fbpx Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change | Harvard Kennedy School
Farayi Chipungu Photo

Farayi Chipungu

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy

Timothy O'Brien Photo

Timothy O'Brien

Lecturer in Public Policy

Hugh O'Doherty

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy


This course provides a diagnostic and strategic foundation for leadership practice.  Designed for professionals from diverse backgrounds and cultures, the course builds upon the extraordinary experience of many of our students. The purpose of the course is to increase one’s capacity to lead with and without authority, across boundaries, and from any political or organizational position. 

In a world in which most organizations, communities, and societies face enormous adaptive pressures, the practice of leadership is critical – the practice of mobilizing systems of people to thrive in changing and challenging times. In this course, we apply theory to practice, clarifying the relationship among key concepts – leadership, management, authority, power, influence, followership, citizenship – to provide a practical and coherent theoretical framework. We develop both diagnostic tools for analyzing the complexity of change in social systems, and strategies of action. These action strategies include: using authority and power wisely, mobilizing responsibility across boundaries, managing economies of attention, generating innovation, building trust, orchestrating multi-party conflict, regulating disequilibrium, refashioning narratives to both build and depart from history, and building a culture of adaptability for the long-term. In addition, we begin to explore the challenge of managing personally the inevitable stresses and dangers of leadership.

Attendance at first class required. Occasional evening meetings. Please note, while this course allows cross-registration, priority is given to HKS students and historically there has been high levels of interest with minimal openings for non-HKS students.