Catalyzing Action in Complex Systems

In today's interconnected world, organizations seldom act in isolation to achieve their goals and visions. Strong global, regional and local currents—such as development of new technologies, awareness of environmental problems, shifts in political regimes, and the rise and fall of competitors and allies—form the landscape in which organizations strive for success. In addition to being able to build and sustain teams and organizations, leaders need a way of understanding and intervening in the larger systems and currents that shape the landscape. At times you may find you can amplify the effectiveness of your organization by thinking of your work as part of a movement and forming alliances with others with similar goals. Other times you may need to actively respond to, negotiate with or resist the movements around you. Regardless, identifying and acting on leverage points within systems comprised of many actors and stakeholders is a key capacity for leaders seeking impact.

This course will introduce you to leadership through the lens of complex systems thinking as it applies to societal systems. You'll learn to frame and reframe the challenges you face and the strategic directions available to you. Through hands-on activities you'll develop a range of relevant skills—systems mapping, polarity analysis, large group convening and conflict engagement—and learn to apply them to your own professional context.


Location: Online
Format: Self-paced within deadlines set by instructor
Duration: 6 weeks
Tuition: $1,655
Can be applied to:
Executive Leadership Certificate

Upcoming Offerings

Register for a course at any time, with the option to apply to a program later.

Start Date
Seats Available
Start DateWed, Mar 5, 2025
  • Wed, Mar 5 (self-paced all week)
  • Wed, Mar 12 (self-paced all week)
  • Wed, Mar 19 (self-paced all week)
  • Wed, Mar 26 (self-paced all week)
  • Wed, Apr 2 (self-paced all week)
  • Wed, Apr 9 (self-paced all week)
InstructorRachel Derrah
Seats Available23

What you will learn

After completing this course, you’ll be able to do the following:

  • Recognize the systemic context for leadership 
  • Describe the function and the developmental process for movements and explore appropriate strategies for engaging with movements
  • Break down the complexity of a system by seeing, mapping and tapping polarities in uncertain situations
  • Identify leverage points in a system and discuss the merit of various action strategies from a systemic perspective
  • Consider the range of stakeholders and parts of the system that need to be engaged in order to move effectively from a systemic perspective
  • Convene and facilitate productive conversations that bring out different points of view and benefit from the diversity of voices
  • Address or integrate the wisdom of dissent and engage conflict as it emerges in groups

How you will learn and be evaluated

  • Prepare to spend 6–10 hours per week on coursework
  • Plan for advance reading
  • Expect reading and other assignments on a weekly basis
  • Plan to access the course at least once every few days to keep up with your work and group assignments
  • Connect with the instructor via email, online posts, and optional live Q&A Zoom sessions as scheduled by the instructor for Week 2 (summaries/recordings available)

You will be evaluated on:

  • Assignments 
  • Participation in online discussions

Learning Materials

No textbook is required. We will provide all course materials online.

Technical Requirements

For online courses, you will need a computer with audio and microphone that is connected to the internet. Canvas is the online system that will be used for the course. For more information and online support, visit Online Learning.