Leadership for Sustainability : An Action Research Approach book cover
1st Edition

Leadership for Sustainability
An Action Research Approach

ISBN 9781906093594
Published April 8, 2011 by Routledge
272 Pages

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $170.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Those who advocate moving towards sustainability debate how change can be achieved. Does it have necessarily to be top-down or can it also be bottom-up? Can radical organizational and social change be spread from "the middle"? Who can lead change when those with seniority and credibility are necessarily embedded in currently dominant mind-sets and power structures?  This book focuses on what it means to take up leadership for sustainability, from a variety of organizational and social positions, and considers the consequences of different strategies and practices for influencing change.  Leadership for Sustainability shows what an action research based practice of leadership for sustainability looks like and provides a sense of the personal and professional challenges this involves; it demonstrates how people who are influencing change draw on reflective practice strategically (to create a context in which they can be influential) and also tactically (in moment-to-moment choices about how to act). It also illustrates and reflects on the kinds of outcomes that can be expected from this work, both the specific and strategic achievements, and the difficulties, challenges and disappointments. Thus the major part of this volume consists of accounts by graduates of an innovative master's programme, the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice, of their activities, projects, achievements and learning. Accompanying sections from the editors overview, analyse and reflect on these accounts and the issues they raise for notions of leadership, practice, sustainability and change. One substantial chapter offers ideas, frameworks and practices for people taking leadership. 

One of the most dispiriting aspects of the environmental challenges that beset us is the lack of agency that many people experience: we do not know what to do or how to do it. Many organizations espouse a sustainable approach. This may be lip service or it may be a genuine attempt to integrate sustainability into business strategy. Whatever form it takes, organizational sustainability programmes need committed, intelligent, reflective leadership at all levels to make them work. The examples in this book show how people in very different contexts have seized the opportunities open to them and acted with courage and initiative to make a difference.  This book will be relevant to a wide range of people, including managers, consultants and others in commercial, non-profit, public and intergovernmental organisations who want to contribute to the development of a sustainable world. It will be of particular interest to people working in organizations already thinking about issues of sustainability and those who are seeking to take on the role of change agents in organisations or communities.  In addition, the book will be a resource for those in educational fields, primarily but not exclusively higher and further education, who wish to work with their students to develop leadership practices through action research based educational approaches.  All contributors to this book have been associated with the MSc in Responsibility & Business Practice at the University of Bath, School of Management, UK, either as tutors or participants. This innovative degree course used action research to engage with challenging issues in a wide range of business, public service and civil society contexts.At the heart of this book are stories from 29 people who are seeking to make the world more environmentally sustainable and socially just. They report their purposes, journeys, impacts, learning and disappointments. Their accounts are diverse and from many different worlds, ranging from fast moving consumer goods to international forestry and conservation projects. They have in common that they are among the 254 graduates of an innovative Master's programme, the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice community, who in one way or another are adopting action research as a practice of taking leadership for sustainability, and believe their actions can be significant contributions to the causes that matter to them.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Taking up the challengePart 2: Educating for inquiring practice in sustainabilityPart 3: Ideas and practicesPart 4: Promoting alternative questioning, policies and practices in mainstream organisationsCatalysing a strategic approach to sustainability in a major IT companyChris PreistOn being a change agent for sustainabilityChristel ScholtenImbuing work with ecological valuesHelen GouldenThinking out of the box: Introducing action research into neighbourhood practice in the north-west of EnglandHelena KettleboroughChoose lifeJames BarlowLeadership for change in USA public food procurement: People, products and policyKaren KarpTwo worlds?Mark GaterPutting my learning into practicePrishani SatyapalPart 5: Establishing sustainability practices in organisations and industriesWorking below the parapetAlison KennedyProtesting and engaging for changeKené UmeasiegbuBuilding an iconic eco-factoryVidhura RalapanawePart 6: Paying attention to everyday practices of sustainable livingLike a river flows: How do we call forth 'a world worthy of human aspiration'?Helen SierodaSport as inquiry: Safe escape, activism and a journey into selfJon AlexanderPart 7: Seeking to shift systemic rules and awarenessLessons from the entrepreneurial pathCharles O'MalleyCreating places to stand and the levers to move the worldDavid BentLeading by natureJen MorganThe practice of making business responsiblePaul DickinsonThe gap between discourse and practice: Holding promoters of Amazon infrastructure projects to accountRoland WidmerPart 8: Connecting up stakeholders for more sustainable outcomesKatineJo ConfinoChallenging the system with the success of inquiryNick PyattCollaborative conservationSimon HicksPart 9: Itinerant change agents to professions and sectors'Holding up the tightrope' – helping us all act for sustainabilityCharles AingerDoing things right – and doing the right thingSimon CooperPart 10: Working through community and societyThe journey to CONVERGEIan RoderickGYVA.LT: An initiative to promote environmentally friendly living and sustainability in Lithuania Indre KleinaiteCultureWork for a world in transitionPaula DowneyPart 11: Working with young peopleGrowing food – growing peopleJane RiddifordLearning for sustainability: Living a new world-viewJoanne BaileyA journey of dialoguing: Peace and inner peaceLalith Gunaratne and Mihirini De ZoysaReflectionsBibliography

