Transformational Leadership and ESG: Strategies for Overcoming Resistance and Fostering Growth

Research in leadership psychology and learning theory suggests that many individuals experience fear or discomfort when faced with learning new skills or adopting new approaches. According to studies, up to 70% of people report anxiety when dealing with significant changes in their professional environment. This initial resistance is a common response to transformational change and can impact the overall perception of a program’s value. However, it is important to recognize that such discomfort is a natural part of the learning process.

In the context of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) initiatives, these challenges can be even more pronounced. Implementing ESG programs often requires a fundamental shift in organizational culture and values, which can trigger resistance among employees. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, successful ESG integration demands strong leadership commitment and clear communication to overcome skepticism and build buy-in. Moreover, research by McKinsey & Company highlights that companies with robust ESG strategies often see enhanced employee engagement and long-term performance.

Recommendations to Alleviate Fear

Clear Communication and Vision:

    • Clearly articulate the purpose and benefits of the program to align individual goals with business objectives. This helps in reducing uncertainty and fostering a sense of shared purpose.
    • Regularly update participants on progress and celebrate small wins to build confidence and maintain momentum .

Leadership Support:

    • Strong and visible support from leadership can reassure participants and demonstrate the organization’s commitment to the program.
    • Leaders should model the behaviours and attitudes they wish to see, reinforcing the importance of the program through their actions .

Create a Safe Learning Environment:

    • Foster an environment where it is safe to express concerns and ask questions. This can be achieved through open forums, anonymous feedback channels, and supportive coaching sessions.
    • Encourage a growth mindset by emphasizing that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process and opportunities for growth .

Tailored Training and Resources:

    • Provide resources and training that are tailored to the specific needs of the participants. This can include personalized coaching, workshops, and access to relevant materials.
    • Incorporate diverse learning methods to cater to different learning styles, making the program more accessible and engaging .

Encourage Peer Support and Collaboration:

    • Facilitate opportunities for participants to share their experiences and support each other. Peer mentoring and group discussions can help build a sense of community and reduce feelings of isolation.
    • Highlight success stories and examples of peers who have successfully navigated similar changes .


The goal is to make the journey as positive an experience as possible, while understanding that transformational change isn’t easy. By focusing on balanced reflection, success, and impact rather than habitual critical analysis, you can help leaders overcome initial fears and embrace new methods.

This positive approach to building literacy and accountability aligns with best practices in Responsible Leadership development, which emphasize the importance of creating a supportive environment to facilitate growth.

Addressing these concerns and fostering a positive environment of constructive feedback will ensure the ESG programs meet their intended goals while supporting everyone involved in their growth and development. By doing so, organisations can mitigate the risk of ESG programs and commitments being undervalued and ensure it delivers the desired outcomes for the business.


Learn more about BambuddhaCoaching Supported ESG Literacy Programs


  1. American Psychological Association. (2017). Stress in America: Coping with Change. Retrieved from APA
  2. Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Harvard Business Review Press.
  3. Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. L. (2009). Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization. Harvard Business Review Press.
  4. Eccles, R. G., Ioannou, I., & Serafeim, G. (2012). The Impact of Corporate Sustainability on Organizational Processes and Performance. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from HBR
  5. McKinsey & Company. (2020). Five ways that ESG creates value. Retrieved from McKinsey
  6. Brown, B. (2018). Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. Random House.

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