Great Leaders are First Great Human Beings…

I admit it.  I still make New Year’s Resolutions.  Some of them I even follow through on.

Those who can look deeply into themselves develop the eyes of wisdom to see not just what is directly in front of them, but also what lies on the road ahead." (Keishu Shinso Ito)

For instance, one year I pledged to quit my cushy VP job, go back to University and get a Master’s of Education in Sustainability so I could start a sustainability learning centre.  I am making some progress on that one.

But there are other resolutions, ones that I faithfully make over and over again each year,  but seemingly make little progress.  There is one resolution that I am finding particularly a hard nut to crack.  It shouldn’t be.  As a citizen of this planet it should be easy.  It should be in my genes.  But it’s elusive.  You see, I want to be a better, more intentional human being and change agent.

We all understand the urgent need for tranformational change.  The book I am reading by Alan Atkisson (The Sustainability Transformation: how to accelerate postive change in challenging times. Earthscan, 2011) asks “What would an army of sustainability change agents look like?”  Atkisson says that the more skillful we become at changing companies, cities, schools, systems – the less we will lose.  He blandly states that at our current level of “sustainability” and rate of change, some level of future loss is inevitable.  In the middle of this “inevitable loss” are my children, and yours.  The world’s children – caught in the crossfire of changing systems, some changing too fast, some too slow.

“Great leaders are first and foremost great human beings in touch with their inner selves; their humanity.”

Our children and future generations are caught in the cross fire of changing systems.

So this year I am going to get serious.  I believe that as sustainability change agents or sustainability leaders  we must first be great human beings.  I see this in the sustainability field.  The people I have admired most: Ray Anderson, Paul Hawken, Bob Willard, Nadine Gudz – they are or were really good people.

That is when I came across Dana Pearlman, Christophen Baan and Phil Long’s research on authentic leadership for sustainability.  Recent graduates from the Master’s in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden; they collaborated on a research thesis that examined the personal capacities authentic leaders find essential  when facilititating large-scale, complex, transformational change in organizations and communities.  Pearlman et al. created a guide that identifies the practices that develop the capacity to lead authentically.

“The quality of an intervention is dependent upon the interior state of the intervener.” (Bill O’Brien)

So I asked Dana and Christopher if they could share their research with us in a course.

Successful Sustainability Leaders embody nine personal capacities.

They created: “Facilitating Transformational Change toward Sustainability”, and are offering it starting February 16, 2012.  In this program, they will share the first 4 of these 9 personal capacities,  create a space for personal and collective practice and commence a dialogue on integrated and holistic practice.  The final 5 attributes, as well as a continued dialogue on creating an integrated and holistic practice scheme,  will be offered in the follow up program, “Facilitating Transformational Change towards Sustainability (Part II)”.

In both programs they share authentic leadership concepts, self – and group facilitation reflection questions, readings and practices for developing your capacities.  Essentially, they explore insight to becoming an authentic, effective sustainability leader, from the inside out.

I believe this moment in time calls for a new consiousness.  We need a collective leadership capacity to meet our challenges in an intentional and strategic way.  The development of such a capacity, from the inside out,  will allow us to create a future of greater possibility.  I hope you will join us at this course, I expect it will help each of us lead change from our best self.

“Facilitating Transformational Change toward Sustainability (Part 1).  ON-LINE.  Feb. 16, 23, March 1, March 8 & March 15, 2012.  1:30 PM – 2:30 PM EST.


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About Kathryn Cooper

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner and educator moving companies toward “green” profitability and sustainable competitive advantage by unlocking human creativity and technical innovation. Over the last two years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, and Partners in Project Green on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy. Kathryn is a graduate of York University with a Master of Education specializing on Sustainability and the Environment. She holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph.
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