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Harvard Kennedy School

Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict and Courage

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Next dates

Sep 15—20
6 days
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
USD 9400
USD 1566 per day
Feb 2—7, 2020
6 days
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
USD 9400
USD 1566 per day




Every day we make decisions based on a personal set of assumptions that are often guided by our “gut instinct.” Understanding the why and how of those assumptions—and how to manage them—can result in better leadership.

The executive education program, Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict and Courage, delves into why we lead the way we do. The program offers a stimulating and challenging curriculum that invites you to learn how to exercise leadership with more courage, skill and effectiveness.

A Unique Approach to Leadership

Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict and Courage is different than other executive education leadership programs that focus primarily on building a distinct set of skills and tactics. Instead, you'll reflect on your deepest assumptions and most strongly held values. You'll then consider how those values and beliefs may have limited you in the past.

The program also challenges you to look beyond formulating quick technical solutions that try to solve deeper organizational issues. Instead, it asks you to examine yourself and the competing commitments and loyalties in your organization or community.

The one-week program requires participants to be actively engaged on several levels—in the classroom, in small groups and in individual reflection.

Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict and Courage will provide you with:

  • A deep discussion of issues, such as creating and claiming value, understanding the relationship between leadership and authority, exercising influence and managing the individual and institutional dynamics of change
  • An exploration of a wide range of leadership strategies and new ways of exercising leadership, whether in a position of authority or just one member of a group
  • A look at the dangers and risks associated with exercising leadership—the chaos and conflict—and how you can build up your capacity to navigate unpredictable waters


Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict and Courage is a one-week executive program led by Professor Timothy O'Brien, a leadership and conflict resolution specialist.

What makes this program unique is that you get exposed to key leadership concepts in the moment. The dynamic classroom setting forces you to confront some of the very same conditions that make leadership—and being a leader—so challenging in the public sphere.

In class and in smaller group sessions you'll discuss how to:

  • Exercise leadership without authority.
  • Analyze and manage the dynamics that impede progress.
  • Unlock individual and group creativity.
  • Translate purpose and commitment into effectiveness.
  • Find your voice.
  • Stay alive in a leadership role.

A key element of the curriculum will be the personal leadership challenges that you and your colleagues in the program will be asked to discuss and reflect on. These challenges form the basis of peer group consultations throughout the week.

Who should attend

Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict and Courage is intended for senior executives in government, corporate and nonprofit organizations who wish to better understand the personal aspects of leadership and to improve their capacity to lead. Because the participants’ own experiences are critical to the learning process, we will choose a class that is professionally and geographically diverse.

Recommended applicants include:

  • Senior public officials at the national, state and local level
  • Corporate executives, including C-level, vice president and director
  • Nonprofit and NGO leaders

You should come prepared to exercise leadership in the classroom, help shape class conversation, and identify and question your own firmly held ideas about leadership. Since leadership is alive and well in any classroom setting, class dynamics will play an integral role in the program’s curriculum.


Tim O’Brien is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is Faculty Chair of the Leadership for the 21st Century program (L21). Tim also teaches two degree courses: Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change and Developing People: Individual & Systemic Capacity Building...


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