Pioneering Leadership Development | Adaptive Leadership courses at the Harvard Kennedy School

Since 1983, when Ronald Heifetz fielded his first leadership course here, the Harvard Kennedy School has been at the forefront in the field of leadership development. All those years ago, outside of military academies, the scholarly study of leadership was a rarity. But in the years since, Heifetz and his HKS faculty colleagues have spent decades analyzing the personal leadership cases of political, social, and business leaders, and especially those of HKS students themselves. Lessons from these thousands of cases inform and continue to shape the theory of practice and pedagogy of the Adaptive Leadership courses being taught this year at HKS.

MLD-201 Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change is the foundational course introducing students to key concepts and frameworks for understanding leadership. Taught in the fall by Farayi Chipungu and Tim O’Brien, and in spring by Hugh O’Doherty, MLD-201 provides a diagnostic and strategic foundation for leadership practice.  Applying theory to practice, these instructors help students learn, and understand the relationship among key concepts:
What is leadership?  How is “leadership” distinguished from “authority” in a given context, system, or organization?  How can one exercise leadership without authority, whether from inside a system, or from outside? What are the available diagnostic tools for analyzing the complexity of change in social systems, and formulating strategies of action?

Students in MLD-201 employ multiple frameworks for analyzing the challenges leaders face. Principally, how can one understand the distinctions between straightforward “technical” challenges and the array of “adaptive” challenges that most often lead to the seemingly inevitable failures of leadership.

“Adaptive work is needed when both the challenge itself and its potential avenues for progress are unclear, if new ideas and new learning are required, and if hearts and minds must shift for progress to occur.”1

Given ever-present, adaptive challenges and concomitant risks of failure, students aspiring to lead must learn reflective practices to become thoughtful and resilient. Using an action-based pedagogy, MLD-201 instructors and course coaches enable students to engage and experience the exercise of leadership. Then, using extensive, scaffolded feedback and reflective activities, students learn and improve their personal leadership practice. Thus, students come to understand what is “the work” of leadership.

Two courses taught by Heifetz build upon these foundational frameworks and practices.

In his January-term, intensive course MLD-202 Leadership from the Inside Out: The Capacity to Lead and Stay Alive–Self, Identity, and Freedom, Heifetz asks students to make a pivot from the contextual, external dimensions of leadership to focus on personal, internal dimensions of leadership.  As complicated as the external context may be, Heifetz has come to understand that of equal importance is a leader’s own self-understanding. “We want to zoom in on YOU as a complex system,” he states. Young and developing leaders must be able to read and comprehend their own multiple identities – e.g., family, political, racial, national, sexual, etc. – and the activation and interplay of these at any given leadership moment.

Ronald Heifetz standing and smiling
Ronald Heifetz, King Hussein bin Talal Senior Lecturer in Public Leadership, at Harvard Kennedy School.
(Photo by Tom Fitzsimmons)

Heifetz has learned that sometimes identity-based frames of reference cloud and confuse leaders, leading them to poorly or incorrectly diagnose situations, putting them into danger and contributing to their own neutralization.  In the course, students undertake a deep exploration of their own internal habits, guided by analytical structures, frameworks, and conceptual methods of analysis, with the goal being to strengthen their sense of self and to become less reactive when identifications are activated to their detriment.  Understanding what students bring into a given leadership situation, and developing a practice to remain flexible, keep curious, open to information and change, but still maintain integrity is the goal of MLD-202. Referencing the U.S. Civil Rights activist and longtime U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Heifetz says, “We want you to become a smart ‘troublemaker’!”

As in MLD-202, Heifetz’s fall course MLD-204 Leadership from the Inside Out: Self, Identity, and Freedom – With a Focus on Anti-Black Racism and Sexism asks students to look inside themselves and to develop a practice of analysis and reflection, but with a special application to the distinctive challenges  – both internal and external – that leaders might face in combating anti-Black racism and sexism. Focusing on these two discrete, but admittedly huge, challenges to the practice of leadership, students can draw lessons about fighting other forms of enculturated injustice, as well as any other challenge for which they are willing to engage in the dangers of leadership.

“We want you to become a smart ‘troublemaker’!”

