History attests that leadership has never been just about single individuals perched at the top of the greasy pole. It has always been more complex a process than the leader-centric leadership literature would seem to suggest,” says Barbara Kellerman, the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership. In her Fall 2020 course MLD-352: The Leadership System: Leaders, Followers, Contexts, Kellerman and her students explore that notion by examining the interconnected dynamics that followers and context play in the story and success (or failure) of a leader. Through her many years of reading and writing on leadership Kellerman has developed a novel framework to help students analyze situations in which leaders (and followers) find themselves, and to understand what roles they can, should, and (perhaps) should not play. “This is not in any conventional sense a ‘how to’ course. Rather it is an intellectual journey into the heart of leadership,” explains Kellerman.
Drawing on a breadth of thought from Confucius and Machiavelli to James MacGregor Burns, and examples from Nazi Germany to modern leaders like Angela Merkel and Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, this course covers concepts of the leadership “industry,” our ideas about authority, the dynamics of contextual change, and varieties of leadership, good and bad. Harvard students can view a video course preview with Kellerman.
Learn more about Barbara’s approach:
View a (~10min) video with Barbara describing her 2012 book The End of Leadership and summarizing her view of the Leadership System and the Leadership Industry.
Read her regular blog on current events and issues of leadership in the news, or explore her latest books Leaders who Lust (Cambridge Univ. Press) Professionalizing Leadership (Oxford Univ. Press).
Listen to a Leadership Perspectives Webinar from the International Leadership Association about about how and why leadership and followership have changed over time, especially in the last forty years. She also raises questions about leadership as both a scholarly pursuit and a set of practical skills including: Does the industry do what it claims to do—grow leaders? Are leaders as all-important as we think they are? What about followers? Isn’t teaching good followership as important now as teaching good leadership?
MLD-352 will be offered at the Harvard Kennedy School in Fall of 2020. Kellerman’s other course MLD-349M: Bad Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Contexts will be offered in Spring of 2021, respectively. For questions about these courses, or any other leadership courses in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.