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Developing Sustainability Leadership


Leading an engineering and construction company to become more sustainable requires a leader to have the capability to be able to deal with high levels of complexity, innovation and collaboration.  Research is finding that it is the leaders who have developed to the ‘Post-conventional’ stages of adult psychological growth are best able to demonstrate this capability.  What a leader does and how they do it comes from their consciousness – it is the ‘source’ of their leadership.


“The quality of the results of any social system is a function of the consciousness from which the people in the system operate”

Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer at the Sloan School of Management, MIT.


‘Developing Sustainability Leadership’ is a 12-month programme designed to develop leaders to the post-conventional stages. Before joining this programme, leaders must first have competed ‘Essentials of Sustainability’.


Conventional Stage



Post-Conventional Stage



 Competitive  Collaborative
 Independent  Interdependent
 Habitual  Agile
 Likes to know the answer  Knows there is no one right answer 
 Shares their vision of the future  Enables others to co-create the future
 Driven by ego and self-esteem  Driven by purpose
 Protects self by delivering results  Gives self to serving others
 Emotionally intelligent  Emotionally and morally intelligent
 Thinks in terms of a system  Thinks in terms of patterns emerging from multiple systems colliding
 Authentic to their personality  Authentic to their values


Leaders develop to the post-conventional stages by facing challenge in the workplace where their current perspective will not provide a solution.  By overcoming the challenge, a new perspective emerges and they transition to a higher stage of psychological growth.  To make this transition effectively, leaders first need to be prepared and then supported. ‘Developing Sustainability Leadership’ prepares, challenges and supports leaders to make the transition to the post-conventional stages. The programme consists of three modules, a workplace assignment, support coaching and a final presentation:


Module One: Developing a Post Conventional State of Consciousness

To prepare leaders to develop to the post-conventional stages they first need to practise letting go of their ‘ego’.  This is the self-esteem they derive from their self-identity.  Letting go of their ego releases the psychological energy that would have previously been used for their ‘ego defenses’, which can then be deployed working with higher levels of complexity, collaboration and innovation.  On this 3-day module the leaders experience states of conscious research has found to be associated with letting go of one’s ego:


  • Connecting with nature: through biomimicry and wilderness experiences
  • Connecting with others: through Bohm Dialogue
  • Connecting with self: through witnessing the ego using ‘Acceptance and Commitment Training’ (ACT) techniques


The leaders practise this ‘states of consciousness’ for three months prior to attending Module Two.


Module Two: Developing Lines of Consciousness

The development to the post-conventional stages requires a transformation in leaders’ cognition, emotional intelligence and behaviour. On this 3-day module we:


  • Use the science of psychometrics to profile each leader’s level of cognitive, emotional and behavioural agility
  • Provide each leader with one-to-one psychometric feedback
  • Introduce the leaders to workplace practises designed to increase agility in cognition, emotion and behaviour.


The leaders practise developing these ‘lines of consciousness’ for three months prior to attending Module Three.


Module Three: Development Sustainability Leadership Skills

Once the leaders have increased their cognitive, emotional and behavioural agility we train them in the use of the leadership skills research has found to be effective in sustainability leadership.  These skills are trained on a 3-day module and are:


  • Systems Thinking: The ability to appreciate the interconnectedness and interdependency of whole systems, at all levels, and to recognise how changes to parts of the systems affect the whole.
  • Collaboration & Co-creation: Building commitment through dialogue and consensus, democratic approaches, and a culture and structure that provides peer support, encouragement and working across functional and organisational boundaries.
  • Design Thinking: A human centred approach to innovation which draws on the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and the requirements for business success.


The leaders practise these skills as they take on a sustainability challenge in their organisation.



Research carried out by the ‘Center for Creative Leadership’ (1988) found that leaders develop through facing ‘on-the-job’ challenges, rather than classroom experiences. However, the challenge needs to be as such that their current view of the world will not provide a solution. To make the transition to the post-conventional stages, and develop the capability for new sustainable leadership, leaders are best served by working on assignments that give them the opportunity to experience working across the engineering and construction industry on projects that have positive impact in society. The assignments should require them to work outside of their current organisational culture, and to serve followers, the organisation and society. 


On the programme the leaders work in groups of six to take on a challenging assignment of this nature in their own company.  We work with the company and the leaders to determine the most suitable assignments.  The leaders then work on the assignment for the next six months and engage in monthly ‘Action Inquiry’ group sessions.  These sessions enable the leaders to enquire into and deepen their own learning and development.



For leaders to successfully develop, the level of challenge must be matched with the same level of support. To support their development to the post-conventional stages we provide the leaders with monthly one-to-one coaching, during the duration of their challenging assignment, which enables them to transcend the constraints of their ego-attached identity and become more anchored in the authenticity of their values. 


Presentation & Celebration Event

After working on the challenging assignments for six months the programme concludes with a presentation and celebration event.  At this event the leaders present to the senior leaders in their company the outcome of their ‘Challenging Assignment’ and give a flavour of their learning and development. 


Contact us to chat with one of our consultants about developing your leaders to have the capability to lead your engineering and construction company towards greater sustainability.