Self Development & Creative Leadership


This course is designed to magnify the potential of everything else you learn at Catalyst.

Conventional ways of thinking will be challenged, possible new ways of thinking will emerge and you will find yourself acting to create success in the areas of life, creativity and leadership that matter most to you.

The course has been presented at more than 50 universities around the world under it's official title of 'Being A Leader & The Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological / Phenomenological Model '

From artists to academics and from students to retirees, many people who have taken this course state simply, and without any grandeur, that it changed their life. 

Real creative leadership

Whether conscious or not, leadership is always required to bring a new piece of music, audio, film, acting or performance into being.

This is as true during the creative act itself as it is during the gritty process of delivering your artistic vision to the world and discovering and building an audience for your work. 

Mention the word ‘leadership’ in the creative world and many people assume this must be about business or politics - almost a dirty word, related to controlling or coercing others. Participants of this course discover that real leadership never means just a position, a title, time, money, influence, or any of the traits typically “required” to be a leader or produce the results of a leader.

Instead of more knowledge about leadership, you will be provided with access to actually being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as your natural self-expression. It’s a type of leadership that is applicable in every area of your life as a human being. From realising your creative projects to working with others to your relationship with yourself and others. 

Tell it how it is

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

Barack Obama

Course structure

The course is based on an ontological/phenomenological model and thence in the words of the course, rather than just knowing about leadership, it will leave you being a leader and exercising leadership effectively and with a powerful set of tools and frameworks for self development. The content in each of the three parts of this course is not presented merely as ideas to be understood and mastered. Rather, students work to master certain powerful contexts that shape and colour the way in which the circumstances one confronts in leadership situations occur or show up, and how one occurs for oneself in such situations.  When mastered, these  contexts for leader and leadership result in the circumstances of any leadership situation, and oneself in such situations, occurring or showing up so that one’s naturally correlated way of being and acting is that of being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as one’s natural self-expression.

  • Integrity (in our model, a positive phenomenon): Being whole and complete – achieved by honoring one’s word as we define honoring (creates workability, creates trust).
  • Authenticity: Being and acting consistent with who you hold yourself to be for yourself, and who you hold yourself out to be for others (leaves you grounded and able to be straight with others without using force).
  • Being Given Being and Action by Something Bigger than Oneself: Source of the serene passion (charisma) required to lead and to develop others as leaders and the source of persistence (joy in the labor of) when the going gets tough.
  • Being Cause in the Matter: Being cause in the matter of everything in one’s life as a stand one takes on self and life, and acting from that stand. It is not true that you are the cause of everything in your life, rather this is a place to stand – a place from which to deal with life that you have chosen for yourself. It simply says, “you can count on me (and, I can count on me) to look at and deal with life from the perspective of my being cause in the matter.” In taking this stand you give up the right to assign cause to the circumstances, or to others, or to the waxing and waning of your state of mind – all of which leave you helpless (at the effect of). When you see how this works it will be clear that taking this stand does not prevent you from holding others responsible. By contrast, when you have mastered this aspect of the foundation required for being a leader and exercising leadership effectively, you will experience a state change in effectiveness and power in dealing with the challenges of leadership (not to mention the challenges of life).

Distinguishing leader and leadership as:

  • Linguistic Abstractions: Creates leader and leadership as “realms of possibility”
  • Phenomena:  Leader and leadership as experienced, that is, as exercised, or what one observes or is impacted by
  • Domain:  The temporal sphere in which leader and leadership function
  • Terms: Leader and leadership as definitions
  • Ontological Perceptual Constraints:  That which limits and shapes (distorts) what we perceive of the situations we are dealing with in any leadership situation)
  • Ontological Functional Constraints: Automatic stimulus-response behavior that limits one’s way of being and acting in any leadership situation)

Rocket fuel

The leadership and self development tools acquired on this course are the rocket fuel which will help you realise your unwritten future and provide you with the self knowledge, the focus and the drive required to create it.

