Water Leadership Program

The Water Leadership Program (WLP) is an award-winning program that helps emerging leaders to develop the ability to exert influence, drive change and advance challenging integrated water management projects – abilities associated with the most effective integrated water management leaders.

The WLP is a feedback-intensive, 9-month professional development program, underpinned by a contemporary definition of leadership, commonly known as the DAC Framework.  The DAC Framework views leadership as a process of influence that accomplishes three outcomes:

  • direction: a shared understanding of common goals and strategy (e.g. a shared vision for a new water management project or team)
  • alignment: the joint coordination of resources and activities (e.g. aligning people, projects, funding and research in a team to deliver a shared vision)
  • commitment: a commitment to collective success (e.g. motivating and inspiring others to achieve mutual interests).

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Program overview

Designed to build your capacity to continually develop as a water industry leader over your career, this nine-month program features a balance between academic and real-world approaches to learning including:

  • mentoring activities with experienced water industry executives
  • a sound research and theoretical basis, including conceptual models of effective water leaders, leadership processes and leadership development
  • 1 to 1 coaching sessions with specialist leadership coaches who work in the water sector
  • a mix of face-to-face and online delivery modes, which involve a variety of highly interactive activities
  • the use of individual leadership development plans to ensure that participants focus their developmental activities, practise the application of new knowledge and tools in the workplace, get feedback and local support, and reflect to accelerate learning
  • the use of leadership-focused case studies from the water sector
  • peer review of program design, content and evaluation by leading industry practitioners and academics.

Delivery format

This program is offered part-time over nine months and includes two face-to-face intensives. The program is flexible, to cater to professionals who are currently working. As a participant in the program, you will:

  • complete pre-training exercises, reading and an online 360-degree feedback process
  • attend a face-to-face intensive in Brisbane for five days from 8-12 February 2021, with a second optional intensive for two days on 22-23 July 2021  (an online alternative is provided)
  • build an individual leadership development plan, which includes a leadership project
  • engage in regular one-on-one coaching and mentoring sessions;
  • complete monthly activities between face-to-face intensives (e.g. online training and discussion forums) and assessment activities.

A sector-endorsed program

This program targets non-executive leaders in the water sector. Program participants play a variety of leadership roles, but are all team leaders. Some also lead cross boundary project teams, while others lead teams of staff. Some more senior participants are also preparing for executive roles.

Participants come from all parts of the water sector, with the majority coming from water utilities, State government departments and local government agencies. The average age is mid 30s, with equal participation by males and females.

Since 2011, 173 participants have originated from eight countries, with the majority being Australian.

We have developed a self-assessment tool to help you to determine if the Water Leadership Program meets your current professional development needs, if you are ready to undertake this program now, and what your potential benefit from the program may be.

Download the tool here >

The program has been designed and is delivered each year in accordance with the following principles:

  • The program’s design and content (e.g. conceptual models and leadership tools) should be informed by sound research that is relevant to people playing different roles in the water sector.
  • The design of the program needs to be consistent with the ‘10:20:70 rule’ of leadership development (Lombardo and Eichinger, 2000), which suggests that approximately 10% of development typically occurs via structured training, 20% comes from receiving feedback and support from others, and 70% originates from on-the-job experience.
  • Leadership can be taught and learnt (Avolio, 2005) even though a leader’s personality characteristics and context contribute to effective leadership (Northouse, 2016).
  • The design, content and evaluation of the program should be transparent (e.g. communicated through conference and journal papers).
  • A feedback-intensive leadership development program design is most likely to generate positive behavioural change and a positive return on investment to participants and their organisations (see Guthrie and King, 2004).
  • Leadership development is a lifelong, challenging activity (Avolio, 2005). As such, the program must help participants to actively manage their development as leaders over their careers.
  • The design of the program should include numerous opportunities for participants to build self-awareness, challenge themselves, get frequent feedback from their colleagues, receive support from colleagues, and deeply reflect (Avolio, 2005; McCauley and Van Velsor, 2004).
  • The design should aim to build the individual capacity of water leaders to influence and drive change (i.e. leader development), as well as their capacity to work with other leaders to collectively drive group-based leadership processes (i.e. leadership development).
  • The program should prepare emerging leaders for current and future challenges in the water sector, as well as the ability to play different roles in the water sector. These roles include the champion leader, enabling (adaptive) leader, cross-boundary team leader, thought leader, strategic leader and trusted advisor roles (see Taylor et al., 2015).
  • Face-to-face training should minimise the use of ‘lecture style’ presentations and maximise opportunities for interaction, discussion, self-assessment, information sharing and reflection.
  • The program should be comprehensively evaluated each time it is run and continuously improved.
  • The program’s design should include ‘accountability mechanisms’ to ensure that participants fully commit to the program (Shelton, 2003).

