As I noted in a blog post in late 2013, I am currently immersed in a year-long master’s program, a Master’s in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability (MSLS). Its progressive approach to leadership and sustainability make it one of the only master’s degrees of its kind in the world. I was attracted to MSLS because of the focus on authentic leadership—leadership that believes innately in goodness, leadership that values individual contributions towards collective impact. MSLS is currently developing their thinking around social sustainability as well, which further enhanced the leadership framework.
This leadership approach is one of shared responsibility and co-creation, one of deep trust. It promotes the cultivation of environments that encourage risk-taking and value courage and organizational shared vision. This approach acknowledges that all of these factors contribute to an individual’s commitment to an organization and values the individual contributions that each person brings to an organization, and works to support that individual’s success, both personally and professionally.
We recently had a reflection session on our first semester, where we explored the capacities, skills, and ways of thinking that a sustainability leader needs to develop and employ, all things that we had been exploring for the previous five months through group work, inspiring workshops, theoretical lectures, and personal exploration. My mind immediately went to EPIP’s Measure of a Leader. The two frameworks are markedly different, yet they emphasize similar characteristics of a strong leader.
EPIP’s Measure of a Leader outlines general skillsets necessary to build a just, equitable, and sustainable society. The framework leaves it open to EPIP members to explore how to gain the skills in the way that feels best to the individual, and provides ways to highlight the application of the skills in their professional lives. It underscores the need for social justice and racial analysis in building a world that we want to be a part of, an emphasis that is sorely missing from the MSLS framework. EPIP’s framework also comes from a place of understanding that we operate in a field that has existed since the industrial revolution and has its patterns and characteristics, no matter how positive or negative. The MSLS framework posits that a new type of leadership and organization is necessary to encourage the global change that we need if we are to survive on this planet in harmony with one another. One of our mantras here is: “we must grow the world that we want to be a part of.”
The Sustainability Leader framework provides specific ways of thinking, skills, and capacities that an individual can develop to affect that kind of change—to understand the relationship between personal development and organizational change, between systems thinking and the interconnectedness of today’s world, between employing participatory approaches and creating shared vision and building an effective team.
The most poignant aspect through this master’s journey has been the power of personal transformation to catalyze organizational change towards social and environmental sustainability. In order to catalyze change in others, we need to understand what we stand for ourselves, where we find the most motivation and inspiration, where we can most deeply commit to the journey of social impact and sustainable change.
I have found a firm footing there, feeling a deep resonance with authentic leadership, and using that resonance to light my path. I realize with every intentional, committed, and heartfelt decision that I make, I am more and more committed to build a more healthy and functioning world, to stand in the uncertainty of not always knowing how, to navigate my way through it with my peers, colleagues, and friends, to work dang hard to contribute to something better. Because it is those types of decisions—the ones that come from the deepest place in my heart—that create the most commitment.
EPIP’s Measure of a Leader and the MSLS Sustainability Leader frameworks complement each other well, and I, personally, pull on them both as I further my own leadership journey and work towards greater, more authentic impact. Once again I am reminded of the great commitment I have to EPIP’s core purpose of advancing social justice and equity, and encouraging the development of leaders who are able to work towards these truths.
What truths do you hold onto as you work towards social impact in a better world? What frameworks and resources guide you in your leadership journey? What inspires you to be courageous, to take risks, to shift the current leadership paradigm towards one that encourages us all to be a part of the better world we all know is possible?
“May I have the courage today to live the life that I would love, to postpone my dream no longer. But do at last what I came here for … and waste my heart on fear no more.”
Kate Seely has worked with EPIP in many forms over the past five years. She was a chapter leader, a chapter co-chair, and most recently has served as a part of the core EPIP team. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability.