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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Theory

Accountable leadership

Variable relationship:

Leaders (Leadership) reduce the transaction costs of coordination and public good provision, e.g., coming to agreements, monitoring and sanctioning, infrastructure maintenance (Transaction Costs), and thus favor collective management (Collective Action) of environmental commons in favor of sustainable use (Commons Condition Trend); leaders have to have power to act (Leadership Authority), however, as well as be subject to control to those they are supposed to represent (Leadership Accountability). Powerful leaders that are not accountable to users have room for rent seeking, which may not always be aligned with social welfare or sustainable use. Leaders can co-ordinate actors in times of change and stability.

Scientific Field
Component Type(s)


VariableRoleRole ExplanationValue
LeadershipUnderlying independent variableInformal leaders reduce the transaction costs of coordination and coming to agreements and thus favor collective management of environmental commons. Informal leaders may also hold formal positions in organizations.Formal leader or informal leader
Transaction costsProximate independent variableLeaders are willing to take on coordination tasks and reduce transaction costs of carrying those tasks collectivelyLow
Leadership accountabilityModerating independent variableAccountable leaders have lower incentives to rent seek or act in ways that do not contribute to the group's welfareHigh
Leadership authorityModerating independent variableThe capacity to coordinate of leaders is connected to their autonomy; without autonomy (i.e., from higher level authorities), such capacity to coordinate may not necessarily improve user's welfare maintain appropriate levels of extractionHigh
Collective actionIntermediate outcomeLeaders promote participation in collective ventures and collective decision making. High
Commons condition trendFinal outcomeHigh levels of collective-action help to sustain the commons that is being managed.Remained the same or improved

Related Theories

TheoryRelationshipCharacterizing Variables
Conditions for general resiliencenested
Centralization and corruptionrelated
Leadership accountability
Transaction costs and collective actioncontains

Related Studies


Velded, Trond. 2000. Village Politics: Heterogeneity, Leadership and Collective Action. Journal of Development Studies 36 (5):105.


Theesfeld, Insa. 2004. Constraints on Collective Action in a Transitional Economy: The Case of Bulgaria’s Irrigation Sector. World Development 32 (2):251-271.


Olson, Mancur. 1965. The Logic of Collective Action. Cambridge: Massachussetts: Harvard University Press.