The Triple Bottom Line

DEFINING SUCCESS: a New Standard of Measurement – Part 2

There is a shift in leadership thinking, when it comes to measuring success and the proponents of it are many – companies like Anheuser-Busch, British Airways, The Body Shop, Diageo, General Motors, Mead, Shell, Patagonia, Starbucks, and many others are using more than just Wall Street to measure their success.

They are following a growing trend by reporting on economic, environmental, and social dimensions of their activities, products and services. One catchphrase for this new way of looking at corporate success is the “triple bottom line”, and I think we can all use a dose of it to prompt great thinking about how we benefit the world through our leadership.

The Triple Bottom Line measures impact on three levels:

  1. Economic
  2. Social
  3. Environmental

When you think about your own life and work – how would your contribution to your organization measure up? How have you helped the organization to grow economically? How have you helped the organization to serve the community or the greater good?

Success doesn’t always mean making the most money, having the most toys, or being the highest on the company ladder. Success is better defined by other currencies: time, relationships, influence power, survival in a challenging global environment, and by our contribution to society.

Monarch Butterfly Migration

As leaders, one of our key functions is to set an example for the people we lead. Not all of those people will achieve the same level of wealth, prestige, or power that you have. What inspires people is not your material possessions, but the kind of person you are. Do you live up to your word? Do you set the kind of example people want to follow? And in the words of a wise executive I once met…”am I making this the kind of company I’d want my kids to work for?”

All of us leave a legacy – for some, it means an inheritance for our children or grandchildren. For others, it means an organization, program or service we’ve created that we will hand over to those that come next. What is the legacy you’re building for future generations as a leader?

How do you define success?


About karlinsloan

Karlin Sloan has committed herself to finding out what makes great leaders tick, and to supporting leaders to be the change they wish to see in the world. As a corporate citizen she is an advocate for triple-bottom-line reporting, for creating sustainable ways of working and living, and for creating positive organizational communities that work together for the greater good. She is the author of the acclaimed business book Smarter, Faster, Better; Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership which has been translated into Thai and Russian, UNFEAR: Facing Change in an Era of Uncertainty, and co-author of the 2012 book Lemonade: The Leaders Guide to Resilience at Work. For more information see or
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