Rethinking health professions' education leadership: Developing 'eco-ethical' leaders for a more sustainable world and future

Judy McKimm, Michelle McLean

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate/opinionResearchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
110 Downloads (Pure)


In this commentary, we discuss health professions' education (HPE) leadership in relation to planetary health emergencies, suggesting that an 'eco-ethical leadership' approach is highly relevant. Building on both traditional and more contemporary leadership approaches and the need for HPE to be socially and environmentally accountable, we define the key features of eco-ethical leadership and its underpinning beliefs and values, then expand on these features in terms of leadership at intrapersonal, interpersonal, team, organisational and system levels. Eco-ethical leadership is needed to tackle a range of 'wicked' problems - a changing climate, environmental pollution, deforestation, all of which threaten global biodiversity and human civilisation. Such leadership requires passionate individuals to role model the behaviours and actions that are required to bring people along with them, not least the learners, many of whom are already concerned about their future. Eco-ethical leadership (and followership) offers an integrated approach for HPE, centred around sustainability, values, collaboration, justice, advocacy and, if need be, activism. The environment cannot not wait. Eco-ethical leaders already exist but their numbers are small. They are required in key positions in academia and healthcare to drive the agenda in partnership with learners, many of whom are already environmental advocates and activists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-860
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number8
Early online date14 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2020


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