Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Robertson, Jennifer


Climate change is a crisis of global proportions. Corporations are leading contributors to this problem, and organizational leaders can play an important role in driving organizational solutions. As such, the development of environmental leadership is vital. To this end, this study sought to gain a better understanding of interventions for developing environmental leadership. Synthesizing research on mindfulness meditation, environmental psychology and environmental leadership, this study explored whether a breath-focused and a virtual nature-focused mindfulness meditation would predict three primary variables pertinent to environmental leadership: leaders’ state nature relatedness, leaders’ pro-environmental behaviours, and followers’ ratings of environmentally specific transformational leadership (ETFL). The study also investigated whether leaders’ trait empathy would moderate the relationship between the meditations and these outcome variables. Using data from leader-follower student groups (n = 172), ordinary least squares regression analyses revealed that the findings did not support the hypotheses. Neither types of meditation influenced leaders’ state nature relatedness and leaders’ pro-environmental behaviours. In fact, ratings of ETFL were found to be significantly lower in the nature-focused mindfulness meditation compared to the breath-focused mindfulness meditation and control condition. Leaders’ trait empathy was not found to be a significant moderator. The analysis of the results brings into question whether virtual nature scenes and a single short meditation intervention are appropriate approaches to develop leaders’ environmental tendencies.

Summary for Lay Audience

Corporations are a major contributor to climate change. As such, the development of environmental leadership in organizations is key to resolving the climate crisis. This study investigated whether mindfulness meditation could help to address climate change by developing environmental leadership. The study explored the effects of two types of mindfulness meditation on the development of environmental leadership. The first was a breath-focused mindfulness meditation, a guided practice in which individuals attempt to maintain a nonjudgemental moment-by-moment awareness over a timeframe by focusing on their breathing, allowing any distractions to rest in the background. The second was a virtual nature-focused mindfulness meditation, a similar practice in which individuals anchor their focus on some aspect of nature in a virtual nature scene instead of their breathing. I explored whether these two types of meditation would predict three elements thought to comprise environmental leadership. The first element was leaders’ current nature relatedness (i.e., leaders' immediate sense of interconnectedness with nature). The second was leaders’ pro-environmental behaviours (i.e., leaders’ environmentally friendly actions). The third was perceptions of environmentally specific transformational leadership (known as ETFL) behaviours. ETFL behaviours refers to a set of leadership behaviours geared toward promoting environmental sustainability. The study also investigated whether leaders’ dispositional empathy levels would influence the impact of the meditations on these three elements.

The results demonstrated that the meditations did not influence leaders’ nature relatedness and pro-environmental behaviours. Levels of ETFL behaviours were found to be significantly lower among leaders who engaged in the nature-focused meditation when compared to leaders in the breath-focused meditation and leaders in a control group, which served as a baseline for comparison. Leaders’ empathy levels did not influence the impact of the meditations on the three elements (i.e., nature relatedness, pro-environmental behaviours, and perceptions of ETFL behaviours). The results demonstrate that an artificial, virtual natural stimulus and a single short meditation are likely not sufficient to predict environmental leadership.