2019 in Review: Sustainability Shifts, Leadership Trends and Focusing on Positive Action

2019- What. A. Year! Climate change has increased its profile as the biggest issue of our age with protests, campaigns and social activism pushing this agenda forward. Around the world, awareness is growing of climate change and sustainability. However leadership and action doesn’t seem to be matching the pace of change required to tackle the problem. It has also been a year of paradoxes, often leading to paralysis. Climate anxiety is a common word in our vernacular now. The media keeps pumping messages of impending doom. It is hard to take a moment to search for those glimmers of hope.

This year I started Planet B Insights, a blog focused on helping people find their power to solve the world’s problems, collectively.
I love having the opportunity to share stories and insights from global leaders who are creating systemic, scalable change. We need to be focusing on these leaders. They are the ones who will truly make change.

My vision for Planet B Insights is to elevate the important and game changing stories so we can all find our power to make positive change.

Here are some reflections of 2019!

Some Highlights

To research how leaders are approaching the greatest social and environmental challenges of our age, I:

  • Explored 23 countries over almost 9 months
  • Hung out in 51 cities
  • Attended 15 conferences
  • Met over 50 leaders including Professor Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
  • Wrote over 115 000 words and built a strong global community through my blog and on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn
  • Met countless legends and had some many mind expanding conversations
  • Generated over 240 insights and created 15 themes for future research.

Some Reflections

Here are my top reflections and thoughts from my trip.

1. We need to redefine talent…now

For too long, our focus has been on a certain type of leader. You know the one. That charismatic, powerful, privileged, smooth talking leader.
It is now engrained in our definition of leadership and talent. Whether we like it or not, the dominant, powerful leader is still seen as the pinnacle of success. Media obsess over these leaders as they tend to make more dramatic news stories. This means our lives are flooded with messages that rich, privileged (mostly) white men rule the world and will continue to do so. Because after all, they know what’s best. 

But the cracks are forming…

This year has seen the cracks form in this old style of leadership. New leaders are emerging with Jacinda Ardern pioneering an authentic, empathetic, people focused leadership style. This has led to New Zealand passing a budget that broadens the priorities beyond economic and fiscal policy to incorporate wellbeing and the environment. This trend is also being picked up in Finland and Iceland where their Prime Ministers (both women btw) has also called for wellbeing to be prioritised over GDP. They are proving that a new approach to politics and leadership is not just possible, it is the future. 

Throughout my travels I met so many amazing leaders who encompass the core leadership qualities that we need to solve the issues of tomorrow: 

Read more about the new style of leadership that is good for people and planet at Planet B Insights. It is full of insights from interviews with leaders around the world who are tackling the world’s biggest challenges.

Let’s redefine talent by promoting positive leaders and fighting the system that keeps old power at the top.

2. To solve the world’s sustainability problems, we need to think in systems

I found a few common leadership traits on my travels. One in particular was systems leadership. Many leaders discussed the complexities of the social and environmental issues we face. Climate change and sustainability for example cannot be solved with one initiative or product. It requires a range of people from different industries to fundamentally disrupt the norm. They need to understand the root cause of climate change and their role to address it. It is complex, complicated and often confusing. However, it is the hard road that leads to the greatest success.

The traditional and popular way to solve problems is focusing on short term change. This could be a new product, app, service or idea. However if they do not address the core problems or the broken links in the system, then change will be limited.

Systems change is the change we need…

Systems thinking explores the relationship between people and power. It understands how regulation, culture and products can address root cause problems. Ultimately, if we are to make wide scale change, we need to understand systems thinking as an approach to find solutions to the root cause of issues. This is the sustainability shift we are starting to see globally, particularly in the European Union.

I saw systems change in action on my travels:

3. The world is not as bad as we think

This one may shock you because I often get overwhelmed at the state of the world. However, my feelings have somewhat changed from cynicism to optimism. I met so many impressive leaders who are tackling the root cause of issues like climate change, social inequality, food security and clean water access. They use a range of levers from policy to new business models. The European Union is an impressive example. They are funding world changing research, developing new policies and enabling new businesses to tackle big issues at scale.

The facts don’t always tell the whole story…

I also read the book Factfulness this year. It taught me to look at trends and shifts over time, not just statistics in isolation. The media loves to take a statistic out of context and make it seem horrifying. We live in a headline culture where we don’t often take the time to read the story in detail. Further, we often don’t seek the whole story as the media only portrays the most dramatic angle. To stop the media manipulating your view of the world, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the overall trend or is this an isolated event?
  • Where is the data from and is it credible?
  • Are there benchmarks or comparison statistics?

Sure, the world is burning and climate change is the worst issue of our age, but if we focus on the macro problem it will paralyse us. We need to focus less on fatalistic numbers and more on leaders who are truly tackling the root cause of our issues. We need to shift our attention to the areas where we can make a difference and be inspired.

Here is some Planet B Insights inspiration:

Read more about how you can make a positive impact in the world and get inspired at Planet B Insights.


We are all leaders in our lives. Whether it is persuading your colleague to take a keep cup to the cafe or organising a meeting with a member of parliament about climate change, we all play an important role. It is often so easy to focus on the negatives and believe we cannot change. However, if we all make a small change, momentum will build. Our focus will shift and positive leadership will have a groundswell like we have never seen before. Bring on 2020!

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