Adaptive Leadership

Mobilizing for Change and Disrupting the Status Quo

Course Details

  • Price: FREE
  • Start Date: Feb 13, 2018
  • 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
  • Reading: Getting on the Balcony
  • Exercise: Getting on the Balcony
  • Exercise: The “Gap”
  • Reading: The “Gap” and the System Around It
  • Reading: The Illusion of the Broken System
  • Activity: Discussion
  • Activity: Frame Your Adaptive Challenge
Section 2: Think Politically to mobilize support
  • Video: Think Politically
  • Reading: Why “Thinking Politically”?
  • Exercise: Reflection
  • Reading: Practicing the VLL Framework
  • Exercise: Values, Loyalties, Losses
  • Reading: Stakeholder Categories (Factions)
  • Reading: Additional Resources
  • Activity: Faction Mapping
  • Activity: Engage with Your Map
Section 3: Distinguish Technical and Adaptive Problems
  • Video: Technical and Adaptive Challenges
  • Reading: What’s the “Work”?
  • Reading: Technical vs. Adaptive Problems
  • Exercise: Technical vs. Adaptive Problems
  • Reading: Bundled Challenges
  • Reading: Unbundling Your Challenges
  • Activity: Reframing Your Challenge
  • Activity: Seek External Perspectives
Section 4: Adaptive Experiments
  • Video: An example of a courageous conversation
  • Reading: Experimenting Adaptively
  • Reading: Readying Yourself and Others
  • Reading: Orchestrating Disequilibrium
  • Reading: Avoiding Work Avoidance
  • Exercise: Productive Zone of Disequilibrium
  • Reading: Experiment and Take Smart Risks
  • Activity: Design Your Adaptive Experiment
  • Activity: Summary Deck

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.