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Leadership in the Polycrisis: How UK Defense Training Can Help Us Navigate a Future of Unprecedented Environmental Disruption

By Laurie Laybourn and Matt Ince
Edited by Erin Sikorsky and Francesco Femia


The global scale, systemic interconnection, and severity of today’s climate and ecological crises has led researchers to conclude that the world has entered a new era—or overall state—of complex, cascading, and compounding risk.1 Some have labelled this the ‘polycrisis.’2 Approaches to leadership development in a defense context—which commonly focus on the ability to operate effectively under intense conditions—might have increasing relevance for civilian leaders wanting to enhance their capacity to respond to this emergent polycrisis era. We undertook research exploring these approaches, utilizing structured workshops and interviews with around thirty senior officers and personnel across the United Kingdom (UK) Defense enterprise. We found that the strong emphasis placed on physical and mental resilience, situational rehearsal, and an initiative mindset grounded in organizational structure and team ethos will increasingly have a broader leadership applicability as the destabilizing consequences of the climate and ecological crisis grow. This briefer explores our findings.


Notable Climate and Security Publications of 2012

Temperature_globalThe year 2012 was the warmest year on record for the United States. It was also a year of extraordinary natural disasters in both the U.S., and abroad. Hurricane Sandy, for example, was the eleventh billion-dollar weather-related disaster for the U.S. in 2012, accompanied by unprecedented heat waves, droughts and tornadoes.  Tropical storms and flooding in East Asia, unexpected heavy rains and flooding in Somalia, Nigeria, and the Republic of Congo, 19 straight months of punishing drought in northern Brazil, are just a few examples of a very volatile year in terms of extreme weather events globally. The security implications of these, and other similar events, will certainly be a subject of study in the years to come, as will be their connections to climate change. (more…)

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