The Role of Leadership in Urban Water Transitions


This research aimed to produce a better understanding of change processes that move urban water agencies and broader institutions towards more sustainable forms of water management, through an exploration of the nature of emergent leaders, or the ‘Champion’ phenomena.

The research drew on theory and methods from leadership literature to closely examine these champions, who operate at a middle management and executive level, and their role in change processes.

Through this exploration, the research compiled a suite of management strategies that can be used within water agencies to:

  • create a supportive leadership context for champions and other leaders involved with the leadership process;
  • foster effective champions at an executive level (‘executive champions’);
  • attract, recruit, supervise and develop the leadership abilities of champions at a middle management level (‘project champions’); and
  • encourage distributed (group-based) leadership throughout water agencies to assist the leadership process.

This evidence-based guidance on ways to build leadership capacity within water agencies was further developed in a PhD project undertaken by Andre Taylor‘Sustainable Urban Water Management: The Champion Phenomenon’.

Research Team:
Dr Andre Taylor, Prof Rebekah Brown and Prof Chris Cocklin

Associated PhD:
Sustainable Urban Water Management: The Champion Phenomenon (PhD) – Andre Taylor

Project Partner:
NSW Environment Trust

Key Industry Report:
Taylor A. (2008) Leadership in Sustainable Urban Water Management: An Investigation of the Champion Phenomenon within Australian Water Agencies. Report No. 08/01, National Urban Water Governance Program, Monash University, Victoria, Melbourne, June 2008. PDF (2.8MB)

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