Why we need leadership in EIA more than ever!
Leadership is an oft-used and sometimes nebulous term, particularly in the field of Project Management. EIA professionals often start their career based on their technical or social science degree competencies. Very soon they are asked to take on greater leadership in EIA and team management responsibilities for a wider group of multi-disciplinary experts. Not only does this require team leadership competencies but their project visibility requires leadership and influencing skills in order to interface with a wider array of leaders and professions within the Project team.
Although leadership is not traditionally taught in science or social graduate programmes, EIA practitioners often possess many of the qualities that are needed to excel at leadership. I in my work leading EIA teams, and from many years of conducting professional examinations for ‘competency’ in impact assessment I have identified four key leadership skills that I have come to believe represent strong indicators of EIA leadership. The I have summarised as:
The intellectual flexibility to see the bigger picture, as well as assessing complex problems, formulating design changes or mitigation solutions, and generating action plans. In addition to appreciate social and technical details—and to shift perspective between competing interests in order to develop strategies that resulting in optimal solutions for all stakeholders.
A Sustainability mindset
A strong interior sense of purpose combined with a worldview that incorporates a long-term orientation and an inherent motivation to address future sustainability challenges.
They are influential in promoting environmentally inclusive design within the primary scope and purpose of the project mandate, helping to embed sustainability/Env/Soc thinking into the project team’s decision-making within this and future projects.
An understanding of internal and external stakeholders across professions, cultures and backgrounds; an advocate of diversity of opinions; and the desire to build productive, long-term relationships with key stakeholders.
EIA Leadership in Practice
To operate successfully at a senior leadership level requires a wider range of skills and development needs that many EIA specialists have not been prepared for – or even considered necessary.
Managing responsibility both for the EIA team and the EIA procedural steps, the EIA manager must also act across a wider spectrum of holistic leadership values relating to the ethics, social justice, behaviours and scale of impacts for the proposed development. Interfacing to influence the key decision makers requires not only an understanding of their personal power as a leader, but also the framing of discussions in language better understood by other professions and acting as the interface between the competencies of the other EIA practitioners and how they influence better design, decision-making and legacy considerations in the rest of the team.
These blog pages seeks to start a conversation and debate regarding leadership in EIA, to define some of the characteristics of EIA leadership that can help individuals and organisations identify the traits that are most likely to be influential in helping determine sustainability, and under-right the influence and value that EIA can bring to projects. I hope to offer ideas on how to find and develop EIA leadership and look at the concept of leadership in EIA, highlighting specific leadership roles and analyses the ‘freedom to operate’ that often influences EIA leadership ability and influence.
There is an urgent need in business today for a new type of leadership – one that makes the long-term sustainability of our world a top priority. Considering the challenges, we face today, there has never been a more important time for effective leaders in EIA to step forward and influence large-scale construction projects!
Leading Green offer a bespoke series of Leadership in EIA & SEA talks and training courses. Courses that address specific CPD leadership and team development issues. They incorporate the sustainability practitioner goals of the UK’s Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA), and the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA).