Core Curriculum

Leaders and Leadership in History

Do leaders make history or does history make leaders? This course will address this core question by focusing on leaders and leadership in particularly trying historical circumstances. How did certain women and men arrive at leadership positions? What choices did they make in difficult situations? How do we evaluate their successes or failures? What makes them stand out (for better or worse) over time? What lessons can we learn from their careers? The course will address these questions through a critical examination of a series of (mostly) twentieth-century cases. Some of the leaders we examine are considered unquestionable successes and others partial or even abject failures. In some cases, these were national or world leaders; in other cases, these were unsung or informal leaders. We will also look at reluctant leadership, self-defeating leadership, non-heroic leadership, and dissenting or revolutionary leadership. Drawing on examples from around the world, the goals of the course are 1) to analyze what sort of leaders and leadership are needed to tackle the real problems facing our world, and 2) to become self-aware, historically-minded, and reflective in thinking about leadership–your own and that of others–in a dramatically changing political, social, economic, and geopolitical landscape.