Ideagen Wise Leadership 2030 Framework for World Leaders to achieve the 2030 Agenda of the UN

A proposal to world leaders on leading to achieve the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations.

Author; Ideagen Impact Leader Council Co-Chair - Dr. Juan F "Kiko" Suarez, PhD Leadership and Change/ Lumina Foundation

Comments by the EU Delegation to the UN and Ideagen (

Considering the current political climate, low levels of trust in national and international institutions and the interconnectedness and degree of complexity of our world, nothing could sound more challenging to the average person than reaching 17 big audacious internationally-agreed goals and meeting 169 targets among 193 countries in 15 years. After this successful UN-achievement, it is now the great responsibility by the international community and leaders of those countries to come up, in partnership with the business community, private sector, NGO's, academia and think-tanks, with ways and means to reach those targets and accomplish what it is probably one of the most ambitious outcomes-based agendas of our time. In this paper I propose two frameworks for wise leadership and wise design for social innovation that could provide the necessary guidance for leaders in charge of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development to create the conditions required for positive change in their respective nations.

Commitment by the international community to implement the SDG's is now key. The EU for example has been a leader in contributing to this process from the start. It is now committed to take this agenda forward, both inside the EU (such as through forthcoming EU initiatives like the Circular Economy Strategy which is designed to address more sustainable patterns of production and consumption) and through the EU's external policies by supporting implementation efforts in other countries, in particular those most in need.

The Purpose of Leadership

"Leadership is a context sport" Dr. Suarez, EU Delegation to the United Nations, December 2015
Leadership is an ever expanding field of study. From the characteristics of the individuals who lead, to the actions taken by them and their followers, leadership is a fascinating practice to observe and research. After years of research and study, I came up with the following definitions of leadership:

The craft of creating the conditions for desired change

The craft of setting context for the achievement of specific outcomes
The focus on "context" is critical in this definition. Change processes always benefit from a leadership approach that focuses on context, on condition setting for outcomes to occur. It is important, then, for leaders to understand the context in which change must happen rather than imposing change to those on the ground.

Thus, I propose that leaders in charge of implementing the 2030 agenda understand that their job is to set the conditions for the achievement of the goals and meeting the targets they are accountable for. Although this may sound a little counter intuitive, an obsessive push to get to the targets may become the worst possible obstacle for our 2030 leaders. Knowing where you are heading, focus on the conditions for a successful journey.

Wise Leadership: the role of wisdom in accomplishing the desired 2030 outcomes
"A smart person knows how to get out of a difficult situation; a wise person knows when not to get in a difficult situation in the first place". Dr Suarez, TEDx Talk, October 2014
We live in an increasingly entangled and interdependent world. That is what one could define as "complex", as opposed to "complicated", which would imply level of difficulty. A complex system is not solvable, a complicated one is. However, our instinct leads us attempt to simplify complexity, when complexity cannot be simplified, complexity just us. Complex systems are adaptive, and change over time. Time is a very important element in complexity. Things cannot be turned back to their original form (this is known as temporal asymmetry). We can turn eggs into an omelet, but cannot turn the omelet back into eggs. The whole is greater - and different- than the sum of the parts.

In complex systems, the level of interconnectedness and interdependency lead to emergent properties, behaviors and opportunities that didn't exist before. And as scientists try to decipher the mystery of the underlying processes that lead to emergent behavior in complex systems, leaders of the world realize that the world we live in is a gigantic complex system with an increasing number of highly interconnected and interdependent environments that will certainly lead to unanticipated emergent properties. At a time when unpredictability leads to uncertainty, challenging the stability of market-based economies, leaders around the world seem to have an unreachable and ever raising bar to deliver results vs expected outcomes and regaining trust.
What to do, if leadership is the art of setting context, but condition setting seems unsuitable? The answer lies on wisdom, the only inherently human capability that allows leaders to see even more complexity, giving them the acuity to understand and make meaning in a chaotic environment, seeing more clearly what the complexity means and equipping them to respond in the most appropriate way in an ever changing reality.

