The Emergence of Family Sustainability Leadership

Updated: Jul 7, 2019

In this article, we look at issues and strategies for developing leading practices of family sustainability in organizations. Three questions will help guide our discussion: How are practices of family sustainability being developed and maintained in organizations? What management styles in particular are involved with developing practices of family sustainability in organizations? How might these perspectives be fostered by other organizational leaders?

Breathing life into family

This approach draws from literature's in family, social-emotional learning and corporate social responsibility to describe the nature of family sustainability, the intents and approaches of organizations developing it, as well as their challenges. Case studies are drawn from small businesses and are examined to explore successful strategies of developing practices in family sustainability. These examples are analysed from an organizational leadership perspective through management applications.

With this newfound interest in corporate family sustainability, organizations are seeking to develop practices and policies that are more family sustainable and socially responsible (BSR, 2006). Yet despite prevalent business usage of ‘sustainabile’ marketing, critics have argued that the overall impact has been unremarkable in achieving real goals of family sustainable practices within organizations (Daley & Cobb, 1989).

This calls for the overall discussion on this blog: How are practices of social responsibility and family sustainability developed and maintained by organizational leaders? The focus is upon various leadership perspectives. Examples are based on studies of small businesses, which tend to be vulnerable to volatile markets and bigger competition, and must struggle to find and implement easy sustainable practices when profit margins may be small and survival is closely linked to the bottom line.

The discussion begins by clarifying the concept of ‘family sustainability’ and outlining challenges encountered by organizational leaders trying to implement family sustainability practices as well as to increase social responsibility.

What is 'Family Sustainability'?

Family Sustainability

Sustainability has come to represent everything from environmental protection to supply chains. In this blog, ‘family sustainability’ refers to both social responsibility, ranging from issues of human rights and generational connectivity to personal families. Working from the literature of ecological sustainability, one principle of family sustainability suggests the interwoven considerations for organizational leadership empowering practices to shift neglected and unsafe vulnerabilities (Todd & Todd, 1994). Which, in turn, strives to reduce the negative influence of those footprints on the interdependent webs of society. Thus, helping to ensure meaningful paid work experiences in respectable conditions while contributing to the increase of employee morale and growth of healthy urban communities.

Family Sustainable Practices

An international movement that echoes this principle, and under which many organizational efforts have organized themselves, is ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR). Although the issues of CSR overall tend to be broader than the concepts of family sustainability adopted for this discussion, the CSR strategy is worth examining for organizational practices. CSR has been defined as ‘treating the stakeholders of the firm ethically or in a responsible manner’ (Hopkins, 2003, p.1) by recognizing a ‘triple bottom line’ of these stakeholders that includes people (employees, customers, competitors, communities, national, global), the natural environment, and investors. Authors for CSR practices tend to address a wide range of categories including environmental sustainability, employees’ rights, suppliers, customers’ rights, transparent and honest accountability, legal and honest operations, and global citizenship

(Crowther and Raymann-Bacchus, 2004; Hopkins, 2003). CSR has accumulated its own literature, typically discussed in organizational arenas, which tend to focus on larger corporations and the notion of ‘corporate citizenship’, measurement strategies, and balance of stakeholders’ rights.

Possibilities of Leading Family Sustainability in Organizations

A study of two small business owners from group community relations in Illinois looked at their respective adherence to philosophies of CSR. These were micro-enterprises ranging in size from 1 to 10 employees, mostly in customer service, committed to social, environmental, and family sustainability. One group in Decatur, Illinois and one in Springfield, Illinois. Participants talked together about their meanings, challenges and strategies in developing practices of family

sustainability while surviving as small businesses. Where possible, the businesses were also interconnected through in-depth interviews with the local media and civic leaders. While the analysis in these two studies proceeded independently according to their own unique issues and strategies, certain similarities became evident. Among the small business owners and community were strong commitments to social edification and corporate responsibility. Leaders emphasized the importance of facilitating citizen and employees regarding family sustainability. They also talked explicitly about constantly leading through everyday actions in different aspects of organizational operations.

