Leading in disruptive times – support yourself with a short course

“The mix of gentle, reflective and meditative practices, joyful play, hard academia and questioning debate and conversation allowed me to engage with each element in a different way, and preventing me from becoming weary mentally or emotionally from too much of one thing.” A past participant in a week long leadership course in the Lake District, UK, with Jem Bendell and Katie Carr.

Most leadership courses that I know about are taught with assumptions that the world is getting better, that we know what better means, and that students of leadership want to play a larger role in that success. Whether leadership is being developed in management schools, public policy schools or by professional development consultants, those assumptions seem pervasive. As a Professor of Leadership, over the past decade I have attended many such courses, from the hills of Bali to halls of Harvard Uni. Even those leadership courses that are themed on the problems of environmental sustainability and social justice incorporate those three assumptions. If you think they are reasonable, perhaps even aspirational, then you would not be alone. Because they are assumptions that relate to some of the core ideas of modern societies. However, I take a different view. I believe that seeking personal success within a society that one assumes to be progressing is now an unhelpful starting point for learning leadership that meets the predicaments of our time. Courses that respond to that idea can even encourage people to regard themselves, others, and the world, in counterproductive ways. Instead, helpful forms of leadership in disruptive times can start from the perspective that the world is not going to get ‘better,’ that we can drop inherited ideas of what ‘better’ means, and that students of leadership can seek to engage positively in society without attachment to pre-determined outcomes. Rather, we can engage in leadership learning as a way of exploring what to become, and what to do, as societies become more unstable and the old ways of life break down.

Since 2014, I have taught a leadership course over a week that grows from this alternative starting point. Many participants have found the shifts in perception of both themselves and our times to be life changing. They have come from many walks of life – UN, governments, political parties, local governments, corporations, banks, NGOs, the police, academics and activist groups – and from many parts of the world. Since 2018, after I personally concluded that the collapse of industrial consumer societies is inevitable, the context of increasing disruption and the framework of ‘deep adaptation’ have become more important to the course. If this concept is new to you, I recommend listening to the introduction to my book on Deep Adaptation. Over the years, many of the alumni have stayed in touch and provide ongoing mentoring to each other. Because making a positive contribution to societies in crisis requires constant re-evaluation and looking after one’s own emotional wellbeing, that ongoing support is important.

After a hiatus due to the pandemic, I will teach this course in Lancaster for a week this June. If you are in or near the UK then you could choose to join the course without the academic assessments and registration process. That way, you could reserve your place immediately. However, as the course is also accredited within a Post Graduate Certificate, Diploma and MSc from the University of Cumbria, there is also that option to consider. These are modular qualifications, which you can do at your own pace over a number of years, with some modules online and some in a short course format. To give yourself the option of progressing from the June leadership course onto one of those qualifications, you need to apply to take the course as a student of the University. The other modules I recommend for people who are primarily motivated to learn how to contribute during the difficult times ahead, are the following:

  • Strategic Collaboration and Stakeholder Engagement, which is led by a world expert in these matters of organisational collaboration, Dr David Murphy.
  • Facilitation and Dialogue, which helps people with the skill of facilitation, that is crucial for anyone wanting to help groups work well together, including changing how they dialogue and organise. 
  • Personal Development and Leadership, which is an online course, where participants choose a particular personal development practice which they wish to develop their own skills within.  

You would only need to do two such modules to complete a Post Graduate Certificate (PGC) qualification. Scroll to the end of this message for some more detail on the options for qualifications.* As there is some pre-course work for the course in June, you will need to register before Easter 2022.

[Search for more or Subscribe]

If you plan to join us, I recommend taking the time to spend a few extra days in the area, as the English Lake District is an amazing cultural landscape. If you first want to know more about my perspective on the nature of leadership in disruptive times, I recommend the “Introduction to Leadership” lecture, my sociology paper on leadership, and an interview about leadership with Robin Alfred of Findhorn. In addition, an academic paper I co-wrote with my co-facilitator Katie Carr, provides some deeper context for the way we approach educational design and space holding.

*The Sustainable Leadership module carries 20 credits at Level 7 (postgraduate) and these credits can be used flexibly to build an Organisational Leadership Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) of 60 credits, or a Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) of 120 credits. If you continue on to do the dissertation module, this would complete your MSc Organisational Leadership with 180 credits at level 7. There are a number of optional modules available for the Organisational Leadership programme. If you sign up to the Sustainable Leadership course in June as a registered University student and are interested in further studies towards a PgCert, PgDip or MSc Organisational Leadership qualification, please discuss your module selection with me, your module leader, or the programme leader: jeremy.benson@cumbria.ac.uk