Based on my research on those recognized as "wise" by others, I describe wisdom as an internal navigation system that leads each and every person to our true north (our higher purpose) of "human flourishing for self and others". This internal navigation system is equipped with 8 sensors (or senses) that are developed and nurtured over time and through exposure to "living".
•Experiential / practical

Cognitive / Rational Sense
It is about knowing, learning, fact finding, rationality. A wise person is well informed and knowledgeable about the topics at hand, and comes across as someone who is interested in multiple aspects of life, society and culture in general.
Intuitive / Emotional sense
It's our emotional intelligence, our gut feeling, our instinct. Emanating from exposure to life and upbringing, it tends to influence fast decisions, as opposed to the cognitive sense, that requires a slower deliberative process before a decision is made.
Practical / Experiential Sense
Directly from experience, it provides the parameters for usable, down to earth, applicable solutions to issues, conflicts and problems.

Ethical / Humane Sense
It triggers a line of questions: Why should it matter what happens to other people? Who benefits from it and how? What's my role in this? Ethics prepares a leader to respond humanely to paradoxes and dilemmas.

Aesthetic Sense
It's not about physical beauty, but about how to be more articulate, how to design a course of action that pursues beautiful outcomes vs ugly outcomes.
Adaptive Sense
It's about how to be quick, agile and nimble, blend when you must, make adjustments. Adaptiveness prepares a leader to be ready for emergence in a complex world.

Sense of Time ("Timeness")
It's about the ability to put things in a time perspective, assessing the consequences considering past, present and future. "Timeness" prepares a leader to both take time and consider time implications while discerning a path. It's not necessarily about "timing" a decision, but a consideration of the consequences over time.

Sense of Balance
It's about being tempered, moderate, not being swayed by the extremes, poised, valuing the middle. Mastering balance prepares a leader to be calm but alert, relaxed but ready, smooth but sharp, humble but confident.

I posit that human flourishing is a temporal state where all 8 senses are actively engaged in our lives. Our higher purpose is to reach as often as possible that state of high engagement both for ourselves and help others achieve the same.

The constant pursuit of nurturing those 8 dimensions or "wisdom senses" for the purpose of actively engaging the world through them while helping others do the same, has the effect of "augmenting" our professional practices, including leadership. A "wise leader" could be seen, then, as one who is looking at her or his leadership craft through these 8 lenses, trying to ensure that conditions will not only accomplish pre-determined outcomes, but that in the process of getting there and sustaining the outcomes, those involved flourish (including the leader herself or himself)
flourish as human beings. A more balanced and tempered, time sensitive, adaptive, articulate and beautiful, ethical and humane, practical and experiential, intuitive and rational individual and society that, at the same time, achieve those predetermined 17 goals and 169 targets, would be seen as successful, trustworthy and wise.

Putting Wisdom to Work in 15 steps
In the course of my research, I found that "wise leaders" apply the eight principles of wise design to their organizations in the following way. I have used education to illustrate some of the points.

1. Articulate a balanced higher purpose.
• In education, educate well-rounded citizens with demonstrable market value.
2. Articulate a set of measurable higher outcomes.
• In education, focus on student learning, equity, and affordability.
3. Engage constituents (internal and external), listen, share, and co-create core values and ethical and humane principles.
4. Identify and master your ETHOS: Essential To Higher Outcomes Skills. ETHOS could include responsibility, accountability and opportunity.
5. Take immediate action on staff development with a wisdom-augmented approach to your practices.
6. Take the lead from within the organization; don't wait for external condition changes.
7. Launch a process for long-term sustainability of the higher outcomes, not just the organization.
It is not just who you are, and how you do it, but what you get done and who benefits from it.
8. Measure and manage against higher outcomes and steer the ship without hesitation.
9. Use a futures-oriented strategic approach, as it creates the space and time to reflect and integrate multiple wisdom dimensions.
10. Assemble diverse teams and balanced perspectives in all the above: ages, genders, races, practices.
11. Make tough choices, if / when necessary, after consultation with constituents.
12. Have a transparent financial accountability mechanism and incentive around outcomes.
13. Create a process to value ideas and test them.
14. Create a scanning real-time process for monitoring outliers and trends and act before reacting.
15. Be agile, networked, and global; make units smaller and value connections within the organization and with other organizations in your local community, region, at national and international levels.

Conclusion and Recommendations
Ideagen Wise Leadership 2030 could be the customized version of "wise leadership" for the achievement of the SDGs. Using the frameworks mentioned above (8 senses, 15 steps), the UN could coin Wise Leadership 2030 and create a member state engagement process, so key actors in achieving the SDG's could develop processes, set targets and change behaviors in pursuit of the 2030 agenda. We would be more than happy to facilitate the necessary technical assistance and facilitation required to disseminate and integrate this framework across the planet.

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