In the slipstream of the Rio + 20 Earth Summit in 2012 which articulated ‘The future we want’, on 29–31 May 2013, at the 5th Delft Symposium on Water Sector Capacity Development, UNESCO-IHE convened development practitioners, researchers, sector specialists, policy makers and capacity development specialists to examine who will take the lead in developing capacity ‘from Rio to reality’. This paper maps some of the major challenges and choices to increase water security in the 21st century, outlines trends and relevant models in leadership development, and explores how leadership can be nurtured and catalyzed through capacity development for individuals, organizations and networked communities to deliver on our shared visions, especially in developing countries. Leadership practice, by individuals and organizations, is examined in a range of short cases studies. The authors propose the adoption of modern approaches that will expand individual and collective leadership at all levels and combine cognitive competencies, including in-depth knowledge of integrated water resources management (IWRM), with transformational individual development.

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