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      Leadership and Sustainability

      Annual Beideman Visiting Scholar Discusses Leadership and Sustainability

      Beideman Visiting Scholar

      Leith Sharp of Harvard speaks in Founders Hall.

      How many people does it take to change a light bulb at Harvard University?

      Plenty, Leith Sharp, the Oskin Leadership Institute's 2016-17 Beideman Visiting Scholar, found. Sharp spoke to a near-capacity crowd in the Founders Hall auditorium last week about sustainability and leadership. She is the founding director of Harvard's Office for Sustainability.

      Sharp spent time during her remarks discussing her idea to upgrade some light bulbs in a Harvard building to more sustainable models. The idea took her on an odyssey that involved months' worth of conversations about project management, financing, disposal of old light bulbs and general overall strategy.

      "Every idea a human comes up with goes through a life cycle," Sharp said.

      She illustrated her expectations for pursuing the idea as a straight line from start to finish. In reality, it ended up looking like a series of hills and valleys. "We have to embrace the power of the squiggle," she laughed.

      Beideman Scholar lecture

      Lecture on Leadership and Sustainability

      Pictured from left to right are Chief Sustainability Officer Jim May, President Julie E. Wollman, Beideman Visiting Scholar Leith Sharp, Widener University Trustee Paul Beideman and Provost Stephen C. Wilhite at Sharp's lecture.

      Harvard eventually installed the light bulbs, after more than three months. The university over a period of about eight years also changed its culture in a way that "green became the new crimson," and it embraced sustainability concepts. In trying to determine how that happened, Sharp said she concluded complex change requires two systems: a traditional, top-down command control system and a horizontally focused adaptive operating system. If the systems were a tree, the command control system would be the roots, trunk and branches, while the adaptive operating system would round out the leaves and flowers.

      Sharp had all the attendees use their smart phones to vote on what rate of change and innovation is needed to affect the planet, which has experienced record warmth. More than half voted to quadruple the rate – a common result she gets when administering that survey.

      "Our traditional organizational model is not adequate for the needed rate of change and innovation," she said.

      Sharp's lecture was made possible through a generous endowed gift from Paul and Caroline Beideman, which allows distinguished scholars from other institutions to spend time at Widener sharing their expertise and guiding faculty and student discussion and research on areas related to leadership. Paul Beideman, who serves as vice chair of the university's Board of Trustees, attended the lecture.

      Sharp teaches in the area of change leadership and focuses on organizational, financial, decision-making and change leadership models to influence organizational culture, Widener President Julie E. Wollman said in her introduction of Sharp.

      "Ms. Sharp is an innovative leader who is positioning sustainability as a model driver of innovation, agility and organizational design," she said.


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