Power and Glory in Turbulent Times: The History of Leadership from Henry V to Steve Jobs

Power and Glory in Turbulent Times: The History of Leadership from Henry V to Steve Jobs

Course Number 1123

Professor Nancy Koehn
Winter; Q3Q4; 3 credits
24 sessions
Written assignments

Educational Objectives

This course examines the effectiveness of individual leaders who lived and worked in moments of great turbulence. The course aims to understand the choices they made, including the strategies they used, the values they lived by, and the tradeoffs they accepted as they created widespread power in companies, communities, and nations. It also focuses on the impact, immediate and long-term, that each of these individuals had, and how this impact was related to their animating missions. Particular attention is paid to what it means to lead forcefully in times of ongoing crisis and to the relevant lessons that these leaders offer for our own moment, in the early 21st century. Finally, the course strives to draw credible inspiration from these individuals and the contexts in which they acted.

This course offers students the opportunity to explore the lives of a range of men and women-from business, government, and other realms-during widespread disruption. It covers the individual journeys of these people, the changes in the nature of the organizations they led, and the dynamic environments in which they each lived and worked. Throughout the course, students are encouraged to examine the choices each leader made, the path he or she traveled, the values and objectives he or she nurtured, and the larger stage on which that person acted. This perspective provides a broad understanding of the long-term impact of leadership and innovation on business, government, and society. In looking closely at the agency of other individuals who have exerted lasting influence, students are challenged to consider their own agency, along with their ambitions and ideas about leadership.

The course will draw on a range of materials from the humanities and social sciences, including case studies, articles, book chapters, plays, and multimedia offerings.

There is a significant writing component to the course. Students are required to write six short critical essays during the term and one longer integrative essay due right before exam period. Regular, detailed feedback is provided on all these papers, providing students an important opportunity to hone their communication skills, including their critical thinking and writing abilities.

Some of the leaders studied include:
Henry V, Winston Churchill, Josiah Wedgwood, Alexander Hamilton, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, H.J. Heinz, John D. Rockefeller, Madam Walker, Milton Hershey, Estée Lauder, Gloria Steinem, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rachel Carson, Gary Hirshberg, Katherine Graham, Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg, and Ernest Shackleton.