Ronald Heifetz Photo

Ronald Heifetz

King Hussein Bin Talal Senior Lecturer in Public Leadership


To lead is to live with danger. Although it may be exciting to think of leadership as inspiration, decisive action, and powerful rewards, leading requires taking risks that can jeopardize your career and your personal life. It requires putting yourself on the line, disturbing the status quo, and working with organizational and political conflicts. Those who choose to lead take risks and sometimes get neutralized or killed for doing so.

In this course, we explore how self-knowledge and self-discipline form the foundation for staying alive in leadership. The course has three parts: (1) an exploration of identity as a profound resource and endangering constraint in the practice of leadership; (2) the freedom of mind to assess situations, manage one’s vulnerability to dangers, and take action; and (3) the ongoing practices of freeing yourself to lead and stay alive, not only in your job, but in the heart and spirit of your work.

The course is designed to be a transformative personal experience – to anchor yourself and generate the freedom and power to work with the plurality of your identities in the daily professional practice of leadership. The course draws on multiple disciplines and areas: economics, sociology, philosophy, psychology, studies of gender and race, religion, literature, as well as organizational and political leadership.  It complements the systems framework developed in MLD-201. Structured into large and small group discussions, the course draws on student cases and case-in-point teaching – using the classroom dynamics in real-time to understand self, identity, and the dynamics of major cultural (social, political, and economic) change.

Interested students should note that this course will be an intensely emotional experience. We explore students’ own cases of failure and success and their experiences of trauma and its impact on identity. 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 this class if they do not feel prepared to undertake a potentially destabilizing exploration.

Attendance at the first class is required.