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Leadership Essentials for Innovative Builders

A transformative leadership development program for intrapreneurs and social innovators on the leading edge of change. Register below to learn how to apply for the next session.


Sept. 14th, 2021

10 Weeks

Scholarships may be available upon request.

In 10 Weeks You Will:

  • Experience Acumen’s flagship leadership training embedded in our multinational Fellowship program
  • Be challenged to examine your fundamental beliefs and your responsibility to build a more just, inclusive, sustainable world
  • Develop the muscle of leading your team, department or organization through challenging environments with empathy
  • Be coached on diagnostic and decision-making methodologies to bridge opposing views and find new opportunities in opposing tensions
  • Refine your purpose through the exploration of critical literature that gets to the core of human values and just societies
  • Join a select cohort of like-minded peers who’ve chosen to step-up and lead change

Exercise Leadership More Effectively

Learn essential moral leadership mindsets for your life and career.

Accelerate Your Impact

Develop hard-edged skills to address problems in your organization and the world.

Gain Valuable Feedback

Tap into Acumen's 20 years of expertise to solve problems in real-time.

Join A Lasting Community

Build meaningful relationships with a cohort of like-minded innovators daring to lead.

Why Hard-Edged Skills

The world is shifting rapidly and so are the paradigms and practices leveraged by a waning generation of reign holders. Staff, stakeholders, customers, and citizens are demanding a new type of leadership — one based not only on character, empathy, urgency, and purpose but the hard-edged skills necessary to reimagine systems, societies, and success. 

The Leadership Essentials for Innovative Builders accelerator is a first of its kind leadership program that pulls together a set of tools that has inspired and driven a generation of Acumen Fellows at the forefront of systems and social change. 

To be effective in today’s continuous cycle of market, system, and societal disruption, one must understand how to think differently, cross lines of difference, redefine success, adapt quickly, foster diversity, and lead while unapologetically prioritizing values and ethics.

Beyond what we can clearly see and feel happening around us, studies overwhelmingly show that the world is in the midst of a leadership crisis. While the new generation of leaders will represent 75% of the workforce in just 4 years, 63% of them report that their leadership skills are not being sufficiently developed, 55% of current CEOs agree. Additionally, 77% of employees rank ‘trust in leaders’ as the highest-ranked link to employee engagement — greater than organizational culture (73%) and opportunities for career growth (66%).

Serendipitously, understanding how to lead with character, ethics, and empathy isn’t only better for people and planet but —  for those who need the nudge — it’s also a clear and proven competitive advantage in a global market where consumer bases and citizenry are demanding ‘more’ from companies, organizations, governments, and those who dare step up to lead.

This Program May be for You if: 

  • You’re in position — or moving into position — to influence and affect change in your company, department, organization or social enterprise
  • You don’t think the last generation business leadership development programs sufficiently address the challenges you or your organization are facing
  • You want to become better at leading through uncertainty and navigating the systems around you
  • You’re an active or aspiring builder (corporate intrapreneur, for-profit social entrepreneur, or a nonprofit, governmental or organizational leader)
  • You’re ready to show up for yourself and for others, to challenge yourself to learn and think in new ways. This won’t be easy and it won’t be passive

IMPORTANT: This program will not focus on the more technical aspects of building a successful social innovation. Rather we focus on the hard-edged leadership skills that we’ve found to be an essential part of leading change.

Learning Formats

  • 10 Group Learning Labs
  • Facilitated learning of frameworks for decision-making that show you how to hold values in tension and lead through change
  • Weekly consultations with peers
  • In-depth guided discussions of curated readings
  • Weekly assignments to apply learnings as you refine your own leadership
  • Facilitated Zoom based workshops and discussions
I believe my confidence has boosted exponentially. Also I feel I have matured as a leader in the process of my journey with Acumen. I am able to see these changes in myself.
Acumen Fellow
... now ... when tackling problems I don't just see the problems, I think about what life defining moments, cultures, conversations, etc. led these people to this problem.
Acumen Fellow
This is a profound experience for me, not just as a leadership program, but as an overall human experience
Acumen program participant


Module 1

Who’s in This Journey with Me?