Download the program syllabus >

The following is an overview of the program’s elements, their timings and time commitment for participants.

(The total time commitment is estimated at 14 days over nine months.)


Program elements:

  • Introductory module that provides details of the program’s syllabus, background reading, reflection activities and guidance on how participants can fully prepare for the first face-to-face intensive.
  • Customised 360-degree feedback process (completion of an online questionnaire) to help assess leadership performance, strengths and weaknesses, self-awareness and opportunities to improve.
  • Access to an online classroom and an introductory activity.

Time commitment:

  • Reading / exercises (Dec – Jan): ~1 day.
  • 360-degree feedback: ~2 hours.
  • Online activities: ~1 hour.


Program elements:

  • Pre-training exercises and reading (continued).

Time commitment:

  • Same as December.


Program elements:

  • Five-day face-to-face training session in Brisbane (mid-February). This intensive includes interactive training modules on a variety of leadership topics (with a wide variety of activities), case studies, guest presentations from distinguished executive and emerging leaders, group mentor workshops, analysis of 360-degree feedback, participant presentations, and four social events.
  • Development of individual leadership development plans, including leadership projects. An IWC leadership coach provides comments on draft plans.

Time commitment:

  • Training: 5 days.
  • Drafting the leadership plan and getting input from supervisors, mentors and coaches: ~4 hours.


Program elements:

  • Individual leadership development plans (review, finalisation and initial implementation).
  • One-to-one coaching session (no. 1). The program includes 3 of these sessions with 2 IWC leadership coaches who also work in the water sector.
  • Monthly on-line discussion forum (no. 1) – focussing on self-leadership. The program includes 5 facilitated monthly online discussion activities using a private online learning management system.
  • Local mentoring conversations (initiated by the participant). The program includes 3 local mentoring sessions which occur back at the workplace.

Time commitment:

  • Leadership plans: Allow ~2 hours a week for implementation from March to August.
  • Coaching (including preparation and follow-up activities): ~2 hours.
  • Monthly on-line discussion activity: ~3 hours (most of which will need to occur in the first 2 weeks of the month).
  • Local mentoring conversations: ~2 hours.


Program elements:

  • Individual leadership development plans (ongoing implementation, reflection and plan maintenance).
  • Monthly on-line discussion forum (no. 2) – focussing on team and transformational leadership.
  • Local mentoring conversations.

Time commitment:

  • Leadership plans: Allow ~2 hours a week for implementation.
  • Monthly on-line discussion activity: ~3 hours.
  • Local mentoring conversations: ~2 hours.


Program elements:

  • Individual leadership development plans (ongoing implementation).
  • One-to-one coaching session (no. 2).
  • Monthly on-line discussion forum (no. 3) focussing on leadership pitfalls and the correct execution of strategy.
  • Local mentoring conversations.

Time commitment:

  • Leadership plans: Allow ~2 hours a week for implementation.
  • Coaching: ~2 hours.
  • Monthly on-line discussion activity: ~3 hours.
  • Local mentoring conversations: ~2 hours.


Program elements:

  • Individual leadership development plans (ongoing implementation).
  • Monthly on-line discussion forum (no. 4) – focussing on influence tactics, emergent and transformational leadership.
  • A follow-up feedback process to gather feedback from the participants’ colleagues to assess whether behavioural change is occurring, and to identify further opportunities for improvement. This process uses short anonymous, online surveys that have been customised for each participant so that feedback is aligned to the content of each person’s developmental plan.
  • Local mentoring conversations.

Time commitment:

  • Leadership plans: Allow ~2 hours a week for implementation.
  • Monthly on-line discussion activity: ~3 hours.
  • Follow-up feedback: ~2 hours.
  • Local mentoring conversations: ~2 hours.


Program elements:

  • ILDP Implementation Progress Reports (a short report that provides the IWC and the participant’s supervisor with an update on the implementation of all actions in their ILDP).
  • Two-day ‘follow-up training’ session in Brisbane (late July). An on-line option is provided for participants who cannot attend in person. This intensive includes additional training sessions, guest presentations, analysis of follow-up feedback, participant presentations, a group mentoring workshop, and a celebration dinner.
  • Revised / updated individual leadership development plans (revision for on-going use).