The course has four strands that weave through the semester:

In the first strand, through political psychology, Heifetz leads an exploration of the nature and sources of identity and analyzes identity as both a profound resource and endangering constraint on the practice of leadership.

The second strand consists of intensive casework. Students analyze leadership cases from their experience in two directions: externally on the ecosystems of anti-Black racism and sexism they have known; and internally on their own identities.

In the third strand, students investigate their vulnerability, as a product of their own unique identities and experiences, to key dangers of leadership and professional life: the temptations of significance, belonging, and validation; authority, power, influence, and control; and intimacy and sexual gratification. Students will strengthen their capacity to assess dangerous situations that can play to their weaknesses and then learn to respond to these with self-awareness and discipline.

In the fourth strand, students explore ongoing ways to generate the freedom of mind and heart to engage fully in the diagnostic and action work of leadership and stay alive in their lives and in the spirit of their work.

As is true of all the adaptive leadership courses described here, MLD-204 draws on multiple disciplines and areas of study: history, economics, sociology, philosophy, psychology, studies of gender and race, religion, literature, as well as organizational and political leadership.

Special note on MLD-202 and MLD-204:  These courses are designed to generate a personally transformative education. Interested students should note that these courses will be an intensely emotional experience. They explore students’ own cases of failure and success as well as their experiences of trauma and its impact on identity, especially MLD-204. Students can choose how deeply they explore these experiences, and no one will be pushed to share more than they wish. Nevertheless, students should not take these classes if they do not feel prepared at this time to undertake a potentially destabilizing exploration.

The personal frameworks in MLD-202 and 204 complement the systems framework developed in MLD-201 Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change, so it is strongly recommended that students take MLD-201 first, or, at a minimum, concurrently with 202 or 204.

Any of the above mentioned courses will nicely complement other courses in the range of leadership focused courses taught in the MLD Area. For questions about these courses, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.

1. Source: The Adaptive Leadership Network.

MLD-234: Conducting Negotiation on the Frontlines with Claude Bruderlein

With the deepening of political divisions on societal challenges, policymakers must navigate increasingly tense environments to engage in constructive dialogues across political fault lines. They must be equipped with relevant sense-making frameworks, analytical tools and interpersonal skills to maintain productive dialogue with difficult counterparts on contentious issues such as the response to the pandemic, climate policies, gun control or irregular migration. Public officials and civil society organizations alike are not only expected to craft a constructive dialogue with all stakeholders but also to prevent and mitigate the risks of instrumentalization by various groups. To fulfill their role in such environments, policy professionals need to acquire strategic capabilities to lead constructive engagements with a wide range of stakeholders from the most supportive to the most disruptive while managing risks effectively in a tense public arena.

Student who take MLD-234 Conducting Negotiation on the Frontlines with Claude Bruderlein develop a solid understanding of the social, behavioral and cognitive implications of political tensions in society and equip students with the required strategic frameworks and practical tools to engage in high-stake policy dialogue and negotiation. It will provide students with core competences on strategic planning and crisis negotiation informed by current practices from the political, commercial and humanitarian sectors. It will further expand their technical skill set and self-confidence to engage with adversarial or intimidating counterparts while facilitating their connections with US-based frontline negotiators. This course is designed for students who intend to work in high-intensity environments at the domestic or international level. It complements the January-term course IGA-353M Frontline Negotiation Lab examining negotiation practices in the response to the Ukraine crisis in Europe.

Please note, this is a jointly offered course hosted by the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and, accordingly, students must adhere to the academic and attendance policies of HCSPH.

MLD-234 is taught in close collaboration with the Centre of Competence and Humanitarian Negotiation and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, enabling students to engage with frontline humanitarian negotiators from the UN and other international agencies operating in crises around the globe. This course offers a unique safe space to review and discuss current challenges and dilemmas with stakeholders of ongoing negotiation processes and examine practical tools and methods to overcome these challenges. Students will also be encouraged to develop their own critical thinking about these issues and to test their negotiation skills in simulations and other practical exercises.

Claude Bruderlein is Adjunct Lecturer on Global Health and Senior Researcher at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Adjunct Lecturer at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. He also holds a secondary appointment at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. In his research, Mr. Bruderlein focuses particularly on the conduct of negotiation in complex and hostile environments.

