Building leadership capacity to drive sustainable water management: the evaluation of a customised program

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

This paper describes a customised, six-month, leadership development program (LDP) that was designed for emerging leaders in the Australian water industry who were promoting sustainable urban water management (SUWM). It also presents results from an evaluation of the program's benefits, costs and overall ‘return on investment’ (ROI). The program was designed to help build emergent leadership capacity in the water industry, given strong evidence that this form of leadership plays an important role in advancing SUWM. It involved ‘360-degree feedback’ processes, training, individual leadership development plans, and coaching sessions. Its design was informed by a review of the literature, and its content was informed by local empirical research involving effective SUWM leaders. The evaluation used a seven-tier assessment framework that examined different dimensions of the program's performance using source and methodological triangulation. The results indicate that such LDPs can produce a range of positive outcomes, such as promoting desired leadership behaviours and generating a positive ROI estimate. Specifically, the program's estimated ROI was approximately 190% after only one year. The primary conclusion is that evidence-based LDPs which are highly customised for specific types of leaders in the water industry represent a promising type of intervention to build forms of leadership capacity which are needed to successfully promote SUWM.

Keywords: capacity building, evaluation, leadership, sustainable urban water management

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