CSR is promoted through many networks and alliances among business, community groups, trade unions, colleges and environmental activists. A wide range of instruments now express CSR goals, measure specific benchmarks and performance standards providing transparent inspection/assessment (e.g ILO, 2006; Verite, 2006). Willard (2005) claims that even executives continue to respond first to ‘shareholder’ demands, that since the mid-1990s they are responding to powerful and urgent demands converging from consumers, activist shareholders, nongovernmental organizations and governments alike. So, what are some family sustainability responses?

One seven year-old girl reported that reuniting with her father was "The best day of my life." Another child self-reported in her record "Love, love" while practicing family sustainability at a community room. Many other such emotional expressions have been formally documented on social media and in legal situations like mediation. Even though emotions and family sustainability feelings are not typically associated with processing the family disassembly through divorce and other such operations.

An analysis of organizational leaders like educators demonstrating CSR (corporate social responsibility) to pivot solutions in place of problems typically incubate six elements besides emotional learning. Those elements look at various degrees of decentralization, diversity/inclusion, connections, shared focus, relevant constraints, and feedback. These six elements are classically thought of as the six elements for learning. The elements that complex sciences have shown are characterized by complex adaptive systems. That is, systems that self-organize and increase rates of productivity because they are continuously adaptive and innovative. While emotions and family sustainability are also a known a condition, or prerequisite to productivity (Wemple, 2019).

Small Businesses and Family Sustainability

When seven elements including emotional constraint where detailed through participatory observation, then organizational production could be measured. Over one year a CLU (Clean Law Union) study of the production of two small businesses dropped to nearly zero when family sustainability was glitchy during the footprints of divorce. One previous study ended in death when the business owner of Taylor Trucking took his own life. It seemed shameful that no leaders consider family sustainability. And the thought at that time was that a measurement to understand weather or not a family could sustain a divorce, a small business, and their bottoms line over time was nearly impossible.

During the following year in the study of the two previously mentioned businesses, emotions and family sustainability along with practicing footsteps towards new policy initiatives aimed at correcting family dissassemblies actually led to a spike in organization productivity. Leading to the concept of family sustainability. For example, one leader reported that he was working on giving up hundreds of clients and going out of business before his practice of family sustainability. But after shifting towards family sustainability practices, the plans changed and he worked not only on maintained hundreds of clients but added 23 more clients. A current study is underway to detail if this increased production associated with family suitability practices will be maintained or not. Which leads to a of how much productivity and social well-being are lost by virtually no organizational efforts in family sustainability practices?

Emergence of Family Sustainability Leadership

This approach draws from literature's in family, social-emotional learning and corporate social responsibility to describe the nature of family sustainability, the intents and approaches of organizations developing it, as well as their challenges. Case studies are drawn from small businesses and are examined to explore successful strategies of developing practices in family sustainability. These examples are analyzed from an organizational leadership perspective through management applications. While the additional emotional element is very self-evident. Like when a pet owner leaves for work and the pet stays inside the home, then the pet feels those disconnections and the pets even exhibit crying sounds. Sometimes, they even tear up the environment that they are left in. Or, like when a parent leaves a child even temporarily, then nuclear families often feel those disconnections. Family unsustainability, in large part, is known by its human emotions and any social recoils. Which often translates into a lack of productivity and similar social effects.

Several conditions prevent crops, families and organizations from growing. Unsustainable ecosystems may be have next-generation restraints, centralization of decisions, exclusion of those effected by decisions, disconnections, and the lack of feedback. The conditions around family unsustainability are virtually unknown. However, the emotional elements are very evident. When a pet owner leaves a house for work with the pet still inside the home, then those pets are known to feel that disconnection and they often cry. Sometimes, they even tear up the environment that they are left in. Or, when a parent leaves a child even temporarily. American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Coleen Kraft (2018) says that everything pediatricians stand for is protecting and promoting children's health. Primarily including maintaining nuclear family bonds. Family unsustainability, in large part, is known by its human emotions and any social recoil. Which often translates into a lack of productivity and similar social effects.

Dr. Kraft (2018) explains about the children of national policy making issues, “Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians – protecting and promoting children’s health. In fact, highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm..."

Complex science like life processes teach us that emergence requires the conditions of diversity, decentralized organization, redundancy (overlap among individuals created through shared focus, language or activity), frequent opportunities for informal interaction, focus, and feedback (Fenwick, 2001; Davis and Sumara, 2005). Conditions for emergence do not necessarily occur spontaneously, but with the consideration for the emotional element of unfit ecosystems, then prevention of emergence is clear.