Claude BruderleinSince 2012, he is serving as Strategic Advisor to the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, focusing on strategic relationships, communities of practice and institutional development. He also serves as Senior Researcher at the Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation (CCHN), a joint endeavour of the ICRC, the World Food Program (WFP), the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and Médecins- Sans-Frontières (Doctors-Without-Borders) (MSF). In 2010, he co-founded the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection and served as its first President of the Board until 2012.

Before joining Harvard University, Mr. Bruderlein served as Special Adviser on Humanitarian Affairs to the UN Secretary General, focusing particularly on issues related to the negotiation of humanitarian access and the targeting of sanctions. He worked on negotiation of access in Afghanistan and North Korea. He also served as an independent expert to the UN Security Council on the humanitarian impact of sanctions in Sudan, Burundi, and Sierra Leone. He has previously worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as a field delegate in Iran, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Yemen.

MLD-234 is an excellent complement to the fall course MLD-236 Continuing Conflict: Old Challenges and New Debates with Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Bruderlein’s own January course IGA-353M Frontline Negotiation Lab, and other MLD negotiation courses.  Questions about other MLD negotiation courses or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.

 

MLD-601: Operations Management with Mark Fagan

Operations are at the heart of public service delivery. Considering essential service providers currently in the spotlight like the U.S. Postal Service, state-level providers of unemployment insurance, and public health agencies throughout the world charged with distributing the COVID-19 vaccines to populations across the globes, we see that optimal operations management can be critical to people’s lives.  What, then, does it take for leaders of organizations like these to optimize for both effectiveness and efficiency, delivering for the public, and satisfying those to whom they are accountable?  MLD-601: Operations Management taught by versatile Lecturer in Public Policy Mark Fagan explores how operations management is critical to value creation in the public sector. Featuring experiential learning through consulting projects with local government agencies and non-profit organizations, Fagan’s course helps students tackle real operations management issues. Past clients have included the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools, Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, Massachusetts Department of Revenue, and Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.  One recent notable student project was on “Improving Data Operations at Pine Street Inn’s Workforce Development Unit,” which aimed to help this major Boston organization understand and manage its job training program for homeless people.

At the end of this rigorous but fun course students will be able to:

  1. See opportunities to improve operations.
  2. Diagnose the problems and barriers to creating value.
  3. Design effective and efficient solutions.
  4. Apply concepts to solve client issues.

In addition to Operations Management, Fagan also teaches MLD-605: Systems Thinking and Supply Chain Management (Spring) and a  section of the MPP core course API-501 Policy Design and Delivery I.

Learn more about the work of Fagan and his students in these courses by exploring the Autonomous Vehicles Policy Initiative at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government,
Listen to Fagan discuss how policymakers can navigate the robot car revolution on this HKS PolicyCast podcast.

Read how students in the Spring 2020 Supply Chain Management course went to work to help when the COVID-19 struck

Harvard Kennedy School course helps COVID-19 front lines

For questions about any of Mark Fagan’s courses, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.

MLD-208 Moral Practice for Public Leadership with Chris Robichaud

For Chris Robichaud, HKS Senior Lecturer in Ethics and Public Policy, it’s not enough to teach interesting ethical principles: “I want students to see ethics all around them, not just as something we talk about in a classroom.” With HKS students aspiring to a wide variety of leadership positions, Robichaud’s new course, MLD-208: Moral Practice for Public Leadership explores how moral practice can inform, complement, and most importantly improve all sorts of good public leadership. This new course does not simply offer another theory of leadership—“moral leadership”—but instead Robichaud aims to foster “moral practice,” specifically, a set of exercises, activities, and methods, to teach students to cultivate their moral perception, moral imagination, and moral character, all of which are directed towards improved moral action in the public sphere.

Students will come away with insight into their own ethos, strategies on how to continue to develop it (a lifelong pursuit), and models on how to have it deeply inform their own public leadership practice.

Students in MLD-208 will explore cross-cultural philosophical traditions, ancient as well as contemporary, to learn about this conception of ethics, understood not merely as a set of intellectual doctrines—not merely as a kind of thinking or reasoning—but as an entire ethos—as a way of life. As a bonus, students will come to learn how several of the most popular notions in leadership studies—purpose, character, authenticity, happiness and more—have their roots in philosophy, roots worth examining. MLD-208 is therefore a valuable complement to other HKS leadership courses, such as MLD-201, -202, -204, -215, -340, 355 and -617M.

