Leadership and the Environment features influencers who care about the environment leading by example by taking on personal challenges. Guests have loved it, partly for showcasing them as authentic, empathetic leaders, partly for giving them a chance to act on values that they’ve put on hold.
It’s pre-launch, but I’ve interviewed two dozen guests, including luminaries like #1 bestsellers Dan Pink, Judith Glaser, and more. Guests don’t need environmental expertise.
The podcast’s goal is to change how society thinks about reducing one’s environmental impact, as happened with cigarettes. We have enough science. We have enough people telling others what to do. We lack people leading, setting examples for others to follow.
Personal challenges can be things like
- Avoiding packaged food for a week
- Not flying for a period of time
- Not eating meat for a month
- Not turning on the air conditioner for a week if it’s summer
The general flow of conversation 1 will be
- Show you off: what makes you great
- Connect you with leadership, the environment, or both. I won’t ask fixed questions, but they’ll be like these:
- What are your earliest memories about your field?
- What did it mean to you then?
- How has your relationship to it evolved?
- With whom do you work on it?
- Invite you to commit to a personal challenge with the following properties:
- Doesn’t have to solve all the world’s problems overnight
- Meaningful and valuable to you
- That you choose
- Relevant to at least one of: global warming, pollution, resource depletion, population, extinctions, etc
- You aren’t already doing it
- Schedule a second conversation for after the challenge
- The facts: what happened
- How you felt
- How you handled unforeseen challenges
- How it affected you
- Will you keep it up
To illustrate, here is an email from a former leadership student, Jay, who challenged himself to pick up ten pieces of litter each day for a month to put in the trash, which I wrote up in this Inc. article. Your experience will be unique, but maybe something like his.
Today is the last day of my challenge, and I didn’t think I’d feel this way before I started, but I feel “weird” if I walk by a piece of trash and don’t pick it up now.
That’s not to say I pick up every single piece of trash I see, but that now it feels natural to want to reduce the waste I produce or the waste I can try to produce. When I see other people walk by trash or drop cigarettes in the middle of the street, I can’t help but think that they’re marginalizing their agency and the impact they can make in their community by just implementing one mundane action.
The first few times I stopped in the middle of the street to pick up a piece of paper and a plastic food container, I felt that same “weirdness” as I feel now if I don’t pick up a piece of trash. But that quickly went away once I reminded myself that I was acting on my values.
Just yesterday, as I picked up a piece of paper napkin someone had dropped 10 feet from a garbage can, I mused over how I’ve heard people say they wish they witnessed live MLK’s deliverance of his “I Have a Dream” Speech, or how they would have denounced the Holocaust had they lived in Nazi-occupied Germany and been non-Jewish Germans.
But if people can’t act on their values when the stakes aren’t high, then how can they expect to act on them when the consequences of their inaction affect not only themselves, but an entire group of people?
This thought wasn’t an indictment of people as being hypocrites, but more so that people either don’t truly believe in the values they purport to have, or know them but don’t challenge themselves to act on them more consistently/broadly.
Since starting the challenge, I’ve started using my A/C less without consciously thinking about it. I’ve started cooking more frequently again since finals and reduced the meat I consume from the meals I make from ~1.5-2lbs a day to ~1lb a day, using legumes to supplement for the deficit.
I like the fact that this challenge was ‘just right’ in that it caused me to consider my own waste production instead of managing other’s waste.
I’m heavily inclined to try going a week without buying any food that comes packaged. I just found a bulk store 5 minutes from my apartment so have no reason to not try it.
Plus I think trying a challenge of this nature is the next step in my first challenge, particularly for testing what ultimately could become a whole lifestyle change or, at least something that changes core parts of my current lifestyle.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book