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View from the Lectern: Leadership for Sustainability in a Global Society

Leadership for sustainability in a global society requires:

Pluralism. Leadership requires boundary spanning to find, see, and create opportunities, a mindset to interpret and decode situations from multiple, often competing points of view, an openness to understand other people’s perspectives, and the ability to transcend discourse and cultural barriers and cultivate trust and respect that leads to finding higher ground.

Entrepreneurialism. Leadership requires the energy and insight to create and broker relationships among networks of actors, to connect different points of view, to catalyze the flow of resources through the network in ways that add social and monetary value to those involved. Leadership involves assembling, motivating, managing, and participating in teams and partnerships.   This requires defining the direction for action, the aligning of partners to accomplish that action, and the motivating of commitment to action and follow-through.

Investment. Leadership requires investment to the global and local commons, a commitment to the ethical, economic, and ecological capitals on which our communities depend, and an investment in the infrastructures that sustain those commons/capital so that the communities thrive in the future (Solow).

Humility. Leadership requires the capacity to define problems and solutions in a landscape of uncertainty: to navigate unknown unknowns.  It requires humility and innovation. Humility allows us to fail, to expect to learn by doing, to ask for help, to collaborate even when outcomes are uncertain, to grope one step forward and two steps back toward an uncertain and unknown future, and to admit that it is easier to create our future than it is to predict it.  Innovation is the courage to be creative, to re-assemble existing resources to construct higher ground where unrealized solutions can be discovered.

Knowledge Management.  No expert, no institution, no discipline, and no profession has all the answers to the sustainability-challenges we face. We must access knowledge from diverse networks, apply it to emergent problems, and share with our networks the lessons we learn. In this uncertain world where problems will be defined and solved through collaborative enterprises, we need knowledge brokers and catalysts as much as content experts.

The XMNR program transcends pre-conceived barriers to collaboration and problems solving. It promotes tools for partnering, teamwork, knowledge network management, boundary spanning, and collaborative adaptive management.  With these capacities in place, sustainability professionals are better able to articulate direction, align collaborators, and motivate commitment; i.e., leadership for sustainability in a global society.

Originally posted at Constructing Sustainability.

R. Bruce Hull, IV, Ph.D. is a professor in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech practicing social ecology. His work focuses on healing forests fractured by pressures of urbanization and globalization. He is author and editor of over 100 publications, including two books: Infinite Nature (Chicago 2006) and Restoring Nature (Island 2000). He serves on the editorial advisory board for Gale’s GREENR environmental and sustainability studies web portal.

Posted on: May 22, 2012, 6:00 am Category: View from the Lectern Tagged with: , , , ,

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