After the huge build-up to COP26 and months of discussions, hope and aspirations, I feel pretty deflated now it’s over.

In fact, it would be more accurate to say I feel sad.

I can’t shake off the images of Tuvalu’s foreign minister Simon Kofe standing knee-deep in water as he delivered the speech he pre-recorded for the conference.

He chose to set up his lectern in the sea to show the real-life impact of climate change, telling delegates his Pacific Island nation is literally sinking.

It was such a powerful way to demonstrate the urgency of the situation.

However, as we reflect on the conference, many are dubbing it a failure because it looks like the pledges made won’t go far enough to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. Nor will they save the homes and livelihoods of untold millions.

So, if that’s the case, what went wrong?

Part of the problem is short-term thinking.

In Tuvalu, the existential threat of climate change is very real and impossible to ignore as its inhabitants watch their land being swallowed up by the sea.

Elsewhere in the world, maybe it’s easier to turn a blind eye when the effects on everyday life aren’t as obvious. It’s tomorrow’s problem, right?

Wrong. Short-termism is a dangerous attitude to have.

It could be argued that politicians are more guilty than most of short-term thinking.

Many are focused on what they can achieve during their term in office, and what happens beyond that is someone else’s problem.

The same can be said in the business world, too. Far too many CEOs put short-term wins first and lose sight of potential long-term gains.

McKinsey Global Institute published an excellent paper on this very issue, entitled The Case Against Corporate Short Termism. It sought to evidence the belief that failure to think long term can harm company performance, creating the Corporate Horizon Index to rank individual companies. It found companies that think long term “dramatically outperform those classified as short term”.

They exhibited stronger revenue, earnings and economic profit. They delivered greater total returns to stakeholders. They cumulatively created more jobs on average than other companies.

Company culture and leadership guru Simon Sinek is another expert who encourages business leaders to look to the long term and talks about what he calls the “infinite mindset”.

He describes business and politics as “infinite games”. Unlike finite games which have static rules, infinite games have no defined endpoint and no such things as best or first.

Essentially, he is saying that companies which seek long-term success should be focused less on competing with one another and more about building strong and sustainable organisations.

I deal with many Scottish companies which have been going for decades or more and, on reflection, they tend to be long-term thinkers.

Johnston Carmichael was founded in the 1930s and has grown to become one of the largest firms of chartered accountants and business advisers in the country. This is a firm which prides itself in what it calls “legacy leadership” with an eye on sustaining the firm for future generations instead of prioritising short-term gains.

Then there’s the leading legal firm Anderson Strathern which goes back some 270 years. It has stood the test of time and continues to thrive and grow thanks to its progressive thinking and consideration of the wider economic and business context when guiding clients.

In my view, true leaders – whether in business or in politics – are the ones who look beyond their own popularity, look beyond quick-wins, and think about the bigger picture. They are our future.

Laura Gordon is a CEO coach and group chair with Vistage International, a global leadership development network for CEOs