Breakthrough study of Conservation Leadership Produces a Competence Framework for Professionals in Biodiversity Conservation.

  Unsplash: "shane-rounce-DNkoNXQti3c-unsplash" by Shane Rounce .

Dr Simon Black has produced the first competence framework for Leaders in conservation, following a study drawing upon the experience of hundreds of conservation professionals from around the world.

Dr Simon Black‘s study, published in the Open Journal of Leadership examines the importance of a wide range of leadership practices previously identified in leadership frameworks in literature but now tested with with the insights gathered from conservation practitioners for the first time. The analysis extracted Six Factors of Conservation Leadership which best represent the important elements of leadership derived from the views of a wide range of professionals. Additionally the relative importance of the various items of leadership within each factor was identified, to emphasise the relevance of specific practices to people working in this challenging sector of work. The analysis extracted Six Factors of Conservation Leadership which best represent the important elements of leadership derived from the views of a wide range of professionals.

Novel aspects in the model include: 1) an emphasis on knowledge of operational work (i.e. knowing what challenges people face and the organisational constraints which they need to work within); 2) authentic, dignified interactions with people (staff, partners and communities) and 3) a leaders’ primary focus on the needs of ecosystems and species of concern.

‘Whilst leaders of many industries have been lauded and emulated for decades, the conservation sector has been somewhat slow in identifying how to improve the impact of its own leaders’ Black told us ‘Instead conservation has tended to focus on scientific and technical skills and project implementation. People who work in conservation belong to many and varied organisations, whether government departments, Non-Governmental Organisations and charities, research institutions or commercial  businesses and in a whole range of differing natural, cultural and political environments, which bring particular challenges.’

This new Six Factor model of Conservation Leadership provides a focus for areas of development that leaders in the sector should consider in order to be best placed to their lead teams, organisations and wider partnerships in efforts to conserve biodiversity around the world.

‘The international scope of the study means that the issues highlighted are relevant to people working in different regions and varied cultural contexts.’ Black explained ‘As a basis for a new curriculum on conservation training, the six factor model defines topics relevant to leadership training, postgraduate courses, and continued individual professional development for conservation practitioners. It is relevant to new leaders early in their career through to the most senior professionals in multinational organisations.’

A key part of the framework is its emphasis on newly recognised areas of importance for leaders working in modern international and multi-cultural contexts. The disciplines include the need to develop trust through authentic dignified interactions with others (vital in cross-cultural and community-based work), an ability to have a sense of reality of the challenges and constraints of work in light of unexpected outcomes of events in the natural world, and the need to be purposeful in oneself (rather than ego-driven). Leaders need the capability to engage the same shared vision and enthusiasm across the team to improve the situation for species and ecosystems. The need to collaborate and engage communities and partners is also a key area of capability that needs to be recognised and actively developed by aspiring leaders.

New generations of leaders are already benefitting from Dr Black’s work within the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology as well as through his partnerships with major Non-Governmental Organisations and other Universities.

At Kent, the MSc in Conservation Project Management offers an important curriculum and includes a unique, internationally-recognised module on ‘Leadership Skills for Conservation Professionals’ targeted at the development of upcoming leaders in the biodiversity sector.

Read the full paper here



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