The concept of “wicked problems” gets a lot of attention in this book. A quick overview: Wicked problems are unique, large-scale across time and place, difficult to define and relentless. They involve many different actors and stakeholders. Humans are both the cause and the solution of wicked problems.
Climate change, say the authors, is a good example of a super-wicked problem.
“Everyone on earth is both responsible and impacted: the people who cause the problem must solve it,” they explain. “These impacts and responsibilities are distributed unevenly and inequitably.”
Further, interconnections can cause “unanticipated changes to ripple through local and global systems.” Delaying action risks irreversible changes that may lead to catastrophic consequences.
But “Leadership for Sustainability” is not a doom-and-gloom book. Rather, its goal is to empower readers to do what they can regardless of their position or status — to lead from where they are.
“Despite the enormous challenges we face, sustainable development is within reach,” say the authors. “Leadership practices can be learned, and everyone can practice leadership from whatever position or job they happen to hold.”
The book is divided into parts the authors describe as a roadmap, a toolbox and a storybook. The roadmap introduces the Anthropocene — the era in which we now live, defined by the authors as “the time of human responsibility for Earth’s conditions.” The toolbox provides leadership skills, practices and principles for addressing the challenges of the Anthropocene, which the authors stress can be learned and implemented by anyone. The storybook provides case studies that describe people putting these tools and principles into action.