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University of Michigan

High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

University of Michigan via Coursera


This course has been designed to help leaders, like you, learn how to effectively navigate the challenges of significant organizational disruptions. As a participant in this course, you’ll discover why an understanding of various stakeholder perspectives can inform and dramatically improve a leader’s response to events that threaten an organization’s very survival. This course is also about understanding and developing individual and organizational resilience—the ability to anticipate potential threats; to cope effectively with adverse events when they occur; and to adapt to changing conditions, ensuring a viable path forward for yourself, your team, and your organization. These topics are particularly relevant in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many course examples will reference lessons leaders around the world have learned during this far-reaching healthcare crisis.

During the eight course modules, which are distributed over four weeks, participants will explore topics such as: Why the VUCA world is making crises more common; Characteristics of resilient organizations and ways to increase resilience; Stakeholder value propositions and how these are threatened during a crisis; Organizing frameworks for estimating the types of crises an organization might encounter; the Unique and challenging nature of the crisis environment; the Fundamentals of crisis leadership; and Building a plan to prepare yourself, your team, and your organization for your next major crisis—which, in today’s world, is not so much an “if”, as a “when”.

Professor Mike Barger, your faculty member for this course, has served as a TOPGUN instructor in the United States Navy and as a founder and executive at JetBlue Airways. His professional experience has helped him learn a great deal about crisis leadership and to gain a true sense of what it means to be resilient. Throughout the course, Professor Barger will draw upon many practical examples that will make the content of this course easy to appreciate, understand, and translate into practical lessons that you will be able to apply immediately at your organization.

Crisis leadership is a topic that’s exciting, daunting, and almost impossible to master. With some time and effort over the four weeks of the course, however, you can develop an exceptional set of crisis-leadership tools that will serve you well throughout your professional career.


  • Modules 1 & 2: Course Introduction and Our VUCA Environment Demands a Focus on Stakeholders
    • During the first course week, participants will gain an appreciation for the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment in which their businesses must operate and how these conditions have dramatically increased the likelihood of an organizational crisis. Participants will also gain a deep understanding of organizational stakeholders and how the perspectives of these stakeholders become vitally important frames of reference for leaders during a crisis.
  • Modules 3 & 4: Developing Resilience and Understanding Stakeholder Reactions to Crises
    • During the second week of the course, participants will learn how to increase their organization’s capacity for resilience, defined as the ability to anticipate potential threats; to cope effectively with adverse events when they occur; and to adapt to changing conditions, ensuring a viable path forward for everyone involved. Participants will also explore this week a model for understanding and predicting how stakeholders will respond to crises that threaten their value proposition with an enterprise.
  • Modules 5 & 6: Crisis Varieties, Responses, and the Unique Nature of the Crisis Environment
    • During the third course week, participants will examine a collection of different crisis types and how each type requires a unique response from crisis leaders. This week will also present a detailed look at the nature of the crisis environment, which will explain why crisis leadership is one of the most challenging aspects of any leader’s set of responsibilities.
  • Modules 7 & 8: Crisis Leadership and Preparing for Future Crises
    • During the fourth and final week of the course, participants will explore the key characteristics of effective crisis leaders and how to effectively demonstrate leadership before, during, and after a crisis. Then, to bring the course to a close, participants will work through a collection of steps that will help them effectively prepare for their next inevitable crisis.

Taught by

Mike Barger


5.0 rating, based on 2 reviews

Start your review of High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

  • In our world which is ever-increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA), organizations of all forms should anticipate that crises will eventually occur and that we can be placed in positions wherein we may not have sufficient information,...
  • Anonymous
    This course is really helpful for people that want to build their leadership skills as well as making decisions in difficult times. You will get all the theories and applications required to lead a team in times of crisis. This course also relates to real events, like the pandemic or monetary crisis.

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