Friday, February 4, 2011

A Leader in New York

The three links above tell the story of New York governor Andrew Cuomo's quest to transform the state into an environmentally sustainable machine.  Upon his election, he promised to be a friend to the environment and push for legislative reform to prioritize sustainability.  His agenda can be found at this link (

Campaign promises are easy, but Governor Cuomo proved that he is more than just talk by taking a look at his proposed budget earlier this week.  His budget maintained the Environmental Protection fund, and neither the Department of Environmental Conservation nor the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation will lose any staff members.

So why is this so important?  In these tough economic times, budget cuts are at a premium.  Governments in danger look to slash costs any way possible, but Governor Cuomo is in essence issuing a statement that says New York simply cannot afford to ignore the environment or the possibilities of  sustainability.  He is unwilling to sacrifice the future for the short-term present, and he believes fully that an energy-conscious New York is the future.  His agenda stresses the economic and global benefits of a green New York, and he is unwilling to put that vision on hold for short-term relief.

Governor Cuomo is currently  practicing assigned leadership, but for his vision to take off he will need others to come forward and take on some emerging leadership roles.  Assigned leadership refers to occupying a position where leadership is appointed.  As governor, his job is to lead the people of New York in whichever direction he sees fit.  The journey towards a green New York will take emergent leaders as well, however.  Emergent leaders are not necessarily assigned;  they are recognized for their individual behavior, beliefs, and actions, and are then followed over time.  Governor Cuomo must attend to the other needs of New York as well, so other leaders will need to step up and adapt this movement. 

We would be slightly premature in judging or speculating as to the nature of Governor Cuomo's leadership, but it will be interesting to monitor the progress, mindset, and allocation of resources for New York in the coming months and years.  According to Harvard business professor John Kotter, establishing a vision is an essential component of change leadership.  Governor Cuomo has laid out the challenge and communicated the vision, and now we can watch his vision unfold.

What do you think of Governor Cuomo's vision?  Should he have put it on hold to address some of New York's more pressing fiscal issues right now?  What type of leader do you think Governor Cuomo will be?
Feel free to discuss or follow up on this story.

-Jonathan Lucento


  1. I agree that Cuomo is trying to inspire change through his leadership and through sharing his vision however like you said;

    "The journey towards a green New York will take emergent leaders as well, however. Emergent leaders are not necessarily assigned; they are recognized for their individual behavior, beliefs, and actions, and are then followed over time."

    I agree with this statement and feel that environmental change can only be minimally affected by assigned leaders and needs to be tackled by people who are rather emergent leaders. I think this is essential because for a major change like this to happen there would either need to be an event or crisis that would cause change or there needs to be enough people following a leader that it will actually impact the movement. I feel the only way to get a substantial following and to get people to do something would be if they were following an emergent leader as you said.

    But I'm left wondering where do these leaders come from? Isn't it too unrealistic to expect someone to emerge as a leader in an issue as large as the environment? We watch celebrities and political leaders get shut down time and time again when they try to lead the way and raise awareness of environmental causes. Our own government has seemed to only help a bit and doesn't seem to be effective in getting the public to actually start caring about the environment and making the changes for a more sustainable society. Is the environmental issue too big to tackle? It would have to take emergent leaders throughout our earth to make the changes we need to reverse the harm we've caused.

  2. Dan, that is interesting that you feel emergent leaders are the key to environmental change. I agree to an extent, but I really feel as if assigned leaders will need to get it started. Position power is essential for credibility, and I would argue that legislation will most likely need to be passed in order to ensure new standards. With change, however, comes an attitude adjustment, and that is the gap that we as Americans have to cross. Emergent leaders will have to be essential pieces in creating a sense of urgency with or without a crisis, but ultimately leaders in positions of power will need to act. Hopefully they will act as a response to a new attitude rather than out of necessity.

    -Jonathan Lucento