Situating the Study, Previewing Its Contributions

We have begun to define or clarify some of the work’s key words and phrases (a process, we recall, that continues throughout the study). And by having commenced this conceptual work, we have begun to sketch the basic aim of each chapter (i.e., the first focuses on leadership; the second, on anthropocentrism; the third, on ecocentrism; and the fourth, on Earth-centered leading). We may now begin to outline the fifth chapter: I compare and contrast the study with a number of the most important works within the discipline of environmental leadership studies (ELS). Hence, the fifth chapter acts as a kind of literature review. But why does the review appear at the end of the study rather than at the beginning (which is what ordinarily occurs)? I recall the quasi-Cartesian/ phenomenological method that I employed during my prior investigation into the fundamental structure of leadership: the same approach is applied to the present study, i.e., I did not first examine the ELS corpus to ensure that it did not color/bias my conceptualization of environmental leadership; instead, I carefully followed the methodological pathway opened up by my general model, which basically involved working through the anthropocentrism-ecocentrism polarity.

I think the process succeeded: after mapping the theory, I surveyed the existing literature, and I was able to locate not only commonalities but also points of difference and departure, which appear to contribute to a better understanding of environmental leadership. Given the philosophical bent of the study, a number of the innovations have to do with conceptual matters, including the critique of background assumptions and the clarification of concepts. Before proceeding with a brief perusal of some of these particular innovations, we note how the following academic remarks testify to the importance of these matters. Management scholars Pratima Bansal and Hee-Chan Song perceive that “A field’s development is shaped by the clarity of its constructs and underlying assumptions” (2017: 105). Leadership theorist John P. Dugan observes how “Definitional clarity is essential to understanding a particular theory and its underpinnings as well as how we engage in leadership practice” and “A clear definition of leadership will anchor a theory and serve as the springboard from which its assumptions are derived” (2017: 3, 5). And environmental leadership theorist Rian Satterwhite notes the imperative to “surface and question the hidden assumptions and constraints of our cultural and discipline-based perspectives” (2018: 44).

With regard to background/unexamined assumptions, the study focuses on the destructive anthropocentric premise (i.e., that we humans are superior to the non-human), the better biocentric premise (that many/all living beings are equal in some sense), and the optimal ecocentric premise (all things, biotic and otherwise, are equal in some sense). Regarding the existing ELS literature, I observed how it generally remains ensconced in the biocentric assumption, which is vastly better than homocentrism but nevertheless bettered by eco-centeredness. Likely the most striking feature of the study is its insistence on the inclusion of what has been typically trivialized, ignored, or disdained by human-centered and even life-centered humanity.

As has already become apparent, the book is also heavily focused on clarifying key concepts. Eminent pioneering leadership scholars lamented the lack of definitional clarity (e.g., Pfeffer 1977: 105; Burns 1978: 2), and I think this remains the case for leadership studies, inclusive of ELS, even though -somewhat paradoxically - there’s been a flood of formulations since the 1970s (Stogdill 1974; Kost 1991; Bennis and Nanus 1997). Indeed, leadership’s meaning has remained so contested and unclear that some prominent leadership scholars are skeptical of the search for a general definition or model (e.g., Miner 1975: 200; Ciulla 2004: 305; Zoller and Fairhurst 2007: 1338; Ladkin 2010: 2—3; for discussions of the search and the skepticism around it, refer to Burns 1978: 3, 448; Goethals and Sorenson 2006; Manolopoulos 2019: 8-15). As the first chapter makes clear, I posit that my previous work upon which this study is grounded has led to greater conceptual clarity, with various beneficial consequences, such as being able to differentiate leadership from other (often similar) phenomena, such as management, which is the maintenance of uncontested situations (2019: 33-52; also briefly discussed in the first chapter). Obtaining more conceptual clarity regarding leadership at the fundamental level also allowed us to derive/develop a clearer definition of environmental leadership (i.e., the transformation of human-centered situations into more Earth-centered ones, and the preservation of Earth-centered situations from homocentric contestation). Hence, the theory appears to allow us to differentiate genuine Earth-centered environmental leadership from anthropocentric forms of “environmental” leadership and management.

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