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Reflections on Environmental Leadership: Thirty-Two Hours of Remarkable Coincidences

January 2009

Citation: ELR 10083

Author: Richard MacLean

Movies frequently entertain us with icons of wise leadership. Yoda in Stars Wars is the serene, all-knowing one who teaches Luke Skywalker the ways of The Force to save the galaxy. Mr. Kesuke Miyagi in Karate Kid rescues the boy and goes on to mentor him to be at the top of his fighting rank. He could do all this because he had a "brown belt"... from JC Penney. But in the real world, what does it take to lead?

The media, public, and politicians currently are focused on global warming, but there are scores of other environmental threats with even more immediate consequences. Where are the wise environmental leaders who can sort through all this confusion and these competing priorities? Who will help guide businesses and the governments toward a sustainable path? Today these leaders appear to be as rare as spotted owls, but if you ran into one, what would be his or her characteristics and what traits should you emulate to reach that admirable position?

This is a "stream of consciousness" story of 32 hours in my life spanning July 11-12, 2008. Some names have been omitted to protect both the guilty and the innocent. As a colleague, Sam Ofshinsky, always tells me after delivering a true, but completely unbelievable story: "Ya just can't make this stuff up." Well, I'm not making this up.

Richard MacLean is President of Competitive Environment Inc., a management consulting firm established in 1995 in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Innovation, a university-based nonprofit research organization.

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