View More


This book brings ecological concerns slap bang into the realms of corporate business. Using the language of sustainability the contributors write openly about spiritual and emotional engagement, knowing ourselves as nature and helping business reconnect with cyclical systems that emulate the natural world. This is a story of stories promoting the importance of storytelling as we strive to achieve some semblance of leadership for sustainability. I rarely read a leadership text from cover to cover, but I found this to be a page turner, reading more like a novel, difficult to put down, and I wondered what each of the short stories would reveal as people have been moved to: "take on the challenges of living courageously in extraordinary times" (p.1). The main purpose of the book is to publicise and promote ...stories of leadership for sustainability. And what a range of leadership activities they include! From a local neighbourhood action research project in the northwest of England to the conservation of black-maned lions in Addis Ababa, via local produce for school meals in New York, a triathlon event in Weymouth and building an eco-factory to make clothes for Marks & Spencer in Sri Lanka ... I cannot do justice to 29 stories here, and I would hate to miss out any one, as they each tell of unique ways of applying common threads of learning, shared beliefs and values. This is where you have to read the book to really appreciate the passion, energies, highs and lows of everyday managers and leaders, putting their learning into practice, each in their individual contexts. They go to show how we can all do something if we are moved to do so ... For myself as a social researcher this book has renewed my confidence to follow my values, take notice of my instincts, listen to my inner thoughts and reconnect with the power of the earth. For those in this field of leadership inquiry I think there are rich pickings here. - Business Leadership Review 8.4 (October 2011) - Sue Chapman, Independent Leadership Learning Coach and Facilitator || Marshall and her colleagues have shown leadership ... using a Trojan horse approach by setting up their MSc in the heart of a traditional business school, and seeding other courses. Positive deviance in practice! The power of the action research approach shines through in the collection of twenty-nine stories, which made this book – despite the somewhat heavy going of the theoretical chapters – the most compelling sustainability book I've read for a long time. People have taken action about things they care about, and they have learnt from it. Their stories demonstrate that we encourage people to show leadership in part by allowing them to be humble and to experiment, not by pretending that only the perfect can show leadership. The stories do not trumpet an approach or sell us a technique. They are travellers' tales for people who'll see themselves in the narrative, and be inspired and comforted by it. Marshall and her colleagues on the MSc course have evidently created a safe space for people to reflect about their doubts and uncertainties as well as their hopes and insights. Chapters including this kind of personal testimony from people like Gater, Bent and Karp are intriguing, dramatic and engaging. Karp's story about food procurement shows the difference between an action learning approach and the leader as hero – she's as open about the set-backs as the successes. I instantly recognised Bent's description of holding professional optimism with personal pessimism, and many people I know have had that same conversation: wondering where their bolt-hole will be, to escape the impacts of runaway climate change. Gater's story is a brilliantly honest account of his work within a mainstream financial institution, moving a certain distance and then coming up against a seemingly insurmountable systemic challenge. In a model of authentic story-telling, he describes tensions I have heard so many organisational change agents express. He talks about visiting his colleagues 'in their world' and inviting them to visit him in his. At the end of his story, the two worlds remain unreconciled, "but it was okay – I had done what I could do as well as I believe I could have done it, and that had to be enough." Full review on Defra website - Penny Walker, independent consultant on change and sustainability