- Course: Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict, and Courage
- When: Twice a year; Next: April 17-22, 2005
- Instructor: Martin Linsky
- Class Size: 40
- Where: John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Cost: $5,100
Leadership is about disappointing your people at a rate they can absorb," says Martin Linsky, faculty chair of Leadership for the 21st Century. "It's about delivering losses. The resistance comes when people experience your initiatives as a threat. This class is about how to get them through those feelings." To be a leader, you sometimes have to be the bad guy and give up any dreams of being adored by employees. If that sounds tough, it is. The first two course days are a harrowing breakdown of what people think about leadership. Instead of resolving conflict, students learn how to manage and understand it. "Most people come to the program knowing in their gut what they need to do," says Linsky. "They need to put themselves and their organization at risk. It takes courage to take these risks."
Larry Whitney, a VP at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, applied 90% of what he learned in the course at work the next week. Namely, how to shake things up. "You have to get people upset. When things get disruptive, people really get work done, and learning takes place." As someone who considers himself kind of a sensitive, new-age guy, Whitney had difficulty adapting. "When people are attacking me, they're attacking my role as a leader, not me personally," he realized. Results were swift: Whitney took his team from "just below the middle of the pack" to the first quartile.
The Professor: "Marty Linsky forced me to work outside my preferences, and he made me feel very uncomfortable at times. I learned tremendously from it."
Want to go? get more info at: www.execprog.com/programs.asp
Can't go? Read Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading, by Martin Linsky and Ronald A. Heifetz (Harvard Business School Press, 2002).
A version of this article appeared in the September 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.