• Fyodor Ovchinnikov

Foundational Framework for Developing Designers of Alternative Economic Futures

76th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management 

Creating Alternative Economic Futures through Teaching

Program Session #: 410 | Submission: 13397 | Sponsor(s): (OMT) 

Scheduled: Saturday, Aug 6 2016 3:00PM - 4:30PM at Anaheim Marriott in Platinum Ballroom 1

Manuel Manga and Fyodor Ovchinnikov

Institute for Evolutionary Leadership

2323 Broadway, Oakland, CA, USA 94612

Seven Competencies of Evolutionary Leadership as Foundational Framework for Developing Designers of Alternative Economic Futures


Creating alternative economic futures requires leadership. It is not enough to simply envision alternatives – people across sectors of society should be able to mobilize themselves to redesign worldviews, cultures and institutions and bring new socio-economic realities into existence.

Many leadership programs today help leaders be more effective in the current cultures and institutions, which are the same cultures and institutions that do not work very well for all the people and for our planet. At the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership – a social enterprise based in Oakland, California – we work on identifying, applying, and teaching theories, models, practices, and social technologies that help leaders mobilize themselves and others to consciously and effectively redesign worldviews, cultures, and institutions for a more just, sustainable, and flourishing world.

At the core of our approach is a competencies-based model of leadership developed by our co-founder Manuel Manga during four decades of leadership development work on organizational, regional, and societal levels, as well as ten years of teaching leadership at Boston College. Our cooperative community of teachers and practitioners constantly refines the model and adds new tools which makes our curricula evolving in close relationship with practice.

Below is the definition of Evolutionary Leadership and brief descriptions of the Seven Competencies that we suggest as a foundational framework for teaching Evolutionary Leadership.


Evolutionary Leadership is a capacity to mobilize oneself and others to consciously and effectively redesign worldviews, cultures, and institutions for a more just, sustainable, and flourishing world.

We suggest the following seven competencies to act as a foundational framework for developing Evolutionary Leaders: Personal Evolution, Emotions and Generative Language, Systems Thinking, Systemic Sustainability, Ontological Designing, Adaptive Work & Collaboration, and Evolutionary Visions, Scenarios, and Wisdom. Each of these seven competencies is briefly described below:

1.      Personal Evolution

Personal Evolution Competency supports leaders in developing a complexity of consciousness and a new worldview through becoming a different kind of observer of the world.

Most of our leaders operate from conventional mind [Kegan, 1982] influenced by the tribal mindset that makes people put their tribe’s survival first and consider their tribe’s culture as the main point of reference for understanding and dealing with our complex world.

Developing Personal Evolution Competency requires continuous efforts towards understanding our human nature and consciously evolving our mindset to embrace the complexity of the world and transcend limiting beliefs and assumptions that undermine our ability to build a more just, sustainable, and flourishing world.


  • Kegan, R., (1982). The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. Harvard University Press.

  • Ornstein, R. and Ehrlich, P., (1988). New World New Mind: Moving Toward Conscious Evolution. Doubleday.

  • Eisler, R., (2002). The Power of Partnership: The Seven Relationships that Will Change Your Life. New World Library.

  • Csikszentmihalyi, M., (1993). The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium. Harpercollins.

  • Goleman, D. and His Holiness Dalai Lama, (2015). A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for Our World. Bantam.

  • Wilson, E. O., (2016). Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life. Liveright.

  • Gardner, H. (2007). Five Minds for the Future. Harvard Business Press.

2.      Emotions & Generative Language

Evolutionary Leaders use the power of emotions and language to bring forth new realities. This competency invites leaders to master their emotions in a way that sets the foundation for healthy relationships, for caring, for seeing the other as a legitimate other [Maturana, et al, 1996], and for setting the context for generative dialogue.

This competency also includes developing philosophical understanding of language and its relationship with emotions which facilitates conscious articulation of new possibilities and empowers leaders to declare bold stands and purposes for a just, flourishing, and sustainable world. Though developing deeper understanding of humans as emotional and linguistic beings, language becomes a powerful tool that shapes human reality and elicits commitments to effective action.

