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Faculty: Nancy Koehn
This course examines the effectiveness of individual leaders who
lived and worked in moments of great turbulence. The course
aims to understand the values they lived by, the choices they
made—including the strategies they used—and the tradeoffs they
faced as they created widespread power in companies, nations, and
communities. It also focuses on the impact that each of these
individuals had, and how this impact was related to their
respective missions. Particular attention is paid to the
lessons that these leaders offer for individuals today who want to
make a real, positive difference in the world.
This course offers students the opportunity to explore the lives
and work of a number of fascinating men and women, who led
organizations, countries, and movements during periods of
widespread disruption. It also covers the individual journeys
of these people, including their evolution as leaders.
Throughout the course, students are encouraged to examine the
choices each leader made, the path he or she traveled—including the
mistakes and failures each experienced—the values and goals he or
she nurtured, and the larger stage on which that person
acted. This perspective provides a broad understanding of the
long-term impact of leadership and innovation on business,
government, and society. In looking closely at the agency of other
individuals who have exerted lasting influence, students are
challenged to consider their own agency, along with their ambitions
and ideas about leadership.
The course will draw on a range of materials from the humanities
and social sciences, including case studies, articles, book
chapters, plays, and multimedia offerings.
There is an important writing component to the course.
Students are required to write two short critical essays during the
term and one longer integrative essay due right before exam period.
Detailed feedback is provided on all these papers, providing
students an important opportunity to hone their communication
skills, including their critical thinking and writing
Some of the leaders studied include:
Henry V, Winston Churchill, Josiah Wedgwood, Alexander Hamilton, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, H.J. Heinz, John D. Rockefeller, Madam Walker, Milton Hershey, Estée Lauder, Gloria Steinem, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rachel Carson, Gary Hirshberg, Katherine Graham, Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg, and Ernest Shackleton.