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It’s time for a new leadership playbook

September 29, 2021, 2:00 PM UTC
"By working together," the authors write, "we can create sustainable systems change and build an economic model that embraces diversity while incentivizing the transition to a green and just future."
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We are in the most important decade for humankind.

With eight years remaining to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and deliver on the promise of the Paris Climate Agreement, we know all too well that too little action has been taken. This recent summer, which brought historic flooding, record heat, and devastating wildfires to many corners of the globe, is a painful reminder that we are not on track to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5° Celsius by 2030.

As leaders, we are navigating interdependent and complex challenges that pay no mind to borders, forcing us to confront the failings of modern capitalism and outdated leadership models. To turn this decisive decade around for our families, our communities, and generations to come, we need a new leadership playbook—one that places humanity, humility and brave action at the heart of everything we do.

How will we choose to lead? For us, leading begins with purpose and values. It is about respecting each other for who we are. Our values guide us to take a stand for people, fight for what we believe in and embrace our shared responsibility to the planet, the only home we have. There is no business beyond our planetary boundaries, and only fading opportunity in a world with a broken social contract.

We worry about the future, and we are also optimistic. Many leaders are taking big steps with commitments and actions, creating positive change every day. We are humbled to know and work with so many of you across our corporate and financial careers and through our advocacy efforts with The B Team. By working together, we can create sustainable systems change and build an economic model that embraces diversity while incentivizing the transition to a green and just future.

At The B Team, our bold vision is of a world where global inequality gaps are closed. Where gender balance and equitable representation at all levels of leadership are the norm. Where businesses thrive with accountability and integrity at their core. Where our economy is regenerative, and we’ve delivered a fair and just transition to a low-carbon economy for impacted workers.

In pursuit of this vision, we gather leaders across business, labor, civil society and government. We collaborate with partners and across our networks to amplify the stories of mission-aligned leaders around the world, and we openly reflect on our own challenges and setbacks. We are transparent in our ambition: engaging in public and corporate policy making processes to drive adoption of new norms and incentives, orienting business toward a broader bottom line. Mindful of our privilege while embracing the benefits of our platform, we strive to uplift tomorrow’s leaders as boldly as we catalyze change today.

In this spirit, we humbly share The New Leadership Playbook, a collection of stories, insights and resources on 21st-century business leadership. Our ambition is high, and the role for business is clear: We can build a better world when leaders everywhere commit to brave, collaborative action today. If we are courageous, we can reset corporate norms and contribute to lasting change for people and the planet.

Leaders of today should accelerate innovation while reducing risk. They follow science. They see diversity in leadership for the competitive advantage it is and the bottom-line benefit it brings. They understand that the clock is ticking, future generations are counting on us and, in the words of poet Amanda Gorman, “History has its eyes on us.”

How will you choose to lead?

Jesper Brodin is CEO of Ingka Group (IKEA) and chair of The B Team. Halla Tómasdóttir is CEO of The B Team.

This commentary is adapted from the authors’ foreword in The Business of Building a Better World, due out November 9, 2021. To learn more, please visit www.NewLeadershipPlaybook.org.

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A collection of stories, insights and resources on 21st-century business leadership—visit The New Leadership Playbook today.