Sustainable Leadership: The Hidden Dimensions of Sustainability, with Chitra Aiyar

Sustainable Leadership wit Chitra

In this episode, we speak with Chitra Aiyar.  Chitra is an attorney, educator, community builder, and former Executive Director of The Sadie Nash Leadership Project.

Throughout her career, Chitra has found that creating sustainable leadership is not a short-term process – that it must be viewed long-term. The question we discuss in this episode: How can we create an environment that will support the long-term practice of sustainable leadership? What are the trade-offs required?

Listen in as Chitra and I explore whether we are asking the right questions about sustainability in the practice of leadership, whether we can discuss the idea of sustainability in the context of a single person or organization at all,  and how sustainability implicates the often-invisible structures and systems within organizations.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

·      [2:27] What does sustainability in the context of leading a nonprofit mean?

·       [4:25] How wisdom lends itself to creating sustainability in leadership.

·       [8:35] The structural inadequacies that pressure and undermine creating sustainable leadership in the nonprofit sector.

·       [12:10] How Chitra realized she needed to change the structure to sustain growth and herself in her role.

·       [17:28] The importance of viewing sustainability as a value above an input.

·       [23:00] Finding compromise to create sustainability.

·       [35:00] Creating a continuous environment of learning to re-shape structure.

·       [40:30] Asking the right questions about sustainability.

Key quotes:

·       “Being sustainable is the ability to meet present needs without compromising future needs and I feel like it requires a long view.”

·       “Sustainability requires some give and take and some ebbs and flows. I think it requires a lot of learning.”

·       “There is a way in which one fixates on what’s the visible easy things, these measures that aren’t necessarily great measurements of long-term success.”

·       “The nonprofit sector is not geared towards sustainability. Nothing is. The nonprofit sector reflects a broader societal norm. To advocate for sustainability means to challenge norms.”

·       “To come in as a new leader and you come in as a woman of color, I think to try and challenge what are the measurements of success by positing other measures is really hard.”

·       “This idea of constant win-win, we do these things because everybody benefits, it can’t be true. There have to be trade-offs.”

·       “The idea that we can’t invest in women unless we say it makes everything better or even, we should have diversity because it makes all teams better … Maybe you do it because it’s the right thing.”

·       “We all know that if it was as easy as a logic model then we wouldn’t have the ongoing structural problems that we have. We all know but it’s as if we all suspend our own disbelief.”

·       “People want to win. They want to be part of a winning group and I think sustainability as an individual just feels a lot more challenging than as a group.”

·       “I do think it’s possible to feel good about the sector as a whole and feel more collaborative and less competitive.”

Resources Mentioned:

·       The Sadie Nash Leadership Project