Evolutionary Leaders use this powerful generative language to facilitate the emergence of new historical narratives, a new story of life and human beings that promotes meaning, purpose, solidarity among people, and harmony with our natural world.


  • Goleman, D., (1995). Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Bantam.

  • Searle, J. R., (2000). Mind, Language, and Society. Basic Books.

  • Flores, F., (2013). Conversations For Action and Collected Essays: Instilling a Culture of Commitment in Working Relationships. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

  • Budd, M., (2000). You Are What You Say : A Harvard Doctor's Six-Step Proven Program for Transforming Stress Through the Power of Language. Crown.

  • Malandro, L., (2009). Fearless Leadership: How to Overcome Behavioral Blindspots and Transform Your Organization. McGraw-Hill Education.

  • Chalmers Brothers, (2004). Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships & Your Results. New Possibilities Press.

3.      Systems Thinking

We need to be aware of the fact that we exist within a multiplicity of systems: natural systems, living systems, social systems, and technological systems, to name a few. This competency enables leaders to see systems, design new ones, and influence those systems toward systemic sustainability.

Systems Thinking offers powerful tools for observing the dynamics and outcomes of systems. It is a discipline for seeing the whole not just parts, a method for seeing visible and invisible causes of our world problems.

Our world problems are often diagnosed as isolated issues: poverty, hunger, energy, war, population growth, climate change, deforestation, human rights, etc. are often understood and treated in isolation, instead of as part of a larger system. Most of our leaders in corporations, NGOs, and governments deal with parts of the system and have a short-term understanding of the behaviors of complex systems.

Systems Thinking enables leaders to influence the dynamics of these systems and it can direct their ability to design new social and technological systems to promote justice, well-being, prosperity, and harmony with nature.


  • Ward, P. D. and Brownlee, D., (2003). Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe. Copernicus.

  • Capra, F. and Luigi Luisi, P., (2014). The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision. Cambridge University Press.

  • Senge, P., et al., (2008). The Necessary Revolution. How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World. Doubleday Publishing.

  • Metcalf, W. J., (1977). The Environmental Crisis: A Systems Approach. St. Martin's Press.

  • Meadows, D., (1992). Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future. Chelsea Green Pub Co.

  • Stroh, D. P., (2015). Systems Thinking For Social Change: A Practical Guide to Solving Complex Problems, Avoiding Unintended Consequences, and Achieving Lasting Results. Chelsea Green Publishing.

4.      Systemic Sustainability

Most people think of sustainability exclusively as an environmental issue. Systemic Sustainability defines sustainability as a macro-complex system made up of three important sub-systems: Environmental Sustainability, Human Sustainability, and Institutional Sustainability. Each one of these sub-systems supports the existence of the other two which makes all three sub-systems mutually interdependent. Together, the three sub-systems bring forth an emergent complex new system: sustainability as a coherent property that supports the well-being of all three systems.

We human beings are now the stewards and caretakers of our systems. This is a big responsibility and the sooner we understand it and confront this challenge the better our chances are a species not only to survive, but to build a just, sustainable, and flourishing world. Understanding the concept of Systemic Sustainability and mastering tools and techniques that allow every act of design be assessed based on its implications on environmental, human, and institutional sustainability enables Evolutionary Leaders to make a lasting impact on a global scale.


  • Pettit, Ph., (2014). Just Freedom: A Moral Compass for a Complex World. W. W. Norton & Company.

  • Sandel, M. J., (2009). Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

  • Max Neef, M., (1989). Human Scale Development Conception Application and Further Reflections. Apex Pr.

  • Brown, L. T., (1982). Building a Sustainable Society. W W Norton & Co Inc.

  • Costanza, R., Kubiszewski, I., (2014). Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future: Insights from 45 Global Thought Leaders. World Scientific Pub Co Inc.

  • Eisler, R., (2007). The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics. Berrett-Koehler.

