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Working paper

Chasing the honey bee: enhancing leadership for sustainability

4 May 2014

This paper explores the ways in which different conceptions of leadership can contribute to the sustainability of economic productivity, social equity and, of course, the natural systems and resources upon which all social and economic development depend. It begins by briefly defining leadership and outlining the major approaches to leadership studies in terms of trait and social theories of leadership. In particular, the paper argues that transformational leadership and what Western (2013) calls “eco-leadership” are most consistent with the systemic, ethical and learning dimensions of sustainability. This involves contrasting what Avery and Bergsteiner (2011, 2013) call the “honey bee” and the “locust” approaches to leadership. With these authors, the chapter argues that the “honey bee” approach of critical, transformational leadership is most consistent with sustainability. The paper concludes with an example of how capacities for “honey bee” leadership and eco-leadership can be developed and enhanced through a university programme.

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