Master of International Affairs   Master of Public Policy  

Staying alive - Sustaining leadership in the face of crisis

We live in an increasingly complex, pluralistic world. These times call for individuals from all levels of hierarchy to practice leadership: That is, to mobilise people, communities and organisations to confront the tough challenges they face and to make the changes necessary to thrive. In a crisis, facing tough challenges might be too overwhelming, so exercising leadership in times of crisis will be more targeted at keeping people safe, managing intensive emotions and ambiguity. At the same time it is essential to support people in learning and make progress on the challenges underlying the imminent dangers of a crisis.

This workshop introduces students to the diagnostic distinction between leadership and authority. Leadership is an activity that can be exercised irrespective of authority. This generates the potential for exercising leadership from any position within a group or organisation. Students also learn to distinguish between technical problems and adaptive challenges - those challenges that cannot be solved by expertise and management alone, but that require innovation and learning. They reflect on and experiment with intervention strategies for adaptive challenges.

Leadership in times of crisis requires a different set of strategies. Students learn to distinguish between imminent dangers and underlying issues and develop ideas how to deal with emotions, uncertainty and ambiguity. Students then apply these concepts to their own professional experiences. They use a peer consultancy model to diagnose their own cases of leadership failure and begin to develop alternate strategies for action.

The course draws on the leadership teaching and experiential learning methods in leadership used at the Harvard Kennedy School. Student cases and experiences are valued over prepared case materials. Moreover, students analyse the evolving dynamics of the class itself as a case in point to better understand the challenges of collective learning and change.