University of Technology Sydney

26843 Adaptive Leadership Lab

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Business
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Pass fail, no marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


Leading effectively in a complex and interrelated world is more challenging than ever. Leaders need to develop their ability to adjust attitudes, values, and behaviours in order to adapt to new environments and sustain such change over time. This subject develops students' ability to apply unique leadership approaches to different scenarios. Students explore how to create psychological safety by encouraging a diversity of perspectives. A particular focus is placed on heightening students' ability to enable and foster effective workplace cultures that are diverse, inclusive and function on the basis of trust and respect. This is achieved by identifying areas of resistance and developing strategies to harmonise and influence the achievement of desired outcomes and impact.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
1. Reflect on and critically assess their self-leadership capabilities
2. Reflect on the development of their leadership presence and capabilities
3. Appraise the role of leaders in developing ethical and collaborative organisation cultures
4. Evidence a disposition to learn to lead in complexity
5. Assess their personal adaptive capacity and their capacity to deliver on moral responsibility

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

The subject develops students’ leadership skills and ability to lead self and others in complex and complicated situations and through change. It is fundamental for building the cohort and peer-coaching experience as it sets the practice and ethos of acknowledging and respecting individual experiences, capabilities and mindsets within a collaborative environment. It prepares students to construct their own perspective on effective leadership within their professional context and to take on more challenging leadership roles by building upon their strengths and working to address their limitations. It also sensitizes students to the moral dimensions and responsibilities of leadership.

This subject contributes to the development of the following graduate attribute(s):

  • Professional and technical competence

This subject also contributes specifically to develop the following Program Learning Objective(s):

  • Communicate ideas, decisions and strategies clearly and apply interpersonal skills that are sensitive to diverse people, cultures and contexts (2.1)
  • Practice ethical leadership and responsible decision-making to create culturally contextualised and sustainable economic, social and ecological business outcomes (3.1)
  • Reflect on Indigenous perspectives and values in the growth and transformation of organisations and processes (3.2)
  • Integrate complex business concepts and practices with professional integrity to critically evaluate the purpose and management of businesses for transformation and growth (4.1)

Teaching and learning strategies

The subject is delivered intensively through full day seminars and workshops. It introduces students to the experiential learning model that underpins the overall program, raising their capacity to engage in higher-order reflective and reflexive learning.

The subject is based on a blended learning approach. Students are required to prepare readings and materials provided online via the UTS learning management system before coming to class. Key theories and concepts are conveyed in a dialogic style to maximize critical engagement with foundation concepts.

The learning strategy combines self-training, diagnostics, peer to peer feedback and coaching methods, which lead to concrete actions. Further feedback is provided during coaching sessions.

Content (topics)

  • Integral leadership and developmental organisational cultures
  • Emotional intelligence and adaptive capability
  • Ethical dynamics in workplace relationships
  • Learning to lead and team dynamics
  • Complex adaptive leadership
  • Leadership as an expression of individual, social and economic responsibility


Assessment task 1: Self-Assessment (Individual)


This addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 2 and 4

Weight: 35%

Action plan of no more than 10 pages and completion of self-assessment activities

  • Clear written articulation of insights about leadership capabilities including strengths and limitations
  • Capacity to identify self-management learning plan and set of activities
  • Develop realistic and achievable course of action

Assessment task 2: Reflection Portfolio (Individual)


This addresses subject learning objective(s):

3 and 5

Weight: 65%

Varies. Expectation is for regular written journaling (minimum three time per week).

  • Demonstrate capacity for self-management and reflexivity
  • Analysis of relationship and system dynamics including ethics and sensitivity to local and cultural contexts

Minimum requirements

Students must achieve at least 50% of the subject’s total marks.


Arrow, H., McGrath, J.E., and Berdahl, J.L., (2000). Small Groups as Complex Systems, Formation, Coordination, Development, and Adaptation, Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Cherniss, C. (2010). Emotional intelligence: New insights and further clarifications. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 3, pp. 18–191.

Grant, A. (2017). Originals: How non-conformists move the world. Penguin.

Griffin, D., (2003). The emergence of leadership: Linking self-organization and ethics. Routledge. Pp175-83.

Heifetz, R. A, Linsky, M., Grashow A (2018 Revised Ed). The Practice of Adaptive Leadership; HBR Press, Boston, MA.

Kegan, R. and Lahey, L.L. An everyone culture: becoming a deliberately developmental organization.

Kempster, S. and Carroll, B. (2016). Responsible Leadership: Realism and Romanticism. Routledge: London.

Marion, R., (2008). “Complexity Theory for Organizations and Organizational Leadership” in Uhl-Bien, M. and Marion, R., (Eds). Complexity leadership Part I: Conceptual foundations. Charlotte NC: Information Age Publishing

Leslie I. (2014). Curious: The desire to know and why your future depends on it. Basic Books; pp149-55.

Taylor, C. Walking the talk: building a culture for success. Section introduction; Demystifying Culture (Ch.1); The Journey at a Glance (Ch.2)