Leadership for Sustainability
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Solving today’s environmental and sustainability challenges requires more than expertise and technology. Effective solutions will require that we engage with other people, wrestle with difficult questions, and learn how to adapt and make confident decisions despite uncertainty. We need new approaches to leadership that empower professionals at all levels to tackle wicked problems and work towards sustainability.
Leadership for Sustainability gives readers perspective and skills for promoting creative and collaborative solutions. Blending systems thinking approaches with leadership techniques, it offers dozens of strategies and specific practices that build on the foundation of three main skills: connecting, collaborating, and adapting. Inspiring case studies show how the book’s strategies and principles can be applied to diverse situations:
"[Leadership for Sustainability] provides a roadmap of the challenges and opportunities of the Anthropocene, a leadership toolbox, and a storybook of wicked leadership in practice. This practical guide provides clear leadership strategies that support emerging and seasoned planning and design professionals alike."
Chapter 1: Introduction
Section 1: Roadmap for the Anthropocene
Chapter 2: Challenges of the Anthropocene
Chapter 3: Opportunities of the Anthropocene
Section 2: Toolbox for Wicked Leadership
Chapter 4: Leadership Basics
Chapter 5: Connecting across Space and Time
Chapter 6: Collaborating across Differences
Chapter 7: Adapting to Change, Uncertainty, Failure
Section 3: Storybook: People Practicing Wicked Leadership
Chapter 8: Introducing Leadership Stories
Chapter 9: Changing Tastes: Influencing Identity and Choices for Sustainable Food
Chapter 10: Leadership is a Key Ingredient in Water: Getting Direction, Alignment, and Commitment in India
Chapter 11: Collective Impact for Climate Mitigation
Chapter 12: Innovating Carbon Farming
Chapter 13: Accounting Makes Sustainability Profitable, Possible, and Boring
Chapter 14: Fire Learning Network
Chapter 15: Partnering for Clean Water and Community Benefit
Chapter 16: Conclusion
Solving today’s wicked sustainability challenges requires system change. But as the 2020 US election illustrated, the nation is so divided and dug in that we need new strategies for leadership. We can’t rely on elected officials, political parties, chief executives, or others in positional authority to lead the systems change we need. Sustainability professionals must apply strategies that extend their influence beyond their organizations to drive change in the cross-sector space where business, government, and nonprofit organizations intersect and the most pressing sustainability challenges exist. Professionals equipped with tools and strategies to work in this space will have more influence and career success.
Join us for a discussion of strategies and tools for systems change. Dr Bruce Hull, Senior Fellow at the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability, and author of a new book titled Leadership for Sustainability, will introduce a toolbox of strategies for tackling wicked sustainability problems. The bulk of the webinar will present case studies that illustrate several of these tools, discuss the challenges and opportunities of being a systems change agent, and identify resources professionals can use to build their capacities as change agents. Panelists to be announced.
Download the annotated table of contents here or read it below.
Get the study questions here or read them below.
Download the Leadership for Sustainability in Practice case study assignment here or read it below.
Download the Sustainability Values Diagnostic: Collaborating Across Differences assignment here or read it below.
Believe it or not, your passionate concern for the climate may be holding back progress on the crucial environmental issue of our time.
Why? As the presidential election amply demonstrates, we live in polarizing times. People are divided by political party, COVID, racial reckoning, and, of course, climate change. The mere mention of these issues triggers “identity protective reasoning,” which causes us to react defensively, protecting the position of those in our ideological “tribe.” Too often, we then ignore information that doesn’t support our tribe’s positions, shun those in our ranks who dare to ask questions, and hurl insults towards with different views.
A recent poll shows that 25% of Americans say climate change is now their top issue: it defines who they are, how they live their lives, where they shop, who they donate money to, and who they vote for. The technical term for people driven by a single issue is “issue public.” For climate, the issue public is larger than ever, second only to abortion, and larger than guns, immigration, and homosexuality. That means climate is a trigger issue for many Americans.
Triggering identity protective reasoning causes problems when collaboration is criticized as “working with the enemy,” and when compromise is equated with surrender. Fortunately, strategies exist to depolarize these situations. For example:
Scientists, policy wonks, business managers, and other experts know how to solve climate change. Viable technologies, policies, and market strategies exist that will reduce emissions to levels that are safe and healthy for the planet and economy. Yet, we won’t implement and scale these solutions, or discover new ones, without collaboration and compromise. And that won’t happen unless we overcome the blinding passion of zealotry that leads to a refusal to work with the enemy.
So, do you care enough about climate change to hold your climate identity in check, to build bridges to people who don’t feel as strongly as you, and to experiment with novel solutions? If you can do that, you might not always get your way, but together we can find a way forward.
R. Bruce Hull is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability at Virginia Tech, which provides graduate education and professional development opportunities for sustainability professionals working at the intersection of business, government, and civil society. He has authored and edited numerous publications, including two books, Infinite Nature (University of Chicago Press) and Restoring Nature (Island Press)