Why do we teach Creative Leadership?

Creative Leadership

Our Master of Arts in Sustainable Design degree program consists of ten 3-credit courses, two of which are devoted to thesis work. That means we only have eight courses to provide our students with all of the knowledge, skills, and understanding we think they need to be sustainable designers. That’s not much time, especially considering our students come from a diversity of backgrounds. 

With so little time, why do we devote an entire course (required!) to leadership? 

And why do we call it “Creative Leadership”?

The answer to the first question is easy. Sustainable designers are faced with forwarding new ideals and new ideas in a conventional world designed to resist change. That means, like it or not, every sustainable designer that wants to make change in the world has to become a leader. We want our graduates to succeed, so we teach leadership — it’s that important.

Why “Creative Leadership”? When most people think of leadership, they think of a conventional, traditional, or classical leadership model. That’s the masculine, top-down, make-it-happen kind of leadership that we’re all familiar with. That leadership model, born from military and royalty structures, may make things happen, but it is not conducive to the co-creativity, diversity, and emergent thinking that is required to make sustainable design happen. 

“Creative Leadership” is not just one model. Our students explore:

Leadership Models in Nature

Servant Leadership & Inclusive Leadership

Collaborative Leadership & Integrative Thinking

Participative Leadership & Distributive Leadership

Systems Leadership & Theory U

Conscious Leadership & Adaptive Leadership

And it’s not enough to learn about leadership. Our students learn to be leaders, by engaging with and practicing:


Leading Others & Organizations

Leading Change in the World

Unconventional Leadership Tools & Leadership Myth-busting

And they end the semester with a Creative Leadership Passion Project.

Along the way, they create their own personalized Creative Leadership Observatory in the form of a website that they can refer to, and add to, in the years ahead. 

If this sounds interesting — or important– to you, consider joining our program.  If you’re not quite ready for that, we offer our Creative Leadership course to the public via MCAD’s Continuing Education program.

If you have questions about this or any of our courses, feel free to contact me and set up a time to chat.

Denise DeLuca / Former Director

Denise DeLuca is the Director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program. She was co-founder of BCI: Biomimicry Creative for Innovation, a network of creative professional change agents driving ecological thinking for radical transformation. Denise is author of the book Re-Aligning with Nature: Ecological Thinking for Radical Transformation, which was illustrated by MASD alum Stephanie Koehler. She also teaches with the Amani Institute.

Denise’s previous roles include Education Director for the International Living Future Institute, Project Manager for Swedish Biomimetics 3000, and Outreach Director for The Biomimicry Institute. Denise is a licensed civil engineer (PE) and holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus on modeling landscape-scale surface and groundwater interactions.  In addition, Denise is a Biomimicry Fellow and a member of the Advisory Council of The Biomimicry InstituteBoard Member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), on the editorial board of the Journal of Bionic Engineering, and an Expert with Katerva. Denise is based in Oregon.

contact:  [email protected]