Adaptive Leadership

Mobilizing for Change and Disrupting the Status Quo

Course Details

  • Price: FREE
  • Start Date: Oct 10, 2017
  • Time: 3 hours/week
  • Duration: 5 weeks
  • Partner: Adaptive Change Advisors (ACA)

What You’ll Learn:

  • Understand the root cause of a stubborn and recurring challenge in your organization, team or community
  • Partner with those who are in positions of authority or power
  • Leverage your own power for change
  • Design an experiment that strengthens your ability to create lasting change
  • Learn to lead adaptively in environments with trust issues, political sensitivities, resistance, conflict and distress


Have you have ever struggled with a problem that will not go away? The solutions may often seem obvious, such as the need for a new technology, an expert capability, a different process, or better communication. Yet you seem to face unexpected resistance to these seemingly “obvious” fixes or the problem stubbornly persists.  You may be facing an adaptive challenge.

This introductory course helps you identify and make progress on a leadership challenge in your own life, team, or community. You’ll apply the tools and techniques of Adaptive Leadership, a practical framework developed at Harvard Kennedy School of Government for leading change, particularly during times of uncertainty or when there are no easy answers.  

Adaptive Leadership is a critical skillset for anyone looking to drive systemic change in an increasingly complex world.


Project-Based Course

Course Syllabus

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Learning Tools
  • 4 reading guides highlighting case studies and examples
  • 4 discussion guides to help you identify, analyze and craft an experiment for your own adaptive challenge
  • Video tutorials from Eric Martin
Section 1: Identify your leadership challenge
  • Understand the concept of "getting on the balcony"
  • Tool: The “Gap” Worksheet
  • Reading: ‘The Illusion of the Broken System”
  • Activity: Brainstorm and Identify Your Adaptive Challenge
Section 2: Think Politically to mobilize support
  • Understand why people support, resist, benefit or lose when you cause a change to happen
  • Identify stakeholders, factions and other groups who are critical to making progress on your adaptive challenge
  • Video: Think Politically
  • Reading: Distinguishing Leadership from Authority
  • Reading: 10 tips for customer discovery in the social impact sector
  • Tool: Values, Loyalties and Losses Worksheet
  • Tool: Factions worksheet
  • Activity: Reflection Exercise
  • Activity: Create a Faction Map with your stakeholders
  • Activity: Peer Advising–Faction Mapping
Section 3: Distinguish Technical and Adaptive Problems
  • Video: Technical and Adaptive Challenges
  • Activity: Distinguish an adaptive problem vs a technical one with case studies
  • Activity: Unbundling your challenge to reframe it
  • Activity: Identify and discuss the adaptive work within your challenge
Section 4: Adaptive Experiments
  • Understand how to design and implement adaptive experimentation
  • Orchestrate the Productive Zone of Disequilibrium
  • Prepare yourself and others for adaptive work
  • Learn to manage Work Avoidance
  • Video: An example of a courageous conversation
  • Reading: Experiment and Take Smart Risks Smartly
  • Activity: Reflection on your own experience with productive zone of disequilibrium (PZD)

Course Partners

Adaptive Change Advisors (ACA) was founded by Eric Martin, who stewarded adaptive leadership from Harvard Kennedy School to real-world application. ACA seeks to “democratize leadership” – making it possible for anyone, anywhere to improve their livelihood by effectively mobilizing others.

What People Are Saying

"I am a Certified Executive Coach and consultant working with leaders and organizations to create change. I'm already starting to think and behave differently in having hard conversations. Great tools to support key concepts."

Lucille C. Michigan, U.S.