Research profile: Kent Williams


Kent Williams, Rowe School of Business

Enabling hope for emerging leaders in the 21st century

My present qualitative research is exploring emerging leader (EL) attitudes and perspectives on the complexities of our rapidly changing world that is full of uncertainty and turbulence. ELs are defined as students engaged in or completing their education at institutions of higher education (IHE). Living in today’s suggested epoch of the Anthropocene, which is defined by the omnipresence of humans as a geophysical force on the planet, we only need to sense the emerging human narrative of hopelessness and helplessness––and the negative impacts of our actions on the biosphere and humankind's wellbeing. With the grand challenge of climate change and the present pandemic, literature suggests that Els are left with visions of a dystopian world, feeling they cannot make a difference in society. However, in the IHE setting, when ELs are introduced to nascent knowledge frameworks (Indigenous, sustainable development goals, planetary boundary and relational turn frameworks) that present interdependence, reciprocity and relational elements to interconnecting in the biosphere, it can be suggested that it changes their perspectives and can position them as a positive force for change. The presupposition held going into the study is that enabling social-ecological systems thinking and relationality in EL builds capacity and capability that can promote their overall wellbeing (hopefulness) and effectiveness to lead (helpfulness). These findings will contribute to overall epistemology and ontology for developing climate change leadership, enabling pathways for EL to embrace complexity and employ strategies of adaptation and resilience to emerging challenges like the climate crisis.