What is leadership for sustainability?

I am only a bud - photo source: bloomingchakras.com

I am only a bud – photo source: bloomingchakras.com

What is leadership for sustainability? If you asked me this question a fortnight ago I would have answered it completely different compared to what I think it means – right now. So, I can only assume your thoughts on leadership for sustainability are completely to different to mine and even more so may be different after reading this tangent.

I have been gifted with the opportunity to mingle with some amazing people at the United Nation’s University in Tokyo to study leadership for sustainability. I am in a class of 17, myself among other internationals who are like minded, passionate and eager to crack the code to lead for a sustainable future.

We have had a series of lectures and practical exercises to enjoy, fall asleep or question deep in thought – depending on our backgrounds and expectations (I have mixed emotions about some of the classes). Without being cynical, instead stay optimistic and embrace this cultural experience, each concept I am learning about is accumulating and opening my lenses to the many opportunities I can now see to drive change – and I am not the driver.


Leadership for sustainability isn’t about me (or one person) driving the cause. It’s about supporting, inspiring and empowering others to act by acting on our obligation to share knowledge, catalyse change and connect resources and networks – which will create shared causes based on shared values to transform challenges into opportunities. This breakthrough integrates leadership, negotiation, stewardship, knowledge and ethics.

I feel like a seedling establishing into a healthy rose bush as my roots are tapping into what is needed for me to bear flowers for others to enjoy. Those that know me could agree with the term blossoming.

And the bud has only started to show.

Thoughts about ‘Building Negotiation Skills’

UN Negotiations = hard work for humanity - photo source: www.topnews.in

UN Negotiations = hard work for humanity – photo source: http://www.topnews.in

Following the theme of transparency that this blog is built on, here is a short reflection piece about a workshop I experienced the other day – I am studying Leadership for Sustainability at the United Nations University. 

‘Taking on negotiations in the United Nations can be challenging as much as it is rewarding’, was a key message Jimena Levia Roesch and Wu Ye-Min conveyed in the ‘building negotiation skills’ training workshop. The workshop was engaging, inspiring and empowering and provided me with an entre` experience to “weave together” Integral Theory (Esbjorn-Hargens, 2009) to ground truth what is needed in real-life negotiations that impact international interests that are close to my heart – for instance, coastal management.

It was insightful for the experiential learning experience to begin with identifying our own ideas about what we thought were key skills needed to be an effective negotiator and then on close reflect on our initial thoughts. In reflection, my initial thoughts were active-language, balance and challenge, which evolved to integrate tactics, meaningful-relationships and credibility.

The workshop provided me the opportunity to build on my own experiences and ‘expertise’ in stakeholder engagement to galvanise key relationships with opposing delegates – in the classroom, corridor and outside. This enabled me to access key information I needed to ensure tasks were successfully achieved (e.g. for the conference to be delayed to 2021) and support my member group’s goals with integrity, which is a key attribute of a leader and negotiator.

To achieve the successful negotiation the process involved integrating Integral Theory with the workshop experience. This enabled me to view the workshop through the various lenses of intentional, behavioural, cultural and social perspectives, which are based on the theory of irreducible perspectives to shift focus away from complex viewpoints. By applying Integral Theory, I was able to simplify observations to achieve action-based solutions.

Integral Theory also allowed me to practice collective leadership where I was able to support my member group during negotiations when either the Chair was not present or when the other member was in a close-door discussion. As a result, the member group I was part of was able to fulfill the multi-lateral negotiation ethically, while support other non-member groups, catalyse concise language and act with transparency.

In conclusion, Roesch and Wu’s enthusiasm to share the various tricks of the trade has empowered me to act on my passion in coastal management, in particular, act on the findings concluded the UNEP Global Environmental Alert Service report about sand and gravel mining and its impact on coastlines around the world (UNEP-GEAS, 2014). I hope to connect with the UNEP GEAS to voice my perspective and help negotiate the needs of coastal management from the many viewpoints I am now aware of to achieve action-based solutions for the coast.


Esbjorn-Hargens, S. (2009) An Overview of Integral Theory: An All-Inclusive Framework for the 21st Century, Integral Institute, Resource Paper No. 1, pp: 1-24.

UN Environmental Programme: Global Environmental Alert Service, Sand is rarer than one thinks report, (March 2014).

Don’t be a gonna, be a doer

Just a regular day - learning from world leaders about leadership for sustainability.

Just a regular day – learning from world leaders about leadership for sustainability.

I have to be quite frank in this tangent. Maybe it is because I turned 28 last week and pretty much had a reality check yesterday that I am 28, two years until I turn 30 and another year has gone where our dunes, beaches and ocean – let’s just say the planet! – is under more stress than ever before.

Don’t be a gonna, be a doer. How many times have you said, “o, I was going to go to that clean up” – but never did – “o, I was going to come tree planting” – but you never did – “o, crap, I forgot my ‘green bag’ again! – it’s not good enough.

Being a doer is the only the way to open your world to what can be possible. Healthy dunes, healthy beaches and healthy oceans, which YOU can do something about it.

I think I have every right to say this, especially being directed to those who don’t commit or honour their word. If you are sick of seeing litter on your beach, or watching marine life caught in shark nets, or even watch coastlines be managed in an unsustainable fashion, do something about it.

“It takes leadership and it is possible because we are all leaders”, straight from mouth of the Leadership for Sustainability coach at the United Nation’s University, Mr Wouter T. Lincklaen Arriens. Mr Arriens is a world leader in coaching leaders on sustainability, in particular, transforming people to be leaders for their communities.

If it wasn’t for my engrained nature to be a doer I wouldn’t here. All those clean ups I attended, all those dune planting sessions I have attended and all those late nights writing grants and newsletter I have prepared; I wouldn’t have been able to get a scholarship and it certainly this experience would have stayed in my dreams.

I started pottering in the dunes nine years ago and since then I have been consistent, determined and passionate to encourage others to act on their obligation – to care for the planet and our communities.

I think this tangent makes up for the missing ‘tangenting’ due to my academic distractions of writing a thesis… but I am a doer and here is a tangent to get you going and do something meaningful – and commit.

We have 1.62million kilometres of coastline to care for and protect.