The establishment of many adaptation partnerships is driven by visionary leadership; leadership which is innovative, imaginative, and inspires and empowers others. Over time, many different forms of leadership are required. By developing this capability, you can help to sustain and increase impact over the long term.
Key aspects include:
The challenge of adapting to climate change needs to be well understood by partners who must have the vision, drive and determination needed to lead change. The partnership needs visionary leadership and a clear and ambitious vision and purpose to motivate and inspire involvement and action.
Authentic and heartfelt leadership is needed to empower and motivate inclusive action. Adaptation should be developed with people and nature, rather than done to them and must take account of wider challenges, opportunities, and priorities.
The partnership will need to take a strategic approach to developing influence. Techniques such as stakeholder analysis and power mapping can help to scope targeted engagement and influencing. Identifying windows of opportunity and levers of change helps to focus effort to influence change, including through policy and legal drivers.
Creating a shared vision can help partners to explore the change that they want to achieve together and develop a shared view on what they want and need for the future of their place.
The visioning process should be open, transparent, creative and inclusive. It is an opportunity to bring together diverse stakeholders, build relationships and identify areas of consensus and potential conflict. Creating a shared vision can help open up conversations about how the changes set out in the vision can be achieved, build social and political support for change and lay the foundation for positive actions in the future. This action is connected to the partnership capability as it helps develop relationships and builds trust between stakeholders through exploring and communicating shared challenges and hopes for the future.
Opportunities for change can include a trigger event such as major storm damage or flooding and/ or policy and legislative changes. You can also create opportunities through communication and engagement.
Everyone needs to be involved in adapting to climate change. Including a diverse range of people throughout the adaptation process (from planning to implementation and evaluation) will increase equity, and build a strong sense of ownership and support.
Effective leadership has a crucial role to play in empowering. motivating and enabling diverse involvement and ensuring that the partnership operates effectively.
Table 1: Common leadership styles
|Coaching||Motivational leadership that focuses on the individual|
|Visionary||Progress-focused and inspirational leadership|
|Affiliative||Humble leadership that puts people first|
|Autocratic||Authoritarian and result-focused leadership|
|Laissez-faire||Hands-off and delegatory leadership|
|Democratic||Supportive and innovative leadership that encourages participation|
|Pacesetter||Helpful and motivational leadership that sets challenging goals|
|Transformational||Challenging and communicative leadership driven by overarching objectives|
|Transactional||Performance-focused leadership who incentivise reaching goals|
|Bureaucratic||Hierarchical and duty-focused leadership that is detail and focused|
In the early stages of adaptation partnerships stakeholders often respond well to visionary leadership from passionate individuals who ‘practise what they preach’. As the partnership begins to expand, leadership styles that are more inclusive with regards to decision-making (Democratic, Pacesetter, Transformational) become more important in driving change.
Top-down leadership styles, which tend to be more autocratic or bureaucratic, are thought to be less successful and sustainable.
Effective adaptation needs a ‘bigger picture’ outlook. Having a long-term vision that includes cross-sectoral and multi-level linkages will allow for multiple benefits from adaptation action while also embedding adaptation as a key priority within the place.
Leaders can help different partners understand why adapting to climate change is relevant for them and can help create open and inclusive spaces where people can work together to explore how and why adaptation connects to their wider social, economic, and environmental concerns and priorities. New leaders can emerge from these discussions and partners can be motivated to create and advocate for policies and investments that take account of local needs, support equal and just adaptation and deliver maximum benefit.
This action ties in closely with the partnership capability in the need for stakeholders to work together for systems change and transformation to occur.
List example visions:
Address power imbalances and share power to build solidarity among stakeholders and shift how people perceive adaptation within their place. Leadership styles that are autocratic and bureaucratic are based on old power and will not support transformational change. Establish leadership styles that reinforce and build on the instinct of stakeholders to cooperate. This will increase involvement and set the foundations for wider systems change. This activity ties in with partnership activity 2A as it involves bringing people together to discuss and implement shared goals that have multiple broader societal benefits.
In place-based adaptation initiatives there comes a critical point where those leading the adaptation partnership must commit resource and personnel for on-the-ground action to begin. Support from stakeholders is instrumental to implementing the vision, while support from central government can also be helpful. Use monitoring and evaluation to highlight learnings from both successes and failures in the adaptation process and continually strengthen it. Communicate progress and learnings from adaptation initiatives to instil a sense of ownership in communities and foster positive relationships with central government (increasing the likelihood of future buy-in for adaptation action).
When people are involved in successful projects it makes further participation more likely. Success stories can motivate stakeholders to further their own skills and step forward and take on leadership roles for future projects. Having locally representative adaptation champions leading adaptation initiatives is important, as they often have knowledge of the key actors within their communities, the power dynamics at play, and the need for climate justice and equity.
Successful leadership within adaptation partnerships needs to fulfil a range of functions in order to reach the goals and objectives of the partnership. This can encourage the development of different styles of leadership based on these goals and the knowledge and skills available within the partnership.
Leadership functions for climate change adaptation
Source: Adapted from Meijerink and Stiller (2013)
Updates in the evidence base along with shifting demographics and culture within a place mean that place-based adaptation is a dynamic process that is continually changing. The vision for the partnership needs to continue to evolve as new knowledge becomes available and new stakeholders join the partnership.
Including diverse stakeholders in senior leadership positions can be used to address power imbalances and unlock opportunities for transformational change. Taking opportunities to support people from disadvantaged backgrounds provides a platform to encourage inclusion and incorporate representative adaptation processes, leading to more equitable outcomes.
Leading transformative adaptation is not easy, and you will encounter challenges along the way. Adaptation is a dynamic process and uncertainty is something that cannot be avoided.
Leaders must embrace innovative solutions and be willing to listen to and support novel concepts from a range of stakeholders in order to develop successful adaptation initiatives that can have a lasting impact.
Sharing the responsibility of leadership and embedding core values of justice and resilience within the adaptation partnership will support transformation, while also providing a safety net whereby the failure of projects or initiatives will not stall the adaptation process.
Strong coordination and structures within the partnership will facilitate a number of long-term and cross-sectoral projects and initiatives with multiple benefits. Having a pipeline of projects in place will help maintain momentum, encourage wider involvement and inspire systems transformation.
Leading by example and promoting successes can help foster the development of larger adaptation partnerships that extend beyond the boundaries of the place. As places become leaders in adaptation, they can use their learnings to promote positive change at a higher level, informing national strategies and advocating for wider transformation opportunities in society.