An innovative leadership development program for

business, nonprofit, and government leaders…

Helping you design your role in creating a sustainable future

Download the flyer for the 13-15 May 2010 training in Sebastopol, California.


This program gave me an opportunity to learn, practice, and apply systems thinking as it applies to the environmental challenges of our time. The perspective of the facilitators is hopeful, inspired and emergent. If you want to experience and learn the cutting edge of strategic sustainability, come to this training.
– David Butlein, Senior Consultant at JMJ Associates


This program has been developed in collaboration with Manual Manga of the Center for Evolutionary Leadership in Boston


The purpose and unique offer of this leadership development program is to expand the understanding of leadership by placing it in an all-encompassing context of global interconnectedness and the long-term viability of humans in partnership with Earth. It focuses on the development of core competencies that comprise the mind-set, skill-set and heart-set of the evolutionary leaders.


Why is Evolutionary Leadership important?

Individuals, communities and organizations everywhere are under stress and facing complex and unprecedented challenges — including unmet human needs, economic disparity, cultural obliteration, ecosystem destruction and global warming. How leaders in the private, public and social sectors respond to these mega-trends will determine not only the future of their institutions, but also of entire societies and Earth as a whole. While no clear roadmap for navigating these challenges exists, one thing is certain — conducting 'business as usual' is no longer a viable leadership strategy for the well-being of either present or future generations.

A new paradigm of leadership is required — one that places a premium on creating human and environmental well-being. Evolutionary leadership involves new ways of perceiving, thinking, and acting that are deeply concerned with an integrated triple bottom line: economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

Evolutionary leaders are multi-dimensional leaders who understand that leadership is a way of being, perceiving, and acting in the world. They understand their crucial role in facilitating society's evolution toward economic, social and environmental sustainability — acting from within any of the three sectors, at all levels of organization, and fostering collaboration among them.

Evolutionary leaders are stewards of people, organizations, communities and ecosystems, seeking to facilitate the emergence of life-affirming, future-oriented and opportunity-increasing possibilities. These leaders embody the personal integrity needed to guide and support others in the collaborative learning and design that are necessary for sustainability.

Evolutionary Leadership competencies

Evolutionary leaders focus on adaptive challenges rather than technical ones. What this means is that evolutionary leadership is not about solving problems for which solutions already exist – this could be a technical challenge – but rather, it is the leadership necessary to respond to an unknown situation that will require learning, knowledge creation and collaboration to come up with possible solutions. The competencies of evolutionary leadership are organized in three sets:

Mind-set — "Know-why" competencies

The mind-set of the evolutionary leader is grounded in a systems and evolutionary view of the world. Evolutionary leaders are competent at:
• Thinking systemically
• Understanding the complexity and interdependencies of global dynamics
• Perceiving the patterns of change
• Considering the ethical and long term implications of their decisions
• Embracing a participatory and co-evolving emergence of new realities
• Declaring new possibilities for organizations, communities and society
• Living their talk by showing integrity between their worldview and actions

Skill-set — "Know-how" competencies

Evolutionary leaders are able to translate visions into actions by bringing people together. Their leadership style is flexible and adaptive, integrating roles from that of visionary guide pointing to new possibilities, to enabler empowering individuals and communities to make the vision a reality.

Evolutionary leaders are able to:

• Have and facilitate conversations that build trust and commitment toward a common goal
• Create the conditions for effective collaboration
• Develop human systems based on how ecological systems work
• Include sustainability principles and practices in their vision and action plans
• Develop sustainability strategies that

Heart-set — "Care-why" competencies

While the mind-set and the skill-set are generally incorporated into most leadership development programs, the heart-set is usually ignored or taken for granted. Clarity of values and the personal mastery of the leader are, however, core aspects of effective evolutionary leadership. In this regard, evolutionary leaders are competent at:

• Listening actively to others and to nature
• Engaging in difficult and missing conversations
• Manifesting a syntony sense or an ability to creative and intentionally align their actions with the dynamics of living systems

The Evolutionary Leadership for Sustainability workshop

Evolutionary Leadership for Sustainability is available in two formats: 1) as a public workshop and 2) as a customized workshop for in-house trainings.

The public workshop is a three-day learning experience. It is addressed to an audience of organizational consultants, executive coaches, social entrepreneurs, and champions of sustainability within the business, nonprofit or public sectors. In other words, this training is for individuals interested in becoming effective leaders for organizational change toward sustainability.

The custom version can be expanded or contracted to fit the needs of specific organizations. The particular leadership needs and sustainability priorities of the organization are brought to the foreground and the modules of the workshop are adapted to facilitate the development of the evolutionary leadership competences, the articulation of the vision for the organization and the definition of the strategy to bring it to action. For example:
→ ELS can empower teams within corporations to develop high performance practices and promote innovation for sustainability to enhance the integrated bottom line.
→ For pubic and nonprofit organizations, ELS can help develop skills and practices that support their mission in relation to global sustainability, and in identifying opportunities for collaboration with other sectors.
→ For educational organizations, ELS can be an effective training for teachers and educational administrators looking for ways to developing curriculums and redesign schools to address systemic and sustainability challenges in the communities they serve.

