Conscious Leadership for Sustainability – Presentation in Oslo

I have had the joy and honor of being invited by the city of Oslo to present my research on the same Venue of Nobel Peace Prize!


 Photo 1 – Audience of my presentation in Oslo

Following is a summary of my presentation – “Conscious Leadership for Sustainability” at “Oslo Innovation Evening”:

I’ve been working in the field of sustainability for almost 20 years, in all regions of Brazil, with companies, universities and communities. What have my experience taught me?

I have realized that the understanding of sustainability and the approach to sustainability are very different from company to company. So – What makes one company – or a city – handle sustainability challenges better than others?  What characterize their leaders?

After assessing many organizations and interviewing hundreds of leaders, I realized that to truly understand sustainability a different consciousness is needed. Leaders who can understand a higher purpose for their organizations, not just profits. Of course, profits are needed for the survival of businesses, just as we as humans need blood cells for our survival (1). Although, the production of blood cells is not our purpose. In the same way, profits are not the purpose of business, is much more than this!

Companies can find purpose and even increase profits – through new ideas and business models, but it needs to happen through finding a shared agenda with your stakeholders, finding ways in which your prosperity leads to others prosperity as well. It’s also about thinking long term. After all, purpose transcends a quarter, a semester, or a year. The most important thing is knowing who you are and why you do what you do (your purpose).

To find a different purpose, it may be necessary to view the world through different lenses than before.

As stated by Einstein:

“The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the consciousness that created them”.

Therefore – this became my quest and my passion – contributing to the development of “Conscious Leadership for Sustainability” (2), the theme of my PhD research in Netherlands. I started my quest from scientific literature and ancestral cultures and I was amazed with the similarities between both – Different words to explain the same issues!

What I found in both cases, is that Sustainability is not just a way to make better use of technology (e.g. cleaner energy), is also a form of being different (3). What do we want to be as human beings? What we want to be as a civilization?


Photo 2 – Presenting at Oslo Innovation Week

To develop a conscious civilization, we need conscious leaders. Consciousness can be divided in to stages and each stage is more complex.  Each stage of consciousness development transcends the previous stages, but includes its essentials, is like going from atoms to molecules, from molecules to cells, and from cells to organisms. In the words of Robert Kegan, a Harvard developmental psychologist:

“What gradually happens is not just a linear accretion of more and more that one can look at or think about, but a qualitative shift in the very shape of the window or lens through which one looks at the world.”

Kegan’s scientific research has shown leaders depending of their level of consciousness can be: self-sovereign, socialized, self-authored or self-transforming (for more see Constructive Developmental Theory).

Imagine 4 leaders and a mountain.

The self-sovereign leader is at the base of the mountain, he can’t see the beautiful landscape. This leader looks only for his umbilical and just see others as facilitators or obstacles to the realization of his own desires. Thus, for him corporate sustainability is just obeying the law (when obeying), just for the fear of being caught.

A little bit higher up the mountain is the socialized leader, he can see a small part of the landscape and he is very busy waving for the friends. He likes to show others that he applies corporate sustainability, in small practices and philanthropy to show off in the media.

At the middle of the mountain we find the self-authored leader that can see more landscape than the socialized leader. She can see more than her own group. Thus, for her corporate sustainability is being focused on stakeholders’ management and triple bottom line.

At the top of the mountain, the leader who climbed the most, with the most developed mindset, is the self-transforming leader. She can see the entire landscape, is a visionary, ahead of time. Her corporate Sustainability is about creating value for stakeholders and the entire society. Not very surprising, there are not many people in this last category. Actually less than 1% of world’s people are self-transforming. Examples here are Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who worked with the premise of love above all. Mandela – after 27 years in prison worked with reconciliation, developing the civilization towards equality. Gandhi illustrates the idea of achieving independence without violence.

In an away – this is what my PhD research is all about – how to get up the mountain. How to speed up this development process in leaders, finding ways and methods that will act as a catalyst for consciousness development.


Photo 3 – Answering questions after the presentation, with the Mayor of Oslo and executives from Australia and Mexico.

Humankind always transformed in order to survive. However, for the first time in the history of our species, surviving will require more than a collection of Socialized Minds. The complexity of the challenges facing us cannot be solved solely through better policies, or technology.

We all need to strive to evolve – to climb the mountain – together!

“The real change takes place within our souls; the real change takes place when the unfolding of our souls reflects in some deep, mysterious way the unfolding of the universe. Then it is – when an individual person dares to live within his or her truth – that the world is changed, forever.”  (Vaclav Havel)


Photo 4 -In the audience after the presentation, with the Mayor of Oslo and executives from Australia and Mexico.

For more about this event, please see:


(1) See Edward Freeman

(2) See also Barrett Brown

(3) See also Marina Silva


About Ana Marques

Woman, scientist, consultant. But above all, a common human being, willing to help, share, transform!
This entry was posted in Constructive Developmental Theory, Self-development, Sustainability Concepts, Sustainability in practice and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Conscious Leadership for Sustainability – Presentation in Oslo

  1. Julius Neviera says:

    Wonderful speech!
    If you ever have video of it, please share it.
    There is no other way to go for us as it was always the way throughout the ages. The more I learn about who we are and how we grow, the more I find sustainability reflected in ancestral knowledge.
    Even 19th century pour samogitian farmer had better feeling and understanding than most of current leaders do.

    • Ana Marques says:

      Dear Julius,
      Thanks for your kind message 🙂

      Unfortunately, the event was not recorded. Therefore, I just have the pictures.

      Research shows that mental complexity tends to increase with age. Although, there is a considerable variation within any age (in the same age, different people can be at different levels of mindset). And even some very old people may not be in the last levels of mindset development.

