Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present an alternative leadership model to the prevailing shareholder-first approach that research, management experts and practice indicate can lead to higher performance and resilience of a firm. Design/methodology/approach – This conceptual paper is based on published literature, empirical research, and observations conducted in firms worldwide. Findings – Avery and Bergsteiner's 23 principles differentiate sustainable or “honeybee” practices from shareholder-first or “locust” leadership. Sustainable practices are arranged in a pyramid with three levels of practices and five performance outcomes at the apex. A total of 14 foundation practices can be introduced immediately. At the next level in the pyramid, six higher-level practices emerge once the foundations are in place. Finally, three practices cover the key performance drivers of innovation, quality, and staff engagement – all of which end customers' experience. Together the 23 practices influence five outcomes, namely brand and reputation, customer satisfaction, operational finances, long-term shareholder value, and long-term value for multiple stakeholders. Practical implications – Given that research and practice show that operating on sustainable principles enhances business performance and resilience, executives are urged to adopt these practices over business-as-usual. If self-interest does not motivate this change, as it appears to have already done at Wal-Mart, then major stakeholders or legislators can be expected to force such changes in the future. Originality/value – This paper provides an answer to the question of whether there is there an alternative to the shareholder-first leadership model. Its response is: yes, a demonstrably effective alternative already operates among many successful enterprises around the world.