Understanding leadership in the environmental sciences

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.


Evans, L.S., Hicks, C.C., Cohen, P.J., Case, P., Prideaux, M., Mills, D.J. (2015)
Ecology and Society, 20(1): 50 [open access]