fbpx Leadership from the Inside Out: The Capacity to Lead and Stay Alive–Self, Identity, and Freedom | Harvard Kennedy School
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 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) the sources and forms of danger in leading change; (2) the freedom of mind to read and respond to these dangers; and (3) the personal capacities 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 course process itself and the shared cases of the current crises facing communities around the world - to understand self, identity, and the dynamics of major cultural (social, political, and economic) change.


Attendance at the first class is required. Students in the Night Time Zone can review the recording of the first class. Please note, students will also participate in weekly team meetings on Mondays and Fridays to be scheduled with the teaching team.