  • Examine your identities, values, and choices that have shaped your journeys till now.
  • Connect with peers and begin to build trust and togetherness for the journey ahead.

Module 2

How do you Define Success?

  • Envision the change you wish to create in your organization, city, country or the world.
  • Practice listening and reflecting to examine difficult questions and choices critical to redefining success.

Module 3

How do we Move Beyond an Either/Or?

  • Diagnose and identify moments when values are in tension.
  • Learn to engage in difficult conversations and manage systems of values in tension using tools and frameworks.

Module 4

What is Leadership?

  • Bring your live challenge into the program.
  • Expand and apply your understanding of leadership, authority, and intervention.

Module 5

What’s the Actual Work?

  • Distinguish between technical and adaptive work when leading change.
  • Identify and examine your own leadership challenge.

Module 6

Are You Mobilizing the Right People Around the ‘Right’ Problem?

  • Understand why people support, resist, benefit, or lose when you lead adaptive change.
  • Define stakeholders and factions critical to your adaptive challenge.
  • Understand how discomfort can be a proxy for progress towards change.

Module 7

How Do We Put Humanity at the Center of Our Work?

  • Think deeply and ask critical questions about the ideas of humanity and universal dignity.

Module 8

Why is Understanding Identity Essential for Leadership Today?

  • Understand the role of identities in having conversations across lines of difference.

Module 9

What are the Values we Hold in Tension to Build a Just Society?

  • Deliberate on the nature of humanity and the systems needed for humans to flourish.

Module 10

So, Are You Ready to Lead?

  • Reflect and refine your purpose.
  • Write your own manifesto that memorializes your values, goals, and dreams for building a just and inclusive world by connecting the dots between your theoretical and practical learnings.


Key Dates


July, 2021


September, 2021

Program Ends

November, 2021

Time Requirements

You should expect to spend at least 6 hours per week dedicated to this program. The learning experience is fully online and includes weekly individual work, peer discussions, and facilitator-led full cohort synchronous sessions.


How are participants selected?


We are looking for participants who:

(1) are eager to reflect on and grow their leadership capabilities

(2) are excited about learning with and from peers

(3) are working to build a more just, inclusive, sustainable world

We will review applications on a rolling basis and invite finalists for a 30-minute phone interview.

From there, the final cohort will be announced and formed.

What is the tuition?


Tuition is $5000 per individual.

Scholarships of up to 50% may be available upon application based on the needs of the individual.

What if I can’t participate in this round?


We plan to offer the next session in 2022.

Sign up to receive information on the next session.

I thought Acumen Academy courses were free?


Whilst the overwhelming majority of Acumen Academy courses are free — thanks to the support of our partners and community —  this leadership program requires small group participation, cohort building, workshopping, and deeper levels of facilitation and staff involvement. This level of support can’t be offered at scale as with our free courses that often have over 10,000 students.

We’ve recognized the need for a leadership program that bridges the gap between our open enrollment courses and our year long intensive Fellowship program. In response to that need, we are introducing this paid program.

If you are looking for one of our many free course offerings, you may visit our course catalog here.

What are the time requirements?


You should expect to spend at least 6 hours per week. The learning experience is fully online and includes facilitator led, peer-to-peer, and self-guided synchronous and asynchronous sessions.

About Acumen Academy

Acumen Academy is the world’s school for social change. Our mission is to unleash a new generation of social innovators and leaders with the character and competence to build a more just, inclusive and sustainable world. Blending the best of online and offline learning, we offer anyone, anywhere access to the practical tools, practices, resources and supportive community they need to achieve positive social change. The Acumen Academy community represents a new generation of social innovators and leaders committed to doing what’s right in a world that loves easy.

Learn more at www.acumenacademy.org.