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The Surprising Superpower of a Geospatial Leader

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Geospatial leader
Photo credit: Denys Nevozhai via

Let’s face it, the world no longer needs heroes.

Heroic leaders have had their day. Today even Spiderman or Superwoman – if they were real – would struggle to make a dent in the universe. The global challenges we face are too complex and interconnected for a single person to tackle. Even if you had the strength to jump over a skyscraper or run at supersonic speed.

So what kind of leaders do we need in today’s world? And what does the world need from geospatial leaders?

As an executive coach I am lucky to work with many kinds of leaders, in geo and beyond. Last year I asked 50 geospatial leaders to share their advice for success.

Their responses were striking.

Virtually nobody mentioned anything to do with geospatial. Instead, it was all about people and collaboration. About understanding the wider context. About finding your voice and stepping up. Leading with empathy. Focusing on the problem not the solution. And so on.

Of course, this makes total sense. These things are true for all leaders. But what is different about geospatial leadership?

Leadership training
Photo credit: Kiana Bosman via

The answer may be hiding in plain sight.

The business school at the University of New South Wales, Australia, recently developed a sustainability leadership framework. And guess what – it sounds like a perfect definition of geospatial leadership. According to this model, leaders need to:

1. Have a systemic, eco-centric and long-term world view.

2. Work across disciplines, organisations, sectors and geographies.

3. Have a both broad general knowledge on top of deeper domain knowledge.

4. Be able to exercise influence without authority.

5. Embrace complexity with many different stakeholders, priorities and interacting systems.

6. Lead by example through sustainable self-management and wellbeing.

Wow. Just think about that for a moment.

As a geospatial leader – or indeed, any type of geospatial professional – you look at problems in multiple dimensions and scales, in a holistic Earth-centred way.

You work with people across multiple disciplines and, often, across industry sectors.

You have geospatial knowledge but also need a solid understanding of the broader context to which it is applied.

Among stakeholder groups you are rarely in a position of authority – collaboration is the only way to achieve anything.

You break down complexity and tell stories through the medium of maps and earth imagery – a universal language that anyone can understand.

And because you love maps, you are probably an outdoorsy person who connects with nature also for their own wellbeing.

Well, that’s all six boxes ticked off. Whether you realise it or not, by your very nature you are a sustainability leader.

That is your superpower.

Don’t underestimate it. Because the world needs you to wield this power – urgently.

This is true wherever you live and work. And if you are native to a region of the global south, you may have an additional superpower. As Einstein famously said, we can’t solve problems using the same thinking that created them. The climate and environmental crises are primarily a product of the global north, meaning the world urgently needs your ideas and experience. Also, the culture you live in is likely to be more collaborative, with a stronger collective spirit, than the individualistic tendencies of the north. As we have seen above, that gives you an edge for sustainability leadership – because you will have embodied knowledge that some of us don't.

You need to step up, and be given the space to step up. And that is, of course, what the Réseau network is all about. In Spiderman’s own words, with great power comes great responsibility. Are you ready to unleash it?

As an executive coach I help emerging and experienced leaders around the world to unleash their power and make positive impact. Contact me to find out more.

About the Author

Thierry Gregorius is an executive coach and leadership trainer who works with leaders in geo and beyond. He has 20+ years of leadership and consulting experience across multiple sectors including Geospatial, Energy, Environment and Education. Thierry can be contacted via his website True Horizon Coaching and on LinkedIn.


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