MLD 217 - Case in Point: Work-enabled Learning, Practice, and Teaching of Leadership

Case-in-Point Learning

Imagine you are on a dance floor, swept up in the dance, an active participant in a complex scene. There are some things about the dance that you will only know by actually dancing. But if you move to the balcony for a while, you can see things that you can never discover on the dance floor—the large pattern of interactions of which you are a part. You gain perspective and can make new choices. Ronald Heifetz

The Case-in-Point Learning methodology was developed by Ronald Heifetz at Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Heifetz encourages his students to imagine their leadership as a ballroom dance. At times, the student needs to dance. They need to practice the steps with a partner. Then, they need to go up in the balcony and watch others dance.

General Course Information (Adapted from Heifetz 2017 MLD 364 course syllabus.)

We are all expected to lead, whether at our day jobs, families, or social circles.

Though most individuals think of leadership as authority, inspiration, prestige, Heifetz says "leading requires taking risks that can jeopardize your career and your personal life. It often requires putting yourself on the line, disturbing the status quo, and working with organizational and political conflicts. Those who choose to lead take risks and sometimes are neutralized for doing so."

In this course, we explore how self-knowledge and self-discipline form the foundation for staying alive in leadership. Building upon concepts of Adaptive Leadership and Bridging Leadership, this course is designed to equip learners to diagnose complex adaptive challenges within their own organizations and families, and experience the distress that accompanies acts of leadership and co-creation.

The course has five parts: (1) the challenges of un-owned or pseudo-owned adaptive problems; (2) diagnostic, strategic, and tactical responses to these dangers; (3) sources and forms of danger in leadership; (4) the personal capacities to lead and stay alive, not only in your job, but in the heart and spirit of your work; and (5) unlocking the potentials of emergent and generative co-creation.

The course draws on the learner's cases and case-in-point teaching - using learning process to understand role, identity, and system dynamics. The Leadership Lab Project is designed to push the learners beyond the own self-prescribed boundaries and limits so that the distressing leadership challenges heighten their sensitivity to their emotional leadership tunings.

The course is designed to be a transformative personal experience with the intent to generate more options for diagnosis and action in the practice of leadership.

Teaching Assistants: The Teaching Assistants are here to support the learning of students throughout the course. Students should not hesitate to meet with the TAs at any appropriate time during the course.

Structure: The 50-week course will run online starting Nov.2016 to Nov.2017.

Drawing learning methodologies from Heifetz' Case in Point, Scharmer's U-Lab, and Filipino social psychology, this course is structured into independent learning, small consultation group discussions, leadership coaching exercises, structured learning exercises, and a Leadership Lab Project.

Consultation Group Sessions: All students will be assigned to a small consultation group that will meet at regular intervals. At each small group session, one person on a rotating basis will chair the meeting and one person will present a case. Each group will consist of five to seven members so that each member will have the opportunity to serve as Chair and Case Presenter. In that way, students will be able to build upon their first week’s case consultation and go more deeply into their cases during the second week. Guidelines for the Case Presenter will be provided. Small groups should consult to the Case Presenter by applying class concepts to analyze each case. In the large class, a small group will be asked to present its case to the class for the Case Debrief.

Commitment: Collaborative student learning is essential to the coursework, especially in the consultation groups. Students are expected to attend all parts of the course.


Learners are expected to read the official Bridging Leadership course pack as well as watch the videos (click here). The Bridging Leadership Trainor Certification Exam has a written, open-books exam that is administered online based on these readings.

The second textbook is The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World by Heifetz.