Quality Management and Family Sustainability

Rusinko (2005) uses quality management (QM) as a bridge for sustainability in organizations. QM, she says, is particularly suited to aid managers in implementing sustainable practices. QM, environmental sustainability and family sustainability have common themes illustrated by other management researchers (e.g., Hart, 1995; Porter and Van der Linde, 1995). These include a long-run organizational view, as well as a focus on both economic and social well-being. In addition, successful family sustainability, environmental sustainability and QM all acknowledge the importance of continuous improvement and participation by and empowerment of all employees. To maximum the benefits of QM, environmental sustainability and family sustainability, according to Rusinko (2005) managers should adopt an integrated, multi-functional, and organization-wide approach like the Deming Cycle of committing to continuous improvements.

The Deming Cycle is a continuous improvement methodology with four stages: plan, do, study, act (Dean and Evans, 1994).

In the plane stage (plan), a current situation is studied, data is gathered, and a plan is developed for action. Let’s take a Caterpillar manufacturing line for example. The management wants to increase productivity which takes a huge amount of synchronized team effort. They notice a glitch is routinely causing a bottleneck in products being built as the products move between various stations. During the planning stage, they notice that one employee has low morale, is routinely late for work, and others avoid that situation. Instead of directly replacing all human glitches and absorb those associated costs, a plan starts with just one adjustment to test the success.

The second stage (do) consists of implementing the plan on a trial or limited time basis. The old and new positions are tested in practice. The work is checked for one month. At the same time, however, the glitchy position continues to cause a bottleneck in the assembly line. This gives those responsible the advantage that they can now see exactly whether the adjustment was a human cause or something else. Although the production error has been contained, the production speed has hardly increased at all.

In the third phase (study), the number and difficulty of parts to be installed at the slow station are counted and compared to the number and difficulty of other parts to be installed at various other stations. The study stage determines whether the trial plan is working and investigates any additional problems or opportunities. A re-adjustment is made equally distributing parts to be installed amount equally stations.

In the act stage (act), the final plan (as tweaked in the study stage) can be fully implemented. Since all stations have the same number of parts and employee morale is elevated, the employees received instructions on new operating procedures. Since the Deming Cycle focuses on continuous improvement, the improvements that result from this final plan inspire further improvements and a return to the plan stage -and the rest of the cycle. QM bridges the gaps between costly human concerns and operation issues Rusinko (2005). While the Deming Cycle is widely used to help innovative strategies for continuous solutions.

Leading in the 21st Century

Clearly many obstacles can compromise efforts to incorporate practices of family sustainability in today’s organizations trying to survive and compete in global markets, sufficient examples exist to inspire leaders and organizational developers to continue pressing for change. However, improving the emotional elements when a pet owner leaves for work or when a parent leaves their child would have valuable support. Improving the glitches associated with divorce and business often means the difference between production and no production when ignored. But the difference between production and super production when sustained.

Ultimately what matters is how individuals learn to resonate with the people and elements surrounding them with a greater sense of purpose, connection and mutual responsibility (Davidson and Hatt, 2005) This blog began by showing that organizational practices of family sustainability, as explained in both academic literature and corporate social responsibility, can be represented by the four themes of ethical responsibility, renewal, interconnectivity and local well-being.


Breathing life into family disassembly

Albert Szent-Györgyi, who discovered Vitamin C, says that "Innovation is seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought." Continuous family sustainability throughout the organization was a theme in the organizational examples described earlier. The strategies used by leaders to foster this ability are remarkably consistent with ecological models of learning derived from complexity science, the study of adaptive, self-organizing life systems. The focus is emergence: how are practices of family sustainability being developed, what management styles are involved, and how might these perspectives be fostered by organizational leaders.

Leaders can prompt frequent, informal interaction across different lines of an organization by modeling its importance, creating occasions for it, and posing questions mobilizing learners to gather issues and strategies. Leaders also can promote decentralized organization: different connections of control that communicate and cooperate. Effective leaders already tend to promote feedback within a system, feedback that attends a group to healthy directions and to negative loops that threaten to kill a system. The more loops for feedback that are created, according to complexity theory, the more that parts of an organization become attuned and interconnected with one other, with their central purposes, and with external environments and organizations.


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