Kimberlyn Leary Photo

Kimberlyn Leary

Associate Professor of Psychology, HMS; Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, HSPH


Scalable leadership requires working with and through others. Teams have become the preferred working unit for organizations and governance, addressing policy innovation and multi-sector problems. As community problems increase in scope and complexity, delivering change via teams is increasingly necessary.

Under the right conditions, a team’s capacity may exceed that of a similar number of individuals working autonomously – especially when the specialized knowledge of team members can be effectively coordinated and leveraged. Technology now enables individuals and groups to collaborate digitally, across a nation, continents, or time-zones. In some instances, a team may be emergent and temporary; at other times, a team may be only one component of an even larger, "team of teams.” While diverse teams may show particular promise sponsoring innovation, a team can just as easily go awry or under-perform: the team’s work may have been inexpertly designed, team members may have conflicting agendas, or the team’s culture may have turned toxic. Depending on the setting, team leadership effectively includes the skill of assembling a balanced collection of personalities and skills, and the ability to work creatively with a team you’ve inherited.

The purpose of this class is to increase the odds of your success in leading and managing teams in public and private settings. Students will work with a broad range of evidence-based frameworks, simulations and cases, which center on collaborative decision-making, negotiating differences, managing roles and responsibilities, and the skillful use of teams to produce affirmative impact on the issues that matter to organizations and communities. We’ll focus on the factors that foster team effectiveness as well as the forces that disrupt a team's performance. The course will sharpen your ability to diagnose team dynamics and take corrective action. Because leading teams requires both analytic capacity and interpersonal skills, students should expect a high degree of interaction with the instructor and among themselves. Your final paper will be an analysis of a problem and/or solution in the context of a specific group or team, which you will produce as part of a team (or small group).