Advancing Leadership

John S. Rosenberg in Harvard Magazine:

MA14_043_001Their paper is a brisk mash-up of higher-education history (the evolution of universities, graduate education, and beyond); obdurate challenges (global poverty, health, education reform, and environmental degradation); and demographics (increasing longevity, the potential for “third-stage” education for professionals—beyond college and graduate school—who have talent, energy, skills, and active post-career time before retirement). From these vantage points, the authors proposed a new role for teaching and learning in “advanced leadership”—beyond extant options in executive education, retraining or vocational retooling, or leisure learning in retirement. Perhaps most important, in a University that valorizes educating leaders, they defined the term, and their aims, with unusual precision. The advanced leader-learners, they determined, would have to be prepared to address problems that are both technical and political: seemingly intractable issues where known solutions (cures for diseases, food aid) are “mal-distributed,” embedded in complex systems crossing institutional and professional boundaries, and involving diverse stakeholders. For many such problems, research “tends to be oriented toward the technical side, toward specialists’ content, and not toward action or system-change processes that draw on knowledge from special disciplines.” In other words, “[W]e often know more about what than how and who.”

Ameliorating “controversial and systemic” problems, they wrote, depends on “new action models…that involve cross-sector collaboration based on cross-profession expertise.” The best chance to build effective collaborations, in turn, lay in “a new field of practice…particularly well suited to the capabilities and desires of experienced leaders” who have already proven their capacity to shape organizations and effect change in at least one realm and are now eager to develop “solutions to significant societal and global problems.”

More here.