MLD-329: Power and Glory in Turbulent Times:The History of Leadership from Henry V to Steve Jobs

Semester: Spring

Credit: 4.0

Faculty: Nancy Koehn


Day Time Location
Term Start Date 1/23
Meet Day M 4:15 PM - 6:30 PM Belfer 400 Land Hall (HKS)


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 abilities.

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.

Also offered by the Business School as 1123.

John F. Kennedy School of Government 79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
617-495-1100 Get Directions Visit Contact Page