Technical Leadership Institute


A global learning network
of active INCOSE members
seeking to improve
their leadership skills
in an open, collaborative environment

Global network of learning leaders


Established in 2015, the Technical Leadership Institute (TLI) is a global learning network of INCOSE members committed to improving technical leadership skills to better address today's product, enterprise, and societal complexity. Following nomination by an INCOSE leader, participants embark on an initial two-year experience designed to increase their self-awareness, improve their understanding of complexity, and provide experience in leading through influence in the presence of ambiguity and uncertainty.

Throughout the experience, coaching and mentoring help participants maximize the benefits derived from their experiences. Upon completion of the initial two-year experience, participants are inducted as full members of the TLI, after which they continue their journey of learning together, making their own contributions as members of a vibrant, diverse and growing network for the benefit of their organizations, INCOSE, and the world at large.

Nomination and Selection

The TLI is a cohort-based program emphasizing learning together across organizational, national, and cultural boundaries. New cohorts are formed each year, and the cohort begins their journey with a kickoff workshop in July.

Nominations for Cohort 10 closes on 29 March 2024. Nominees will be notified by the end of April.

Participants in the TLI must be nominated by a formal INCOSE leader (Board Member, Director, Assistant Director, Chapter President, or member of the Corporate Advisory Board) and must be full members of INCOSE or agree to become full members upon selection.  Nominees are chosen based on:

  • Proven aptitude in both systems engineering and technical leadership
  • Comfort working in an uncertain world and ability to tackle wicked, messy problems
  • Demonstrated interest in and commitment to enhancing their personal growth in systems engineering leadership
  • Potential for assuming positions of greater leadership in the future

Nominating letters must describe a specific instance of the candidate demonstrating one or more of the following technical leadership behaviors described in Building a Technical Leadership Model published at the 2016 INCOSE International Symposium, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, July 18-21, 2016:

A vision is an aspirational statement that defines who we are and where we want to go. It provides an impelling purpose that energizes people to do more than they thought they could or would. To accomplish this, however, a vision must be more than just a statement posted on the wall. It must be the start of a continual and ongoing conversation that we, as systems engineers, are well positioned to support, reinforce and encourage.

Strategic thinking is long term thinking, rather than short-term, tactical thinking. It must be continuous and ongoing, not a one-time, up-front event. Technical leaders formulate a hypothesis before acting, treat the action as an experiment to test their hypothesis, and based on the results they observe, continue along the path they are on or formulate a new hypothesis and begin the testing anew. This is the scientific method applied to everything technical leaders do.

Complex problems cannot be resolved by individuals working alone; their resolution requires the efforts of many. Individual contributions must be woven together into a collective enterprise for which success means success of the whole, not of the individual parts. This enterprise represents a vast social network and systems engineers play a vital role in building, maintaining and strengthening these networks. Our goal should be to foster not just tradeoffs that compromise between competing positions but collaboration that allows new ideas to emerge through creative conflict and experimentation. 

Often when people seek to improve their communication skills, they begin by tweaking their “transmitters.” But effective communication is not just about speaking it is also about actively listening. Technical leaders must improve their “receivers.” Active listening requires attention to both the content being spoken and the emotion with which it is communicated. Technical leaders must learn the language of those they seek to influence and speak to them in words they understand.
Since systems engineers must most often lead through influence, the outcomes they seek to achieve will necessarily be accomplished by others. The leader’s role is to influence, guide, encourage and support those who are in a position to produce those outcomes. This requires a sense of humility and a deep respect for the people they seek to lead. Technical leaders must trust the abilities of others and their capacity to learn through discovery, not lecture. The leader’s success will derive from their success, and their acknowledgement that the leader contributed to it.
In order to lead others, technical leaders must first understand themselves and their differences from others. Unless they recognize and understand those differences, they risk talking past others or causing them to reject their input completely. Leaders must continually seek feedback to decrease their blind spots and be willing to reveal things that help others know them better. While the former can make them uncomfortable, and the latter make them more vulnerable, the payoff will be more than worth the effort.

Once nominated, candidates must submit an application package that includes:

  • A copy of the nomination letter from the INCOSE leader
  • A letter of recommendation and support from the candidate’s home organization, including recognition of the required two-year commitment
  • A personal statement describing the benefits for participation the candidate expects will result for themselves, their sponsoring organization and INCOSE
  • A resume describing not only positions the candidate has held but also specific systems engineering results and accomplishments produced

Application packages are due at the end of March and both should be sent to  Applicants will be notified of their selection by the end of April and will join the new cohort in July.  Interested members should discuss their interest with their Chapter President, Sector Director, CAB Representative, or other INCOSE International Leader.

Resources for Nominators and Applicants

Information Briefing

Meet the Coaches

Patrick Godfrey, United Kingdom

Patrick GodfreyPatrick is Emeritus Professor of Systems Engineering and was the Director of the Systems Centre at University of Bristol, UK. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, INCOSE, and the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Patrick built his career as a Director of a large international infrastructure consultancy, Halcrow, leading offshore oil and gas engineering services. His role widened into addressing complex socio-technical issues that drive value and success, e.g. as Strategic Risk Management consultant for Heathrow Terminal 5. For five years, Patrick was the Strategic Relations Director for Halcrow, enabling substantial improvements in customer satisfaction and company profitability. In 2005 he became Prof of Systems Engineering at Bristol, directing the Industrial Doctorate Centre in Systems.

Patrick is a founding coaches of the INCOSE TLI serving every cohort since 2015. His focus is on enabling innovative learning and leadership, in practice. He has co-authored various award-winning books and guides, the latest of which is Doing it Differently - Systems for Rethinking infrastructure.

Suja Joseph-Malherbe, South Africa

Suja Joseph-MalherbeSuja has a passion for leadership and systems engineering and as such she is quite active in INCOSE. She is a member of the inaugural cohort of the INCOSE Technical Leadership Institute and became a coach in 2020. She served as the President of INCOSE South Africa from January 2017 to December 2018.

Suja is an INCOSE Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP) and a Solution-focused Brief Coach (ICF-ACSTHs training). She provides training and consultancy services in systems engineering and leadership development to individuals and organisations through Letter27. She is also a sessional lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of the Witwatersrand delivering post-graduate courses on systems engineering.

Suja has a bachelor's degree in engineering from the University of Witwatersrand and a master's degree in engineering from the University of Johannesburg. She is a doctoral candidate, and her research proposal is titled “A holistic leadership framework for systems engineering practitioners”.

David Long, United States

David LongDavid has spent over 30 years helping organizations assess, adopt, and deploy methods to increase their systems engineering proficiency while simultaneously working to advance the state of the art. David founded and led Vitech where he developed innovative, industry-leading methods and software to engineer next-generation systems. Today, he is the Chief Engineer for Digital Engineering at the Systems Engineering Research Center working to coordinate and advance their digital portfolio. He co-authored A Primer for Model-Based Systems Engineering and frequently delivers keynotes and workshops around the world.

An INCOSE Fellow and Expert Systems Engineering Professional (ESEP), David was the 2014/2015 President of INCOSE. David joined the TLI as a coach in 2019 and currently serves on the INCOSE Board of Directors as the Director for Strategic Integration.

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