The ecology of leadership: Adapting to the challenges of a changing world

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Traditional, mechanistic models of leadership are inadequate for dealing with the serious adaptive challenges facing the modern world. The complex, dynamic systems that result when these adaptive challenges interact requires that we draw upon ecological principles to understand the role that leadership processes can play in creating a sustainable, generative future. Ignoring the systemic nature of leadership processes creates an illusion that traditional positional leaders should be the focus of leadership studies. We propose that a more useful focus is the systemic processes out of which leadership emerges. A theory of leadership derived from principles of ecology calls for a radical shift in our perspectives of leadership. It emphasizes individual responsibility, a long term perspective, developing capacities of individuals within organizations, and harmony with nature, while showing the way toward sustainability for future generations.