues that sustainability should be an integral part of the organisation and needs leadership ‘buy-in’.
Juliet Davenport understands the need for ideas and creativity. She found that there was a lack of progress in developing a low carbon economy in the UK, and that not much change was likely to occur within the political framework. Thus, Davenport focused her attention on a different set of stakeholders – the customers. She realised that it was within this group, comprising voters, that change could be encouraged and fed up to the political level (Good Energy website 2013). Fry et al. (2013:11) argue that ‘conscious capitalism’ aims to deliver a set of values to its stakeholders whilst Covey (1991:104) maintains that only if there are followers can there be leaders. Shared values are a vital part of this relationship. Arguably, an innovative response demonstrates entrepreneurial traits such as problem solving in order to create an opportunity, as per Kirby (2003:113).
Another key attribute of a leader is vision. This is particularly important for sustainable business as this it focuses on the long term in terms of protecting the current and future generations. This is an alternative model from one that pursues short-term profits. Furthermore, Good Energy encourages people to buy in to its vision. It does this by simplifying energy efficiency and showing transparency way to ensure customers are not confused. This confusion has happened with other energy company’s tariffs, promoting the government to pass the Energy Bill 2012 to force energy companies to be more transparent (BBC News online 2012). Information and communication on the Good Energy website is clear, a requirement of corporate social responsibility where transparency is a key element. The right to information is further highlighted by the participation principle (Beder 2006:106) and this sharing of knowledge can further aid the vision of Davenport and Good Energy.
The values of Davenport and Good Energy feed into the strategy of providing a response to climate change. This is revealed in a number of ways, including providing vision and leadership. The Good Energy company encourages change by being part of Ofgem’s sustainable development advisory group and working parties for government (Good Energy website 2013). Many business leaders are part of governmental working parties but, as has been seen recently with the banking crisis, often contributions to working parties have been far from transparent and lack an innovative response or proposals for change. In these cases, it has been the government that has been the instigator of change rather than the businesses. During the banking crisis, it became apparent that the short-term pursuit of profits by certain banks was far more important than the long-term view of sustainability in terms of profits, people and environment.
Sustainability requires a different approach as the current approach has led to problems and the subject of change is therefore relevant. Millar et al. (2012:490) cite Bonini et al. 2010 who argue that sustainability is a major force for change in the world economy. This change may need leaders and businesses to undertake different processes and become more transformational in terms of how they view the problem and how they respond to the potential challenges and opportunities. Good Energy has met the challenge of climate change by providing and encouraging renewable energy but the UK is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels and this market is dominated by large and powerful companies. However, these large energy companies also face issues of communication and trust as they are often portrayed in the media as being focussed on profits only. This is in comparison to Good Energy that appears to be focussed on providing solutions to climate change, even though the group still needs to show profits.
Metcalf et al. (2012:370) argue that due the complex nature of sustainability, leaders need to be able to link the external environment to the organisation. Without this link, there can be a lack of understanding, ignorance of all the relevant elements and not providing a holistic approach. There is the possibility that more problems will be created than solved. Davenport has certainly been able to link the external environment and the issue of climate change with the internal organisation in its approach to encouraging and providing renewable energies. However, it can also be argued that by concentrating on one area of sustainability it is easier to tailor the internal organisation to this issue. However, this would not make the issue of low renewable energy usage in the UK a simple or quick problem to solve.
Further challenges to leadership in enabling sustainability can include the need for strong communication and commitment to goals and can prove to be an enormous task, according to Quinn et al. (2004:4). However incremental change may be undertaken in the first instance. Davenport undertook to bring about transformational change by establishing goals for Good Energy and has remained committed to these. She created a different approach by using ‘intersectional thinking’. This implies combining the concepts of climate change and renewable energy in a different way with a customer-based and knowledge approach (Johansson 2013). Looking at the company history, it is clear that there have been further developments but the vision and values of the company have been maintained.
Other businesses could adopt the changes undertaken by Good Energy in their individual organisational context. By actively endorsing and driving sustainability at all levels embeds the concept within the organisation. This then takes into account the triple bottom line of profits, people and planet. The embedding of sustainability relates to the three issues of ‘declining resources, radical transparency and increasing expectations’ according to Laszlo et al. (2011:6). These three issues have been addressed by Davenport in terms of renewable energy, clear information and encouraging change.
In conclusion, transformational change needs to be driven by transformational leaders who are able to encourage change, resolve complex problems, build a shared vision and networking. Davenport founded Good Energy to increase the use of renewable energy in the UK and to achieve sustainability in terms of resource use. Furthermore, Davenport is engaged in the process of trying to change expectations of how the UK should produce energy by working with parliament and encouraging the acquisition of knowledge. The complex issues of sustainability require new and innovative solutions from leaders who can understand the problems and can demonstrate strong commitment and motivation. The triple bottom line of people, profits and planet mean that an organisation has to align internal and external contexts in order to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. ‘Business as usual’ may fall short of sustainability issues but organisations will need to address these issues as stakeholder expectations apply pressure to organisations to take some action. Davenport and Good Energy have undertaken a long-term view of renewable energy and communicate their vision through the actions they undertake and the educating role they also perform for both current and future generations, a key element of sustainability.
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