What are the UN Sustainable Development goals?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 high-level goals that serve as a blueprint for “a better and more sustainable future for all”. The United Nations General Assembly set them in 2015, and the goal is to achieve them by 2030.

ESG or “environmental, social and governance” issues are top of mind for regulators, legislators, and corporate leaders. The UN Sustainable Development Goals serve as a useful framework for thinking about how your enterprise currently operates and how it could change to enhance its impact on society.

Over the next few weeks, I will outline some considerations for corporate leaders for each of the goals. I will pose many of them as questions around the relevant components of your operating model.


The Hierarchy of Leadership Capability

The Hierarchy of Leadership Capability 2020

This diagram is a very simplified way of representing something I’ve been working on recently – a framework around leadership capability and how every organisation requires capability at each level of the pyramid.

The main idea is that you can’t be tactical unless your operational execution is optimised, you can’t be strategic unless any tactical plays are optimised inside the boundaries of the chosen strategy and you can’t be visionary unless each of these capabilities is aligned and operating at peak efficiency.

Visionary – a person of unusually keen foresight. 


An example of a visionary leader would be Steve Jobs, Charlie Munger or Bill Gates. A visionary doesn’t just have a vision. They are able to communicate the vision clearly and concisely and convince people to believe in helping them realise it.

There are very few visionary leaders. Many leaders believe they are visionary leaders but engage in behaviour that is counterproductive to getting the best out of their people. Many are attempting to be strategic, but actually leading tactical moves informed by their experience in operational level roles.

The hierarchy of leadership capability is one of those mental models I find helpful. For your own organisation, you could probably work through your organisation chart and categorise key people in each layer and identify under-utilised strategic leaders to help drive your strategy forward.