      I’m studying ancestral knowledge (mainly in Brazil) and generally they have more internalized the sustainability meaning, mainly because their culture and beliefs.

      Kind regards, Ana

  2. Paul says:

    Wow, what a research Ana, I would love to share it with others and apply it in what we do at Sonas World(….thanks !

  3. sleeping8 says:

    You have spelled Gandhi wrong.

  4. Neil Davidson says:

    Hi Ana, a good speech about an important topic. However, while showing people the unfolding journey and daunting climb ahead is important, it is evident to me that no amount of reducing the impact of the current business model will suffice in the time available (if we have any). Consequently I wonder, outside/ beyond the ‘business-related’ content of your Oslo talk above, did your PhD go ‘beyond business’ into truly transformational leadership, including how we might go about considering changing the very paradigm on which we currently depend and are complicit in maintaining?

    If so I would be very interested in seeing how we might consider collaborating on the co-development of a Capability Maturity Model for Sustainability, which, as an aspirational objective, might look to extend the mountain climbing expedition to consider whole systems’ transformation.

    Kind regards, Neil

    • Ana Marques says:

      Hi Neil,
      Thanks for your kind message 🙂
      Although, my speech addressed some issues of business models, my PhD research is focused on leaders’ personal development. How to develop leaders’ capability (mindsets and skills), is my main interest.
      Let me know what you think about it 🙂
      Kind regards, Ana

  5. Arjan ter Linden says:

    Great work Ana! And I recognize every piece of it. I am working on change and leadership for 12 years now. A lot of small steps are made. In your eyes, what are the key insights to speed up this process?

    • Ana Marques says:

      Thanks Arjan!
      I’m mostly using theories from psychology, business administration philosophy and sustainability concepts, combined with ancestral knowledge in Brazil. I’m just in the middle of my research.
      Kind regards, Ana

  6. Becky Graner says:

    What a delight to find this body of work. I am a RN and have been using Kegan and Lahey’s work to facilitate growth and development of nurses. I especially like “languages for transformation” and “immunity to change”. I have found key to transformation at all levels is to start with the self. I have found the best way to transform the mountain is one step at a time and reach out my hand to offer a hand up.

    • Ana Marques says:

      Thanks Becky! I also love these books! Great to know that you are working with it!
      Kind regards, Ana

    • Janette Tams says:

      Hello, I wonder if you are working at all with Peer to Peer learning as a way to accelerate self development from the ‘authority’ who tells a learner what to think, to the learner becoming their own expert?
      I am researching Peer to Peer learning as part of the Sustainability team at Kingston University here in the UK. and would love to include you in my primary research.
      Janette Tams

      • Ana Marques says:

        Dear Janette,
        Thanks for the kind message.
        I don’t work with Peer to Pear learning.
        Let me know if I can help you in anyway.
        Kind regards, Ana

  7. Lourdes Rad says:

    How marvellous to find other people involved in the rare, useful, new way of Leadership for Sustainability!. I find that is one of the better ways of arriving to Consciousness and Sustainability all over the world in such a way that the whole Humanity and Planet will be saved and in wellness.

  8. Dear Ana,
    What a great speech! This is so right. It is all about form follows consciousness and not form follows function. If indeed the now less than 1% could grow, the world would be a better place for our grandchildren. The key question is: How to reach that self-transforming leadership? My PhD research suggests that Nature is a powerful facilitator. We bring leaders, executives of private and public organizations, into the Wilderness in Africa. Leaving everything behind and sleeping under billions of stars between the big five with no protection, they find the time and the stillness to reflect. See
    My research question is: Can Nature foster (Conscious)Leadership. My research reveals signs that a sustainable shift in consciousness is taking place.
    So, there is hope.
    Warm regards,

    • Ana Marques says:

      Boy, thanks for the inspiring words! I really believe that nature has a great impact on human development. Congratulations for your beautiful work!
      Kind regards, Ana

  9. monica says:

    Anna congratulations on this amazing opportunity to present your work. I will admit you gender references pushed my buttons (ie. male at the lower and females at the higher levels) would have loved to have seen this as gender neutral.
    All the very best on your journey.

    • Ana Marques says:

      Monica, thanks for your message.
      Women and men have the same internal possibilities to have a more complex mindset. However, in a world that unfortunately still discriminates women, I intentionally considered women in the more developed mindset to remind people about it, we are the same. The paradox of being completely equal and different.
      Kind regards, Ana

  10. Madison says:

    I just wish to note I am just brand new to weblog and certainly loved your web site. Probably I’m want to save your site. You actually have fabulous writings. Thanks for showing your blog site.

  11. Abigail says:

    Those inspiring ideas also worked to become easy strategy to comprehend different individuals have an identical enthusiasm just like my very own to learn significantly more with regards to the situation. I am certain you’ll find far more agreeable examples up front for individuals that begin reading your site.

  12. Asha Singh says:

    Hello Ana,

    I fully share your ideas on leadership for sustainability, and support leaders (usually in the private sector) in developing consciousness. It might be interesting to have a conversation.



  13. Ava says:

    I’d think that most of us visitors actually are very blessed to stay a fantastic area with numerous excellent individuals with extremely valuable principles. I feel truly blessed to have seen the web pages and anticipate so many more pleasurable minutes studying here. Thanks yet again for a lot of things.

  14. Ana – this is great! I think we have very similar thoughts , of course yours way more advanced. However if you see my startup , many of your ideas have been put into practice. A new model , new social model, new biz model , new model for cooperation and sustainability. Any chances you may find the time to check ; we are changing the way startups and the blind create and perceive an impact. We solve two problems ; Problem 1 – 80% blind dont have employment, and 83% of small business die in 5 years. We built this business with nearly zero capital. Your feedback is appreciated.

    Thanks/Subs Founder : Project Starfish

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