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Harvard University

Exercising Leadership: Foundational Principles

Harvard University via edX


The crises of our time generate enormous adaptive challenges for our families, organizations, communities, and societies. The need for leadership that can mobilize people to meet these challenges and improve life is critical.

In this introductory course, you will explore strategies for leading in a changing world where adaptive pressures will continue to challenge all of us. You will discover new ways to approach complex organizational systems and take thoughtful action on the work we all face ahead. Most importantly, you will reflect on how to move forward on the leadership challenges you care about most.


  • Introduction: Get on the Balcony
  • 1 Identify the Work to Be Done
  • 2 Lead With, Beyond, and Without Authority
  • 3.1 Take Action: Think Politically
  • 3.2 Take Action: Build Trust
  • 3.3 Take Action: Orchestrate Conflict
  • 4 Anchor Yourself
  • Conclusion: Staying Alive

Taught by

Ronald Heifetz


4.9 rating, based on 16 Class Central reviews

4.6 rating at edX based on 402 ratings

Start your review of Exercising Leadership: Foundational Principles

  • Anonymous
    This course is outstanding and is highly recommended. What is most impressive besides the contents and everything you'll learn about leadership is the method of delivery by the instructor. This instructor is very engaging, even though you are taking this course asynchronously. He inspires you to continue to learn, reflect, and practice using your own leadership problem to apply what you've learned so that the information is very memorable and personal to you. This course will change your understanding of leadership and help to shape you so you can become a better leader by properly diagnosing the problem and using best practices to approach the work to be done. Bravo to this instructor! This is the best course that I've taken on edX.
  • Anonymous
    Simply Fantastic. The instructor is great, I like how he conducts the course and delivers the message. The content itself is great, very helpful and educational. However, the best part of it is the delivery of the content by the instructor and how the self reflections get you to a place in which you gain clarity about your leadership approach and how you can address different situations.
  • Daniel Paterson
    Many interesting concepts and new leadership tools to be found Most intriguing to me where the everyday practical tools you come away with from this course. I found myself reinvigorated to go back and attack the challenges that lead me to look for self improvement in this course. Highly recommended
  • Anonymous
    The content was great and I loved the philosophical yet systematic approach to being a leader.
    I felt very betrayed in the fact that it does not state clearly when you begin this course, that you will not obtain the passing grade unless you upgrade and pay for this.
    With a course that has trust as a topic, I felt very let down as I worked diligently to gain the maximum scores - without realising that a pass was not available to me whatever the outcome.
  • Anonymous
    Good is not measurable. It's my most personally important takeaway from the course. The course is a good introduction to important concepts that will shape the way you think about what leadership is and what to do as a leader, in a way I have not seen in any other course. It would be a good decision to enroll.
  • Anonymous
    The course is excellent. During the course is possible to obtain a clear vision about the leadership foundamentals. All strategies and tools that we learn during the videos are usefull and aplicable in the real world.
  • Anonymous
    It was a well taught course, I saw leadership from another perspective and now I can relate well with it. The examples, and the "use yourself as a case task" were really helpful.

    Thank you it was well explained.
  • Anonymous
    Must attend for Adaptive leaders. The Course involves the concepts of leadership but not management. But leadership is different from management so it is good to attend the course.
  • Anonymous
    This course gave me different perspectives of being a leader. It helped to learn new strategies and patterns for my management skills.
  • Trish Monaco
    Having been a Marketing leader for many years, this course still taught me new things about leadership, such as how to analyze different types of challenges (technical vs. adaptive) and the value of a "stakeholder map" in determining the extent of collaboration needed for an issue. It also provided solid strategies to address issues and had participants complete exercises that allowed you to analyze your own personal scenarios. The balance of instruction vs. personal reflection was very effective.
  • Anonymous
    I am a athlete from 2005 doing marathon, I specialise with long distance 10km to 90km's. I'm doing marathon throw for my heart so now I have NPO Non profit Organisation for the youth and open category to improve my community throw sports teams, to a…
  • Anonymous
    Not a lot of courses have the ability to inspire you like this one. Aside from gaining a better approach when it comes to leadership and facing challenges, you'll find this course inspiring until the end. You'll learn how to tackle issues and problems faced in leadership with the tools presented in this course.
  • Anonymous
    Very helpful in terms of contents and format. Easy to learn and good if you have already experienced part of it cause it ask you to reflect about yourself. Fully recomended.
  • Anonymous
    Excellent professor, very useful material and well designed curriculum. This course introduced truly foundational concepts and shifted my perspective on leadership.
  • Anonymous
    This is an extremely valuable course and I am grateful to have found it to progress my leadership qualities both personally and professionally.
  • Anonymous
    Exceptional course taught by a seasoned professor with experience and ethos, wish I knew of this course 20 years ago.

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