Chris Robichaud pointing and smiling against a purple background with a diagram behind him
Sr. Lecturer Chris Robichaud

Robichaud who also serves as the Director of Pedagogical Innovation at Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard is consistently one of the school’s most pedagogically innovative instructors. His focus ever since arriving at Harvard has been on developing ways to teach ethics to students through active experiences. “There’s a stickiness that comes out of ethical simulations; students remember the kind of learning they have around them,” he says. Recent HKS alums will always remember the “Zombie Apocalypse” exercise that Robichaud created and fielded during the school’s student orientation.

For more on Robichaud’s pedagogy, including a brief preview and discussion of the Zombie Apocalypse simulation, view his SXSW EDU 2021 conversation “Why Teach Students About Zombies & Superheroes”

See also Robichaud’s 2020 article with Tomer J. Perry in Journal of Political Science Education “Teaching Ethics Using Simulations: Active Learning Exercises in Political Theory” (Vol.16; No.2): 225-242.

In addition, says Robichaud, “I’ve tried to take popular entertainment, with a focus on scary movies and superheroes (things I love), and show that you really can extract some interesting lessons in moral philosophy and ethics from that entertainment.”   See, for example, this discussion with Robichaud courtesy of WIRED magazine, titled “Harvard Professor Explains What the Avengers Can Teach Us About Philosophy.” 

In keeping to form, MLD-208 will employ a variety of tools to accomplish its learning goals, from the “usual suspects”—cases, simulations, film and other forms of fiction—to new experiential exercises. Students will come away with insight into their own ethos, strategies on how to continue to develop it (a lifelong pursuit), and models on how to have it deeply inform their own public leadership practice.

MLD-208 will be offered in the fall semester at the Harvard Kennedy School. For questions about these courses, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.

Fundamental Negotiation Training at HKS: MLD-215 with Rob Wilkinson and MLD-223 with Kessely Hong

Among the signature curriculum of the Harvard Kennedy School, negotiation training has always stood out as among the most popular due to its practicality and necessity across all sectors and policy domains. Founded by one of the luminaries of negotiation science, Howard Raiffa, HKS faculty have always been at the forefront of negotiation research and training. Furthermore, we recognize negotiation skills are a critical contributor to effective leadership of organizations, campaigns, and social movements of all types.

With the two introductory negotiation courses outside the MPP core, MLD-215 Negotiation and Leadership: Essential Theory and Practice for Enhancing Your Personal Effectiveness with Robert Wilkinson and MLD-223 Negotiating Across Differences with Kessely Hong students can learn the fundamental, time-tested frameworks of negotiation analysis. Both courses introduce the core concepts of distributive bargaining, value creation, stakeholder analysis, trust-building, barriers to agreement, and strategic approaches to negotiation.

Portrait photo of Robert Wilkinson, Lecturer in Public Policy and Leadership
Robert Wilkinson, Lecturer in Public Policy and Leadership

MLD-215 (Wilkinson) will provide students with the fundamental principles, theory and practice of the field of negotiation, but MLD-215 is especially distinctive in blending leadership and negotiation principles in a single course. The curriculum will balance theory and practice, and draws on the classic literature, as well as more recent work. Students will learn using the case study method, active simulations, group work and lectures to bring the conceptual material to life, as well as to build students’ personal negotiation and leadership skills. Drawing on his extensive experience as a practitioner in the field, Wilkinson will emphasize bringing in international examples and cases throughout the course, to provide both domestic and global perspectives on negotiation and leadership.

 

 

Kessely Hong smiling and teaching students in a Harvard classroom
Senior Lecturer Kessely Hong

MLD-223 (Hong) offers more complex, multiple-stakeholder cases and simulations, some of which include salient cultural or power differences and multi-party dynamics. Students are challenged to navigate differences in expectations, attitudes toward risk, culture, power, status, and partisan perceptions. In Hong’s course, students read and analyze a variety of very rich real-world cases, in which interpretations of the protagonists’ actions provide illuminating insights into similar spectrum of dynamics (personal, psychological, political, cultural, etc.) at play in negotiations over public policy.