The Evolutionary Leadership for Sustainability workshop is comprised of 5 content dimensions. The public workshop combines all 5 while customized versions can bring to the foreground or to the background some of the elements in order to respond to individual needs and organizational priorities. These content dimensions are:

I. Visioning: Creating a shared vision by connecting to your interests and priorities

Why do we care about sustainability? What does sustainability mean to participants – individually and collectively? By exploring some basic principles of sustainable systems, participants are able to articulate a vision of their desired future—to become leaders declaring possibilities. Participants also reflect on the concerns and cares that motivate their work as leaders for sustainability .

• What are your concerns? What do you care about?
• Making meaning around the notion of evolutionary leadership
• Creating your own definition of sustainability: connecting global sustainability challenges to your work and life
• Visions of possibility
• Your purpose as an evolutionary leader
• Declarations of leadership: from vision to action

II. Evolutionary Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a core competency for evolutionary leadership, and requires both analysis (e.g., scientific and fact-based) and synthesis (e.g., creative and intuitive integration). This segment explores systems principles such as interconnectedness, embeddedness, and self-organization, in the context of the relationships between human, social and ecological systems.

Participants learn to identify different types of systems and how systems change over time—the evolutionary perspective. The implications for the role of leaders in the transformation and design of social and technological systems are explored. The role of people and institutions in the “big moving picture” of our history and our future is then used as the action context for a new kind of leadership.

• An interdependent planet and why we have unsustainable systems
• An extraordinary moment: our evolutionary choices
• What is a system?
• Systems thinking: analysis and synthesis
• Types of systems
• Experiencing self-organization
• From system thinking to systems being

III: Collaboration and Communication

As human beings, we create our social realities through language. This segment of the workshop unpacks the foundational principles behind this powerful reality. Participants learn about the ontology of language, and practice making assertions, assessments, requests, promises, offers and declarations for effective communication. Participants will apply these speech acts in conversations for relationship, for learning, for possibilities, and for action. Then we will reflect on the narratives that inform life in current social systems, as well as the need to introduce new language and new conversations for creating sustainability.

Evolutionary leadership is not an individual journey but a collaborative venture between multiple actors in society. Thus, the traditional conception of a powerful and entitled leader that will guide the masses to a better future is not always an appropriate response to the complexity of social and environmental sustainability challenges. To address the need for collective dialogue and action, evolutionary learning communities are introduced—a way of bringing people together around a common purpose, generating commitments to learning, and working in joyful ways toward sustainable choices.

• Relationship between leadership and language
• Speech acts: the building blocks of effective conversations
• Types of conversations: relationship, learning, possibility, action
• Narratives and the construction of our social realities
• How to facilitate collaboration (using the World Café dialogue approach and other dialogue and collaboration approaches)
• Identifying opportunities for multi-sector (business, government and civil society) collaboration and for creating evolutionary learning communities

IV: Sustainability Strategy

Evolutionary leaders do not focus on technical problems (problems that we already know how to solve) but on adaptive challenges (problems that require the creation of new knowledge to achieve their solution). This approach is more effective because sustainability is an adaptive challenge, one that cannot be solved with existing paradigms and patterns. Here the workshop explores some of the many sustainability frameworks offering foundational tools and perspectives for defining the strategy of effective change management in diverse contexts.

• The Natural Step sustainability framework
• Sustainability cases
• Design for sustainability: learning from nature to design social and technological systems
• Creating your own definition of sustainability: connecting global sustainability challenges to your work and life
• Sustainability Strategy: from vision to current reality—bridging the gap

V: Personal Mastery

At the personal level, evolutionary leaders cultivate syntony. Syntony is the capacity to create systems and processes in alignment with living, evolving dynamics. At the individual level, syntony means the need to learn and remember how to live and relate in sustainable ways: from walking the talk to dancing the path.

• Centering and embodiment
• Somatic practices to reconnect with self, others and nature.


Testimonials from past participants

It was a sweet, gentle, generous, useful week. Powerful information and group connections, exercises leading to growth and inspiration in my work and my personal life. Thank you – Expect great things from me!
– Judith Seton, Pachamama Alliance

The workshop was a delightful and enlightening mix of practical tools, visionary strategies, and
collaborative and experiential practices. I came away with a positive vision of a sustainable
future and with the practical concepts, tools, and strategies to help make that vision a reality.
– Janet Beazlie, sustainability consultant

Remember those long, strange, all-encompassing conversations you used to have, maybe in college, back when anything seemed possible? The seminar had that same spice, that same no-holds-barred, free-wheeling exchange of incredibly fruitful ideas. With one criticial, welcome difference: these are practical, grounded ideas that will work in the hard-edged, difficult, sometimes cruel world we face today. And facing the accelerating avalanche of bad news that's all around us requires great strength and heart—which Kathia, Alexander and Manuel embody so well. Combined with the grace and beauty of the Marin Headlands, this was a life-changing event. Don't miss the next one!

—Kevin Swift, freelance writer