5.      Ontological Designing

Ontological Designing is a discipline for consciously designing our lifeworlds, our institutions, our products, our processes, and our self, so that they contribute toward the futuring of sustainment of life on this planet [Fry, 2009]. At the foundation of Ontological Design there are three basic principles:

  1. The human world that we live in is a product of human design.

  2. We are all designers of our world, no matter if we want it or not

  3. The world we live in designs us, so everything we design eventually comes back and designs us

  4. Most of the time we are not aware of what we are designing – changing that gives us power to effectively design ourselves and the world around us

Ontological Design is a powerful distinction and a powerful discipline that can be used for good or for bad. Evolutionary Leaders develop skills and capacity to identify, leverage, and influence the feedback loop between one’s worldview and the cultural, institutional, and physical context, and use this power to design new realities in an ethical, sustainable, and future-focused ways. 


  • Ehrenfeld, J. R., (2009). Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming Our Consumer Culture. Yale University Press.

  • Fry, T., (2012). Becoming Human by Design. Berg Publishers.

  • Fry, T., (2008). Design Futuring: Sustainability, Ethics and New Practice. Berg Publishers.

  • Winograd, T., Flores, F., (1987). Understanding Computers and Cognition, A New Foundation for Design. Addison-Wesley Professional.

  • Papaneck, V., (1972). Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change. Pantheon Books.

  • Braungart, M. and McDonough, W., (2002). Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. North Point Press.

  • Fuller, B., (1982). Critical Path. St. Martin's Griffin.

  • Banathy, B. H., (1996). Designing Social Systems in a Changing World (Contemporary Systems Thinking). Springer.

6.      Adaptive Work & Collaboration

An adaptive challenge is a challenge that involves a disparity between values and circumstances [Heifetz, 1994], a challenge in which learning must occur for an effective solution to be found. Our world today is full of adaptive challenges, and our leaders often misdiagnose these challenges and treat them as technical problems that they think they already know the answers to, which causes the problems to persist. Global poverty, hunger, climate change, energy, nuclear proliferation, and many others are examples of adaptive challenges.

Adaptive work requires that people confront tough issues, confront losses, change of values, make choices, while staying open to finding new solutions together instead of trying to find experts who “know it all”. Therefore, collaboration is the fuel for the engine of adaptive work. Evolutionary leaders need to develop skills and capacity to identify and engage stakeholders in a way that facilitates addressing adaptive challenges.


  • Heifetz, R., (1998). Leadership Without Easy Answers. Harvard University Press.

  • Heifetz, R., et al., (2009). The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Harvard Business Press.

  • Frydman, B., et al., (2000). The Power of Collaborative Leadership:: Lessons for the Learning Organization. Butterworth-Heinemann.

7.      Evolutionary Visions, Scenarios, and Wisdom

This competency supports leaders in understanding our evolutionary history as living systems, and as human beings. It also invites us to develop wisdom in order to make the right choices for our future. Wisdom asks you to consider the importance of those actions, the choices, and the long term consequences of those actions.

Evolutionary Leaders think in terms of evolutionary time, and use their understanding of evolutionary principles to design and direct the process of human evolution. They can think strategically in terms of 10, 25, 50, or 100 years or more to envision that we can design and build a better world.

Besides knowing history and understanding principles of our evolution, designing scenarios and visions of a just, sustainable, and flourishing world required an ability to break off the tenets of the past and look into the highest possibility of the future. Evolutionary leaders must work within the creative tension, of solving immediate tough local and global problems, like poverty, hunger, climate change, and also working from the future, not just problem solving, but also being designers of new institutions, new futures.


  • Nozick, R., (1989). The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations. Simon & Schuster, Inc..

  • His Holiness Dalai Lama, (2010). The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Wisdom. Hampton Roads Publishing.

  • Raskin, P. et al., (2002). Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead. Stockholm Environment Institute.

  • Milbrath, L. W., (1989). Envisioning a Sustainable Society: Learning Our Way Out. SUNY Press.

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