This chapter argues that the critical body of work around the Circular Economy draws from a series of unchecked assumptions concerning leadership mindsets and behaviours. Policymakers and scholars assume that skills, leadership mindsets, and the associated leadership behaviours needed for this transformation “just happen” and that our institutions, cultural values, and social interaction patterns (can) foster their development at a significant scale and high speed.

The authors argue that the type of leadership required to navigate the Circular Economy’s complexity differs in kind and magnitude from the leadership needed to manage other types of challenges. Thriving in complexity requires fundamentally distinct leadership and management approaches and skills. The leadership required to implement the Circular Economy within individual organisations and across ecosystems requires a specific set of leadership competencies rare in our current leaders. Even more troubling, leaders don’t develop these competencies at the rate and scale we need. Without effective leadership, societies will not effectively implement even the best Circular Economy designs and plans. The stakes are high right now, and building leadership takes a conscious decision and investment of time and energy. The chapter closes with eight recommendations and a recently developed open-access process tool.