DOI: 10.1002/bse.3631 ISSN: 0964-4733

Sustainability leadership: An integrative review and conceptual synthesis

Aymen Sajjad, Gabriel Eweje, Muhammad Mustafa Raziq
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Strategy and Management
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Business and International Management


Over the past few decades, scholars have extensively investigated the topic of leadership, contributing to the development of diverse leadership theories and contemporary managerial practice. However, the emergence and renewed focus on societal grand challenges warrant an alternative approach to leadership such as sustainability leadership. Despite the critical importance of sustainability leadership in addressing these global concerns, scholarly research in this field of inquiry, by and large, remained scant and fragmented, lacking conceptual coherence and theoretical integration. While the existing literature provides insights into sustainability leadership characteristics, competencies, behaviors, and actions, it failed to integrate a holistic understanding of how these aspects are connected and affect each other. Accordingly, the purpose of this review paper is to provide conceptual synthesis and critical appraisal of the extant literature on sustainability leadership. Drawing on a systems theory perspective on paradox, we developed an integrative multilevel sustainability leadership framework, which demonstrates the linkages between individual‐level mechanisms (micro), organizational‐level mechanisms (meso), and societal context (macro). The framework explicates the key underlying mechanisms of sustainability leadership functioning embedded in paradoxical tensions to address complex and multifaceted sustainability issues. The paper concludes by offering implications for research and managerial practice and avenues for future research.

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