Landscape Leadership 101


After I participated in the Leadership Landscape activity at EdX Learning which was supported by the Global Landscape Forum, I learned many captivating lessons. As we know,  leadership is one of the soft skills that focus on how you lead projects and engage others. But what is leadership based on the landscape approach? What exactly is Landscape?


I initially learned about the meaning of landscape itself. The term landscape extends beyond the “view”, but also encompasses the people who live in it. Furthermore, landscapes are used to describe the sense of place – the feeling of people in relation to their environment. It is often used to describe those characteristics that make a certain place special or unique and linked to the way in which people are attached to their place, something which we also call a “sense of belonging”. To conclude, leadership landscape approaches are holistic and they try to integrate the different functions of a landscape. They bring the people who depend on landscape processes together into one management system that stimulates innovation for sustainable landscape development.


Characteristics of Landscape Leadership

So what is the characteristic of landscape leadership and how can we achieve it? Landscape leadership is focused on 4 (four) main points divided by subjects (I, We, They, It) as follows:

First, the “I” factor is about how strong is your personal drive for having your personal landscape vision? It relates to their sense of place and to their ability to know their landscape in-depth and create a vision for its future.

Second, the “We” factor is about how capable are you to share this vision with others, and create a common vision? We refer to the collective which is very powerful that can make small changes grow big. 

Third, the “They” factor is about how capable are you to engage outsiders, and draw them into your common vision? It is about their ability to not only mobilize the people within the landscape, but also to engage outsiders, and negotiate external support.

Fourth, the “It” factor is about how capable are you to materialize the vision, and change your landscape in a transformative manner? It refers to how they are able to ‘see the bigger picture and see a landscape as a system and bring about lasting landscape change. 



Distributed Leadership

It is clear that one person cannot embody all four of these characteristics. Most people are strong in only one or two out of the four. This is why landscape leadership is distributed amongst many. So what is distributed leadership? Distributed leadership is a new way of thinking about leadership that emphasizes how leadership is distributed amongst many different actors who have different interests, roles, capabilities, operating in different sectors and at different scales. Having more empathy for each other’s problems is essential to create more openness to work together. And once all actors start understanding the collective reality, they become motivated to take up a leadership role, and finally to embrace the leadership roles of others. That is the power of distributive leadership.


Dealing with conflict

When their interests are too different, and when there is no way of stakeholders getting together. Then, you have a problem, and conflicts will suddenly arise.  Conflicts related to their different interests, needs, values, and demands. In all cases, it will be hard for people to come together to a table and share their common concerns. In the journey away from conflict to good governance and decision-making, there are three key phases: collaboration, collective action, and conflict transformation


The collaboration phase strengthens interdependencies in the landscape, and parties start to depend on each other for the realization of their interests. When this interdependency grows and develops, new norms and rules start emerging. Next, the capacity of landscape platforms for collective action, and for securing and monitoring collectively agreed rights and responsibilities is an objective for successful landscape governance arrangements and implementation. Once collective action becomes established, the arrangements become the norm for the interaction of the stakeholders and for how the landscape is managed. When all affected stakeholders positively respond to the results, conflict transformation can then be achieved by formalizing and institutionalizing those arrangements into policies. 


This course has taught me to confront and subsequently understand how to deal with my inner conflict management styles. I realize I have a reactive tendency to avoid (sidestep the conflict without trying to satisfy either person’s concerns) and accommodate (attempt to satisfy the other person’s concerns at the expense of your own). As a result, I often fall prey to fatigue and dissatisfaction with myself when I am unable to meet my personal expectations, therefore hindering my personal growth.  Through this course, I also gained confidence in leading my project. I further learned that I need to improve the four characteristics of landscape leadership in order to conduct sustainable projects.  In the future, I intend to be more confident in leading to saving the planet, ocean, and people who live and depend on the environment.

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