 

 

Both MLD-215 and MLD-223 serve as pre-requisites for MLD-280M Advanced Workshop in Multiparty Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, the January-term course, taught by Brian Mandell, Mohamed Kamal Senior Lecturer in Negotiation and Public Policy.  Students wanting to additional venues to study, research, and design new ways of negotiation practice will be interested in exploring the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Collaboratory. Established and directed by Brian Mandell, the NCRC develops ways to connect students of negotiation with practitioners on the frontlines and faculty leading cutting-edge research. They seek to advance the field of experiential learning and motivate innovations in teaching advanced negotiation in simulated environments. In addition, NCRC faculty affiliates within the Center for Public Leadership engage in the interdisciplinary study of developments and trends at the intersection of negotiation and leadership.

MLD-215 and MLD-223 are offered at Harvard Kennedy School in Fall semester. MLD-215 will also be offered in spring semester. MLD-280M is offered in January term. If you have any questions about these courses, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.

MLD-355: Public Narrative with Marshall Ganz — A Leadership Practice Translating Values into Action

According to MLD’s  Marshall Ganz, the Rita E. Hauser Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Organizing, and Civil Society, “To lead is to accept responsibility for enabling others to achieve shared purpose in the face of uncertainty.” But where should a student aspiring to lead for the the greater good begin?  For Ganz, the process of leadership starts with the “self” and builds outward into a constituency, creating “us,” a group that’s ready “now” to meet the challenges on the path to shared goals.  In MLD-355: Public Narrative Ganz and his highly collaborative teaching team introduce students to the discursive process through which individuals, communities, and nations learn to make choices, construct identity, and inspire action. The goal is teaching students to link their our own callings to that of a community that shares a call to action, translating deeply held personal values into effective action. Ganz continues, “Because it engages the ‘head’ and the ‘heart,’ Marshall Ganz's Public Narrative Leadership Pedagogy: Head, Heart, Handsnarrative can instruct and inspire – teaching us not only why we should act, but moving us to act.” Based on a pedagogy of guided reflective practice, students work in groups to learn to tell their own public narrative. Developing their own personal practice of public narrative builds students’ leadership capacity, and is especially critical when they are called to respond in moments of challenge like facing loss, lacking power, confronting inequality and difference, and enacting meaningful change.

Over the years Ganz and his course graduates have introduced public narrative training widely across the globe including in  the Obama presidential campaign (2007-8), Sierra Club, Episcopal Church, United We Dream Movement, the Ahel Organizing Initiative, (Jordan), Serbia on the Move (Belgrade), Avina (Bogata), National Health Service (UK), Peking University (Beijing), Tatua (Kenya), Community Organizing Japan (Tokyo) and elsewhere, proving the relevance of narrative practice across disciplines, professions, and cultures.

Students seeking to extend their narrative practice and learning often follow up MLD-355 in the spring by enrolling in Ganz’s other course MLD-377M: Organizing: People, Power, Change, in which put into practice what they’ve learned in organizations, movements, and campaigns of their own.

Beyond HKS, Ganz and graduates of his teaching have established the Leading Change Network, a global community of organizers, educators and researcher aiming ” To meet the challenges to democracy by developing the leadership to organize communities which build power and realize the values of equality, solidarity, and dignity.”

To learn more, view a complete (~75 minute) mini-workshop with Marshall Ganz introducing public narrative pedagogy on the YouTube channel of The Resistance School which was founded in March of 2017 by graduate students of HKS and other Harvard schools. Lesson 1 of the 15 short videos is below; the full set is here.

Well before COVID-19 moved HKS teaching online during the 2020-21 academic year, Ganz and his team with HKS Executive Education were pioneering the teaching of leadership and organizing online. With over 10 years experience developing his online public narrative Exec Ed course Ganz and his team have created an exceptionally strong model of experiential, interpersonal, and interdependent learning. For a sample of, and in-depth introduction to their online teaching pedagogy, view here a (~60 min) video of an online interactive session led by Ganz for Harvard Kennedy School faculty on his approach to online teaching.

MLD-355 will be offered at the Harvard Kennedy School in the fall semester, and MLD-377M will be taught in spring. For questions about these courses, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator. You may also contact Emily Lin, Program Director for Ganz’s Practicing Democracy Project (emily_lin@hks.harvard.edu).