Leadership in Complex Multi-Stakeholder Environments


“To succeed in conservation, you need to be able to work effectively and persuasively with all kinds of people. This course is a must!”
~ Ruth Norris, Executive Coach and Kinship Conservation Fellows Faculty ~


An Adaptive Leadership Course Presented by Beatrice C. Ungard, Ph.D.

Los Angeles, May 23rd-25th, 2017
Japanese American Cultural & Community Center

Ready to sign up? Go to the Registration Page


What is Adaptive Leadership?

“[Adaptive] leadership is what individuals do in mobilizing other people, in organizations or communities, to do what I call “adaptive work.” Adaptive work can mean clarifying a conflict in values, or bridging the gap between the values that we stand for and the current conditions under which we operate. When you have a problem or a challenge for which there is no technical remedy, a problem for which it won’t help to look to an authority for answers – the answers aren’t there – that problem calls for adaptive work.”  

~ Ronald Heifetz

Adaptive leadership is required when leading a change process in multi-stakeholder environments. This mode of leadership is built on authenticity and transparent communication. It is grounded in the belief that excellence is within each individual and that ways to address our most complex challenges do exist—our collaborative task is to find them. Consequently, adaptive leadership begins with choosing to challenge the status quo in order to move the system away from its comfort zone; courageously asking the questions no one else is willing to ask; and committing to finding the ‘truth’ about what is really going on in the system.

The Capacities of an Adaptive Leader

The journey to becoming an adaptive leader can be a frustrating one, with potentially disappointing results. While no one can fully guarantee the successful resolution of value-based and politically-charged challenges, developing your adaptive leadership skills will give you a unique advantage as a change agent and will empower you to make positive lasting changes on your entire organizational ecosystem. As an adaptive leader you will:

  • Know how to diagnose an organizational system and uncover the structural dynamics that constrain it.
  • Understand your role and your contribution to the system within which you operate.
  • Know how to expand your informal authority.
  • Possess the tools required to influence your system structure and design processes that effectively support your adaptive journey.
  • Have the required skills to lead your system toward perceiving reality with new ‘eyes,’ thereby reframing your challenge in a way that generates a ‘field for emergent possibilities’.
  • Stand strong amidst ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Apply your creativity and work from a deeper source of knowledge and insight.

Course Structure and Schedule

This course builds on the seminal work of Ronald Heifetz and his colleagues and complements it with additional materials from diverse sources, including my own work and research on leading transformative work in complex environments. It is designed to be very ‘hands-on’ and balances theories presentations with individual and group activities that are built to support the work of the participants on their adaptive challenges. To maximise the level of interaction among participants, the number of participants for the course is limited at 18.

A prerequisite for the course is for participants to have an adaptive challenge on which to practice the diverse tools and frameworks learned in the sessions.

Recommended Textbook (to be purchased by participants – non mandatory): The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by R. Heifetz, M. Linsky, and A. Grashow

Some sections of the book plus diverse case studies will be recommended for each session and made available a few weeks prior to the course.

The course includes four sessions delivered over 2.5 days.

Session 1 (May 23rd, afternoon): The Work of Adaptive Leadership (Tuesday, May 23rd, 1:30pm – 5:00pm)

In this introductory session, participants will explore the differences between technical problems and adaptive challenges and will contrast the adaptive leadership skills from the ones used in traditional styles of leadership based on authority. Using the Action Learning Methodology, participants will learn how to reframe a complex issue of their choice by practicing active listening and effective inquiry and advocacy.

Session 2 (May 24th, Morning): Intervention Design: Creating the Space for Adaptive Work (Wednesday, May 24th, 9:00am-12:30pm)

Adaptive work is about facilitating a journey of change; this requires careful process design. In this session, participants will use diverse tools and frameworks to diagnose their project; create a collaborative space that will unleash the collective intelligence present in the project team; and generate a field for emergent possibilities.

Session 2 (May 24th, Afternoon): Intervention Design: Creating the Space for Adaptive Work (Wednesday, May 24th, 1:30am-5:00pm)

Case discussions; frameworks practice; mentoring using the fishbowl technique.

Session 3 (May 25th, Morning): Addressing Resistances, Conflicts, Fears, and Losses (Thursday, May 25th, 9:00am-12:30pm)

Adaptive challenges present a broad range of behavioral issues that must be effectively addressed to bring the process to fruition. At any given time, adaptive leaders must be very aware of the overall team dynamic so that to anticipate issues and respond sensibly. The objective of this session is to raise the participants’ awareness of the complex dynamics operating in social systems. They will explore the origins of different types of problematic behaviors and will practice ways to manage ‘difficult conversations’ effectively.

Session 4: The Political Leader (Thursday, May 25th, 1:30am-4:30pm)

One of the main assets of adaptive leaders is their capacity to understand the whole political landscape and think and act politically. In this session, participants will broaden the focus beyond the immediate project stakeholders to explore the political influence of other constituents (e.g. policy makers; regulatory agencies; private businesses; NGOs; etc.) and will use Heifetz’s list of recommendations to find ways to mitigate risks and expand their informal authority.

The course will conclude with a group reflection on the learning throughout the course and an exploration of the different ways by which participants can create a supporting environment in their organization to continue to develop their adaptive leadership capacity.

What People Say About the Course

I have had the pleasure to teach this course for four years within the context of the Kinship Conservation Fellows Program. About 72 Kinship Fellows have taken this course and provided great feedback.

beatrice_classroom_andreaThe adaptive leadership course has revolutionized the way I approach difficult conversations, challenges at work, conflict and even day-to-day management. Beatrice is a great trainer, and the regular exercises interspersed between the lectures were perfect to help practice and reinforce the new approaches. The course was also a lot of fun, and really helped all the participants bond as a group.”  ~ Jennifer Chapman, Country Coordinator (Belize), Blue Ventures, London, England

“I … found the Adaptive Leadership course by Beatrice Benne extremely relevant to my work. Sustainable community forest management in the tropics typically involves numerous diverse stakeholders attempting to implement projects under conditions of complexity and uncertainty. I had already identified an adaptive approach as highly important, but Beatrice’s course provided me with the tools and frameworks necessary to actually lead these processes.”   ~ Wain Collen, Founder & Executive Director, PlanJunto, Quito, Ecuador

 Ready to sign up? Go to the Registration Page

For questions, contact Beatrice Ungard: beatrice@soma-integral.com

Venue and Logistics

Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC)
244 South San Pedro Street (between 2nd and 3rd Streets)
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 628-2725

Parking validation ($7.50) only available for Joe’s Parking on 2nd St (regular all-day price is $10).

Lunch is on your own. Since our venue is located in the vibrant Little Tokyo neighborhood, there are many options for lunch nearby.
Coffee, tea, water and snacks will be provided during the sessions.

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