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Take the Lead

Short summary: The prominent scholar James MacGregor Burns famously stated that leadership is one of the most observed but least understood phenomena on earth. In this course, we will look into the magic concept of leadership in both theoretical and practical ways. We pay specific attention to the ‘public’ aspect of leadership. This course also allows participants to delve into the practical side of leadership studies, for example by presenting your PhD research with charisma and solving contemporary ethical dilemmas, with the aim of enhancing your own leadership skills.

8-10 June 2022

Karin Lasthuizen (VU Amsterdam) 

Course fees

  • Free for NIG members
  • 500,- for non-members from an NIG member institution
  • 750,- for third parties

Note: this information is from the course guide 2020

The popularity of leadership, as a theme about which many questions can be raised and multiple answers given, can hardly be overstated. For example, the term ‘leader’ results in almost one billion hits on Google and about 3 million on Google Scholar. The same popularity attracts leadership development and training, because many of us want to know how to become a leader. So, what does it take to take the lead? And what can we learn from academic perspectives on leadership, and specifically public leadership?

As Paul ‘t Hart states in his latest book on public leadership that “The power of leadership has been loathed, feared and admired, but can hardly be denied”. Although leadership is a powerful term, surprisingly it is also often weakly conceptualized. The prominent scholar James MacGregor Burns famously stated that leadership is one of the most observed but least understood phenomena on earth. In other words, it is a ‘magic concept’, meaning everything and nothing. In this course, we want to go and look into this magic concept by making it more concrete and tangible, so that scholars can study it and professionals can use these insights in their organizations. In addition, we like to familiarize you with a few leadership tips and tricks to explore and boost your own leadership.

This course thereby focuses firstly on the ‘public’ aspect of leadership. Vogel and Masal (2014) argued, “in current research on public leadership, the emphasis is still on the aspect of ‘leadership’ rather than on the ‘public’ element” and that “research on public leadership needs to pay more attention to publicness itself”. Hence, we will especially analyze what makes leadership in public context different – such as the role of politics and the media, the importance of ethics, and the face of leadership in times of rapid change and crisis. Next to this, we will also discuss general leadership concepts, such as transformational leadership, transactional leadership, servant leadership and ethical leadership. In this way, this course uses insights not only from public administration, but also from political science, organizational behavior, management science and psychology

Next to focusing on the theoretical content, this course will also let the participating PhD students dive into the methodological and practical side of leadership studies. This is done by means of hands-on research (such as learning from a diversity of methodological approaches in dissertation research and presenting your own research with charisma), the playing of ‘serious games’ (such as ethical decision making with a 5 steps model and a negotiating challenge as Pirates of the Caribbean) and writing a short essay combining a topical leadership example and theoretical knowledge. Hence, we aim to develop a dynamic learning environment regarding leadership in the public sector, which is not only highly educational but also brings heaps of fun.