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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Transformational leadership

21st Century leadership - how can leaders develop a sustainable business in 2024?

We need leadership with the ability to navigate complexity and ambiguity. To establish the right conditions for individuals, teams, and organisations to take accountability and innovate to create value through sustainable solutions. To deliver for the long-term whilst producing the returns required in the short term.   

Leadership needs to understand what actions are most critical to deliver a sustainable future (CISL’s Rewiring the Economy and Business Transformation Framework cover key areas). Leadership also needs to embrace the inner capabilities and capacity required to influence and progress these actions individually and collectively across systems. Our work shows that some leading organisations are successfully rethinking their leadership development strategy to meet this changing context, but many organisations are yet to recognise the scale of change required for long-term business success

Organisations need a new form of leadership development which helps them to reframe their values and purpose, strategy and culture – enabling them to innovate and change their fundamental approach to value creation.


CISL Insights for Leaders


Leadership for a sustainable future Framework

CISL have developed a framework that embraces the ultimate purpose of leadership - to deliver a sustainable future, with business/organisational success being an essential means to deliver this goal.

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CISL’s Business Transformation Framework

This practical diagnostic tool sets out 12 key enablers presented onto four organisational typologies, distinguished by different levels of alignment to sustainability and purpose, against which businesses can self-assess.

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Future of Boards Research Phase 1

The Future of Boards research has identified key trends influencing board practice, provides practical, evidence-based, internationally relevant insights and recommendations. They are designed to support boards and the business they lead to strategically navigate the multiplying risks and opportunities and respond appropriately.

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How we work with you

Developing the right leadership skills and capabilities across an organisation is not easy, but a growing body of work indicates that organisations that cultivate learning and innovation to develop these capabilities are better able to anticipate and mitigate risk and enhance productivity. More importantly, they are better able to shape their own futures and seize the opportunities inherent in aligning their activities with society’s needs and priorities. 

Our leadership programmes work with organisations and individuals to allow them to thrive in the changing business context and to support them to develop the leadership that we need to transform our economies and deliver benefits to people, and protect our nature and climate. You can find more about CISL's position on leadership here.


Leadership capabilities for the 21st Century

The leadership lab taking place in October 2024 is a chance for
you to explore leadership within and beyond your organisation to develop the mindsets and practices for a sustainable future.  

 Register your interest


Open application programmes for leaders 

We build the leadership capacity of individuals and organisations across disciplines to catalyse and accelerate change to deliver value within and beyond their own context. 

Find out more about our courses


Executive coaching to support you to deliver impact

Our team of executive coaches are experienced to support you as you lead change to transition and transform your board, your leadership, your team or your organisation. 

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We invite you to engage with us to stress test the leadership framework in your organisation as part of our research.   

Find out how to engage


Transforming organisations 

We challenge and support organisations to raise ambition and address the challenges and opportunities of sustainability.

Customise leadership and strategy programmes

Accelerating solutions

We foster new enterprises, business models, technologies, products and services that promote a sustainable future.

Innovation for small businesses



Short online courses in leadership

Leading Sustainability: High Impact Leadership

For professionals seeking to build skills in values driven, high impact leadership.

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Communicating for Influence and Impact

For professionals seeking to build the communication skills to achieve meaningful change.

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Women Leading Change: Shaping
Our Future

For current and aspiring leaders who are ready to lead change in organisations and society through systemic transformation.

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Watch a recording of the Women Leading Change webinar



Alumni stories


"With the credentials of CISL, this could well be the most successfully designed programme in the world that delivers sustainability to business management in a nutshell."

Lu-Ann Ong, Singapore Co-founder and Managing Partner, Independent Consultants 1920 LLP

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"The course gave me a firm foundation on sustainability, equipped me with up-to-date trends on how it is practised across the globe, and gave me the chance to meet passionate practitioners of sustainability and be inspired by the work they do."

Harris Albert Guevarra, Philippines President and CEO, Drink

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Resources and research

CISL’s Business Transformation Framework Preliminary Diagnostic

12 October 2023

October 2023 – This report introduces a diagnostic tool that sets out 12 enablers presented onto four organisational typologies, distinguished by different levels of alignment to sustainability and purpose, against which businesses can self-assess.

Future of Boards

27 September 2023

27 September 2023 - Part 4 – The last in a series of four reports, from Phase 1 of “The Future of Boards” research study by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), in partnership with the global law firm DLA Piper. The report provides both a synthesis of the detailed findings from Reports 1, 2, 3 and a summary of the key facts, and their potential implications for boards. To help boards better understand the landscape and navigate future shifts we have created a set of 20 pivotal questions for boards to use as a tool to facilitate discussion and prepare strategically.

Leadership for a sustainable future

17 July 2023

21 July 2023 - Report presenting the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s new Leadership for a Sustainable Future Framework. The framework is focused on developing and expanding leadership capacity and is designed to help individuals and collectives reflect on their own and others’ leadership practice.

Why we need to put love at the heart of our leadership

9 February 2022

11 February 2022 - Zoë Arden, CISL Fellow and Head Tutor of the Women Leading Change: Shaping Our Future online course, explores explores why we need to place love at the heart of our leadership to create genuine and lasting change.

The time for transformational leadership is now

26 January 2022

26 January 2022 - In this blog, Director of Leadership Programme, Gillian Secrett, considers the type of leadership we need now to deliver the future we want.

Webinar - Women Leading Change: Shaping Our Future, 3 February 2022

24 January 2022

Join Zoë Arden, CISL Fellow, and expert Contributors to the ' Women Leading Change: Shaping Our Future ' 8-week online programme to discuss their leadership journeys and own experiences female agents of change

Women Leading Change: Harnessing our resolve to deliver change in 2022

4 January 2022

4 January 2022 - In our first blog of the new year, Zoë Arden, CISL Fellow and Head Tutor of the Women Leading Change: Shaping Our Future online course, explores how we can harness our resolve to tackle environmental and social injustice to ensure 2022 is a year of significant progress.

The moment of truth?

15 November 2021

15 November 2021 - Eliot Whittington, Director of the Corporate Leaders Groups, argues COP26 was not the failure some have accused it of being - but now the onus is on businesses to prove their critics wrong

Women Leading Change: Shaping Our Future

22 October 2021

Course start dates 2 October 2024 Is this course for you? The course is for anyone ready to lead change in organisations and society through systemic transformation. It will benefit current and aspiring leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, providing fresh perspectives and a...

The road to Entopia

30 September 2021

30 September 2021 - Dame Polly Courtice, Emeritus Founder Director of the Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership and Clare Shine, current Director and CEO reflect on CISL’s journey so far, and what the future holds as we move to our innovative new HQ, Entopia.

Advisory Services 

Find out how we help organisations build long-term resilience, gain competitive advantage and identify new opportunities
for value creation aligned with a transition to a sustainable economy.

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The Future of Boards

Find out how we are working with boards to build transformational leadership.

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