The Earth Leadership Program builds on 20 years of experience pioneered by the Leopold Leadership Program. Now, as a program of Future Earth, we will embed this work within a broader international context. Future Earth works with a global network of scientists, researchers, and innovators to champion many kinds of transdisciplinary research and engaged science that will be needed to support rapid transformations towards sustainability. Bold, connected, engaged science leaders will be critical to this work. The Earth Leadership Program is committed to extending and expanding the work of the Leopold Leadership Program by relaunching the North American cohort, and by working with our partners to develop additional regional cohorts in other parts of the world.
In North America, we have also shifted the business model by bringing in universities as partners and building a coalition of foundation partners to support the work. This shift is possible because, after 20 years of work by the Leopold Leadership Program, the impact of the program on the careers of fellows is powerful and clear: Of the 213 Leopold Leadership Fellows, over half are now in leadership positions, and the connection between fellows continues to support increase their collective impact.
Over the next year, the structure of the Earth Leadership Program will continue to evolve as we seek to build greater connections among existing fellows, bring new fellows into the program, and build new programs around the world.
What's the training experience?
Over the years, the Leopold Leadership Program has developed and refined a thoughtful process for drawing out a new kind of leader. The Earth Leadership Program continues this process.
Leadership context: Areas of focus
For lasting change, we need a new type of leader, one who uses a collaborative model to co-create solutions with others. We need leaders who listen, and who commit to endeavors for the long haul. Our model flies in the face of the traditional Western hero. Our leaders are not lone rangers, cowboys, or solitary geniuses. They are team players who use scientific and emotional intelligence to bring society together. This brand of leadership might not look flashy, because it isn’t. But with grit, practice, and patience, it works.
What it means to be a scientist now is different than it was 30 years ago. Back then astronauts weren’t sharing views of space over social media and ecologists generally kept to their data. But in the same way that scientists have learned to speak with the media directly about their research—and universities have integrated communications classes into science departments—new times call for new roles.
More than ever, scientists are being called to step into leadership roles to solve the environmental crises that matter in each community. We have the credibility and knowledge to make a difference–but we need nuanced leadership skills to ensure that our voice has influence. We concentrate on three broad areas in our collective leadership training:
Collective leadership framework
The Earth Leadership Program embraces a leadership model that encourages individuals to cross boundaries and work collaboratively to transform systems. This collective leadership model is well-suited to academic researchers who rely on broad networks to advance sustainability.
Fellows hone a unique set of competencies that allow them to become agents of change. First, they recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, and then develop strategies for reaching out to others. Through this relational framework, they gain insights on how best to create alignment among those involved and how to build—and sustain—momentum on a project. The key leadership dimensions that are integrated into our programs are:
Assess challenges and strengths
Bringing training to universities and networks
In light of the need to meet growing demand, we are also working with teams or networks of researchers within the same university. We began this work in 2010 when Jon Foley, the former director of the Institute for the Environment at University of Minnesota invited us to design and facilitate a program for their fellows. That partnership continued when Jessica Hellman, the current director, offered to co-host the Leadership Teach-In in May 2017, where teams from universities had the opportunity to learn from one another about program design and by participating in train-the-trainer skill sessions.
We continue to work with universities at multiple levels, from graduate students to mid-career faculty programs, by advising in planning sessions and/or by providing on-site training and follow-up. Our approach is best described as a train-the-trainer model in order to expand the in-house capacity of universities.
We are also participating in resource exchange networks so that we can contribute to our resource portal and similar platforms of other networks. You will find how-to guides on multiple topics, written by fellows and sustainability leadership facilitators and trainers. We hope that this approach will build the field of transdisciplinary researchers.