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Understanding leadership in the environmental sciences

Louisa S Evans, Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter; Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
Christina C Hicks, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University; Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford University
Philippa J Cohen, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University; WorldFish
Peter Case, College of Business, Law and Governance, James Cook University; School of Business, University of West England
Murray Prideaux, College of Business, Law and Governance, James Cook University
David J Mills, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University; WorldFish

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07268-200150

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Abstract

Leadership is often assumed, intuitively, to be an important driver of sustainable development. To understand how leadership is conceptualized and analyzed in the environmental sciences and to discover what this research says about leadership outcomes, we conducted a review of environmental leadership research over the last 10 years. We found that much of the environmental leadership literature focuses on a few key individuals and desirable leadership competencies. The literature also reports that leadership is one of the most important of a number of factors contributing to effective environmental governance. Only a subset of the literature highlights interacting sources of leadership, disaggregates leadership outcomes, or evaluates leadership processes in detail. We argue that the literature on environmental leadership is highly normative. Leadership is typically depicted as an unequivocal good, and its importance is often asserted rather than tested. We trace how leadership studies in the management sciences are evolving and argue that, taking into account the state of the art in environmental leadership research, more critical approaches to leadership research in environmental science can be developed.

Key words

conservation; entrepreneurship; environmental governance; fisheries; forestry; water

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087