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Spring 2023 Course

Applying Adaptive Leadership to Thrive and Lead Change in Uncertain Times

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

This course offers students the opportunity to learn and apply principles of adaptive leadership to strengthen their ability to lead from any level and help people and organizations through significant change. First developed by faculty at the Kennedy School of Government and one of the most popular fields of study in their curriculum, adaptive leadership is particularly well-suited for the legal profession and the “trusted advisor” roles that lawyers often play in helping both public and private institutions navigate uncertain times and adapt and change as the world changes around them.

What you will learn: In this highly experiential course, you will learn about:

  • The complexity of adapting and evolving in turbulent times at both the personal and organizational level;
  • How to lead and hold people through change;
  • How to thrive in uncertainty by increasing your tolerance for risk and ambiguity and gaining perspective about the dynamics of social disequilibrium;
  • How individuals, teams and organizations can achieve goals that have proven impervious to the best laid plans and intentions, by identifying and challenging operating assumptions, core values and motivations;
  • How to have courageous conversations to address the competing interests and conflicts that an adaptive challenge presents, to engage stakeholders and lead change more effectively; and
  • How to stay anchored, patient, engaged and creative in an adaptive, stress-filled situation, as you are doing the hard work of adaptive leadership.

How the course works: This course is team-based and will include a mixture of:

  • Short, interactive lectures;
  • Case-based analyses of past leadership experiences/failures (students’ own cases and others);
  • Interactive “leadership labs” that challenge students to help each other to learn about leadership; and
  • Weekly, self-facilitated 75-minute meetings in small teams to analyze team members’ own leadership cases.

Students are required to read/view background material before each class and to submit weekly reflection papers and a short, final paper summarizing the learnings from the course. Student grades will be based upon how well they demonstrate in their reflection papers and final paper their understanding of the application of adaptive leadership principles to drive change, and their ability to apply those principles within the structure of the class. Students will receive weekly feedback on their reflection papers and will have the opportunity to meet frequently with Teaching Fellows and Professors Westfahl and Chipungu.