Leadership can be described as the art of motivating people to achieve a common goal or the process of social influence to enlist the support of others to achieve a desired goal (Bowerman and Van wart 2011, p.72). In today’s world, businesses face numerous challenges from different areas. Change is constant and the leaders of various organizations are under pressure to produce results while maintaining steps ahead of the raging competition in today’s business world. They are accountable to share holders, employees and consumers who all want to gain or benefit from what the organization has to offer. To maintain a leading position in the volatile business world, leaders have to be highly skilled and have the necessary leadership qualities. They have to be visionary, hardworking, driven, determined, and prudent just to name a few qualities. To negotiate their way in the business world and emerge the best business and organization, leaders must hone their skills in effective management while remaining alert to any changes that might require organizational change and adaptation (Bowerman and Van Wart 2011, p. 4). One challenge that is likely to affect businesses in the next five years is climate change.
In the last half of the twentieth century, scientists discovered that global climate was changing at an increased rate and human activity was largely responsible for the changing climate. Climate change is the increase in the temperatures on earth caused by the rise in green house gases found in the atmosphere. The increase in temperatures has a range of effects on the climate. Human activity is blamed for causing climate change mainly through pollution by industries and negative exploitation of natural resources. One effect of rising global temperatures is a rise in sea levels threatening to flood low lying land masses, an example being the Islands of Tavalau.
Other effects include the melting of glaciers like Larsen glacier in Antarctica, the increase in premiums by Munich Reinsurance Company and even a threat to European water supply due to melting of glaciers in the Alps. Debate on whether climate change is as a result of human activity or the result of natural phenomena still continues. Climate change skeptics claim that the view on climate change is often alarming and that the effects of climate change will not have catastrophic effects which are contrary to the views held by mainstream experts in climate change.
Despite these views of governments and world bodies, United Nations has recognized that climate change is real and measures need to be taken to mitigate the effects of climate change. Businesses and organizations all over the world have also recognized the need to change their businesses and adopt environment friendly policies “going green” so to speak (Harriet Bulkeley et al, p.6).
Impact of climate change on businesses
Businesses have contributed to global warming by emitting harmful green house gases into the environment. The green house gases have been identified as having a blanket effect on the atmosphere due to rise in temperatures thus causing climate change. Global warming has affected businesses in many ways both directly and indirectly. Extreme weather conditions such as storms and tsunamis destroy infrastructure and this affects businesses which rely on infrastructure for transport and communication (Heijden et al 2008 p.99). The extreme storms also destroy business premises.
The rise in global temperatures has had a negative effect on businesses with increasing temperatures causing water shortages resulting in a greater demand for a dwindling resource and increasing the cost of water which most industries cannot do without. Warm weather has caused increased desertification and increased pest problems which have negatively impacted the agricultural sector globally. The tourism industry has also been affected in cases where extreme weather has caused tourists to stay away or when natural resources attracting tourists are destroyed by extreme weather. The changing climate has affected businesses causing losses in billions of dollars (Lingl et al, p.7)
Whether or not global warming is real or a myth, there is a need for business leaders to prepare for any eventualities. It is imperative for businesses to adopt changes that will cushion their businesses from losses caused by effects of global warming. Governments world over have enacted laws and legislations to curb the rise in global temperatures caused by industries. Some of the measures include taxing industries which have high levels of carbon emissions, giving incentives to businesses which reduce their carbon emissions and introducing emission limitations. Whether or not business leaders believe in global warming, they have to conform to the prevailing view that it is a reality and take the necessary steps to stream line their businesses (Sosik 2004, p.270).
Developing leadership in the face of climate change
To meet the challenges of global warming leaders must develop new strategies to maintain profitability while changing their businesses to reduce carbon emissions and contribute to reducing climate change. Leaders need to be innovative and should look at global warming as an opportunity and not a threat to their businesses. In this way, they can come up with new and innovative ways to gain from conserving the environment by going green.
Leaders must be innovative in order to achieve the goal of a highly effective and adaptive work force which is able to handle the challenges of a volatile global environment (Yukl 2001p.66). The leaders must lead from the front and one way of doing this is by them themselves being dynamic and not averse to change. The leaders must keep abreast with the forces impacting the market place and be able to foresee and predict change to avoid being caught off guard. They must be willing to learn several technologies that may affect their businesses and device strategies to use the technology to their advantage against their competitors in the business world (Singla 2009, p.64).
An example is how General Electrical introduced ecoimagination as a concept to re invent their business in light of climate change. Eco-imagination introduced new eco friendly vehicles which generated huge revenues and proved to be a very profitable venture. The leaders should create products which can be accepted by a changing market. The market and the public are turning towards eco friendly products in a bid to reduce their own individual carbon foot prints. The potential revenues to be generated by going green tend to be much more than the money used to finance a change to a globally friendly business (Rowe and Guerrero 2010, p.33)
Leaders need to be assertive and recognize global warming as an opportunity to create products that are affordable and eco friendly. With the world leaning to a more eco friendly position, business leaders should change their business ahead of the competition. This will give them an advantage in the market as their products and services will be pioneering in terms of being eco friendly. Being the first in the market is always a good position to hold. Leaders need to be visionary and realize the new trends in the market place which have moved towards adopting eco friendly products and services especially in the future. An example is how Delloite introduced carbon audits as one of their services which have proved to be very profitable (Marquardt 201, p.270)
Leaders need to be flexible in managing their businesses in order to survive in future. Climate change provides an opportunity for businesses to make huge cost saving by adopting carbon reduction measures. Governments are increasingly providing incentives for companies and organizations to reduce their carbon emissions. Leaders should then adopt measures like changing their technologies to enhance reduction in carbon emissions. This may be costly in the present but financial profits to be accrued in the future would justify such a move. Leaders need to be flexible and accommodate present sacrifices to gain future profits (Gupta et al, p.173).
Leaders should adopt risk management approach to the climate change issue. In so doing the leaders can be able to assess the level of risk in changing their businesses to adopt carbon emission measures. The best approach is to change the businesses and technologies to be prepared for eventualities such as effects of climate change. The leaders should also inspire the employees to adopt eco friendly measures which could be potentially profitable in the future (Goldsmith et al 2010, p. 250).
Leaders need to ensure that an organization has an effective and highly skilled work force which is able to tackle future and present challenges of climate change (Hickman 2009, p. 44). Leaders need to sharpen their team building skills in order or survive the ever changing business world. Leaders need to inspire their employees both in management and the subordinate staff to adopt eco friendly measures.
They need to understand the different aspects of the business and employ the most effective people to manage different operations. The management team needs to share the same goals, vision and mission as the leader of the organization. The leader can only inspire others by being passionate, efficient and effective in their position of leadership which can then help employees to be leaders in the responsibilities they are charged with every day. An organization that works as a team is bound to be successful (Caroselli 2000, p.50).
In conclusion, businesses and organizations need to adopt different leadership and management styles to be prepared for the future. It can be difficult to predict what the future holds for businesses and organizations. To be able to remain competitive and relevant in the future, businesses and organizations need to adopt strong strategic plans. The leaders need to be progressive in thinking and fast in decision making and in adopting new ideas and technologies (Steeves 2010, p.57).
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