How tomorrow’s sustainability leaders can benefit from past successes and pitfalls

In the journal Sustainability Science, Christopher Boone, dean of Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability and other leaders of sustainability organizations—including academic institutions and international nonprofits—report on valuable lessons they’ve distilled from their own experiences about successful leadership.

The work describes pathways to success for tomorrow’s organizations and highlights five areas that can contribute to success, including intellectual resources, institutional policies, financial security, a physical space, and governing boards. Together, the authors propose, these resources can form a foundation for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary researchers to identify solutions to complex problems. The new work also includes guidance on forming partnerships in leadership roles; the importance of shared culture; and communicating with audiences of varied backgrounds.

It is the latest product of an international collaboration that began a few years ago at SESYNC, the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, where Jennifer Dunne, SFI’s Vice President for Science, is on the External Advisory Board. After that initial meeting, Dunne invited some of the participants to SFI to dive deeper into their experiences leading diverse organizations.

Fostering open communication and maintaining a cultural climate open to new ideas and solutions, the researchers report, can give rise to creative solutions. And organizations that focus on sustainability need leaders who can not only bring together researchers from disparate disciplines but also cultivate a culture of open-mindedness and flexibility, the authors note.

 

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