Time commitment:

  • Leadership plans: Allow ~2 hours a week for implementation.
  • ILDP Implementation Progress Reports: ~1 hour.
  • Training: 2 days.
  • Updating leadership plans: ~3 hours.


Program elements:

  • Ongoing use of revised individual leadership development plans.
  • One-to-one coaching session (no. 3).
  • Monthly online discussion forum (no. 5) – this final online activity uses several realistic water leadership challenges / scenarios to bring together elements of the program and help participants to share leadership lessons.
  • A multiple-choice quiz to assess whether key messages have been understood during the program.
  • End of program Reflection Reports. These reports help participants to reflect on what they have learnt during the program, to identify future developmental activities, and communicate key outcomes to stakeholders (e.g. supervisors, mentors and the IWC).
  • Guidance on self-directed learning opportunities following the program (video).

Time commitment:

  • Leadership plans: Allow ~2 hours a week for implementation.
  • Coaching: ~2 hours.
  • Monthly on-line discussion activity: ~3 hours.
  • Quiz: ~1 hour.
  • Reflection report: ~3 hours.
  • Self-directed learning video: ~1/2 an hour.


(After the program has officially closed)

Program elements:

  • Anonymous on-line evaluation survey to identify ways to improve the program in future – optional.
  • Audit of participation by the IWC and provision of certificates in hard copy and PDF form.

Time commitment:

  • Final evaluation (optional): ~1/2 an hour.

It doesn’t matter where you’re joining us from, or where you are at in your career, a range of scholarships and other funding options are available for those interested in studying with the International WaterCentre.

See our scholarships page for more information.

Professional outcomes

The Water Leadership Program is designed for emerging water leaders at the project to middle management level. The program is customised for the water sector to equip participants with:

  • the ability to drive change when addressing ‘wicked problems’
  • exercise influence
  • improve their capacity to demonstrate many of the leadership behaviours needed for future executive roles
  • and develop an enhanced ability to mentor and manage within their individual work context.

Who should enrol?

Project and middle managers with:

  • at least three years of experience in the water industry
  • a desire to complement their technical and management skills with advanced leadership capacities

As a participant you will have opportunities to identify key leadership issues relevant to your individual context. This means that you’ll find the program highly beneficial and relevant regardless of where in the world you come from.

I wish I was directed to this type of leadership course earlier. Some of the highlights from the course for me were: a 360 degree survey and feed-back process to develop a greater awareness of strengths and blind spots, practical tips on self-leadership activities necessary to incorporate in my weekly schedule and enhanced knowledge of proven leadership practices (eg. transformational leadership behaviours).

Are you ready for the WLP?

We have developed a self-assessment tool to help you to determine if the Water Leadership Program meets your current professional development needs, if you are ready to undertake this program now, and what your potential benefit from the program may be.

Benefits to participants

As a participant you will develop:

  • improved ability to drive change, especially when addressing ‘wicked problems’ that involve integrated water management
  • enhanced capacity to exercise influence in a variety of contexts
  • new tools to help you continue to develop as a leader over your career
  • greater self-awareness and improved ability to mentor and coach other developing leaders and staff
  • opportunities to gain knowledge and guidance from researchers and highly respected executives from the water sector
  • improved capacity to demonstrate many of the leadership behaviours needed for future executive roles
  • new social networks with emerging and executive water industry leaders.

Benefits to your employer

Research indicates that networks of skilled water leaders are a major factor in driving change and helping water organisations meet the complex challenges of the 21st century. According to the feedback gathered from participants in the last three rounds, we conservatively estimate that organisations fully funding staff to participate should see a positive return on investment in less than one year (on average).

The program helps emerging leaders to strengthen their skills in:

  • initiating and driving change
  • implementing more integrated and sustainable water management practices
  • leading high-performing, cross-boundary, multidisciplinary teams
  • exercising influence across various organisational boundaries
  • strategically building and using social networks
  • anticipating, planning for, and using ‘windows of opportunity’ to drive change
  • using various influence strategies and models of change.

Two enrolment options

There are two ways to strengthen your water leadership capacity at the International WaterCentre:

  • the Graduate Certificate in Water Leadership, which is a formal postgraduate program enrolled through Griffith University
  • the Water Leadership Program, which is a professional development program, enrolled through the International WaterCentre.

Both programs are identical in content and delivery, except that students in the Graduate Certificate in Water Leadership also undertake a postgraduate-level leadership project, with a higher level of analysis and reporting, complete a higher level of assessment, and work to earn a university qualification. WLP participants work to earn a Certificate of Excellence, but not a university degree.

Find out more about the Graduate Certificate in Water Leadership


Watch the recent program webinar

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