However you measure it and whatever artistic realm you are working in, most creatives would like to achieve success with their creative projects. From successful completion of a deeply personal artistic exploration all the way through to long term financial security and a global audience, there are many types of success an individual may wish to achieve.

For those of you with even larger goals in mind, the course is ideal for anyone with the courage, audacity and heart who wishes to contribute to creating a better world that works for us all, and thus transform the quality of life on our planet.

Essential information

The 2023 course will run over approximately 10 weeks. Sessions take place on a Saturday morning from 10 - 12 and 12.30 - 14.30 CEST

Course start: Saturday January 14th 2023

Course end: Saturday April 1st 2023

All course participants should also attend a course intro session to prepare for the course, meet previous participants and a Q&A session

Course intro: Friday December 9th 2022 16:00-18:00 CEST

Some participants on our previous course took it upon themselves to create a course companion. They wanted to make it easier to understand how it impacted them and how best to approach doing the course. They made such a good job we decided to put it on our website.

Video guide

This course is part of our offer to Catalyst students and there are no extra fees payable.

The 2023 application process is now open. Please think carefully about your response to the three questions concerning what you would like to get out of the course. It may be a simple answer but please be authentic.

Apply here

Click here if you'd like to talk with someone before making an application.

Email us


The course is delivered in an unusual format for Catalyst. There are a set of slides we will work through during each online session. A course reader will read the slides out loud whilst you are reading them yourself. Questions can be asked at any point during the course. The course leader will answer questions and provide further clarity to support the ideas presented in the slides. There are regular discovery workshops where you may work alone or with others on the ideas that have been presented. These are sometimes followed up by whole group sharing sessions. Everyone will be encouraged to share their discoveries but all sharing is ultimately voluntary!

The course was originally developed by Werner Erhard (Independent), Michael Jensen (Professor Emeritus Harvard Business School) & Jeri Echeverria (Professor and Provost Emerita, California State University). 

By applying the ontological and phenomenological approaches to their study of leadership they have discovered actionable access to altering the way in which you occur for yourself in situations requiring leadership. Since the course's inception in 2004 it has been delivered in more than 50 licensed universities and institutes of higher education around the world including the University of Manchester, UCLA California, Erasmus University Rotterdam and many others.

The course delivered at Catalyst Institute for Creative Arts & Technology has been modified to make the language more appropriate for our students.

No! Our course is usually delivered in partnership with Screenology, a film school in the UK, to students attending our respective institutions. In 2021 we had participants from the University of Surrey and in 2022 we are hoping to have team members from our partner university in the UK. From time to time we may also invite a small number of students or staff from other partner HE institutions. We aim to create a rich and diverse audience for each course.

We see this course as a powerful gift to you our students and a contribution to humanity. If you take on board all that you discover on the course, it will transform your approach to your life and your creative endeavour. We are fortunate enough to be in a position to make it available for free to students already attending a course at Catalyst. Why would we not?

In our online version of the course we aim to restrict participant places to 80. Where interest exceeds 80 we will attempt to put on a new course within 6 months.

The course is available for any student but we give preference to alumni and to those students in their final year.

Given the complex timetabling we have at Catalyst it is virtually impossible to find a time that works for everyone.

If you could attend nearly all of the sessions but might have to miss a small amount please let us know as we may be able to make it possible for you to attend.

If you would like to take the course but this year the course clashes too much with your timetable please let us know. If there is enough interest we may run the course again in the spring/summer of 2021. Alternatively you may wait until the following year to see if your timetables have changed.

Seems odd doesn’t it. We’ve only run it twice in an online format but if you look at some of the participant quotes you can see for yourself how impactful it has been.

Of course! For anyone who is retaking the course we will setup a meeting before the course starts to explain how to approach it particularly with respect to honouring the course participants who are taking it for the first time.

The course is available for alumni of Catalyst/dBs Berlin whom have attended a course with us within the last 5 years.

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anaïs Nin