MNGT6584 Complex Adaptive Leadership - 2019

Residential, UNSW Kensington and Off-site
Term 3
6 Units of Credit

Offering Selection
This course outline is for the current semester. To view outlines from other years and/or semesters, visit the archives

1. Course Details

Summary of Course

This course is an applied leadership program, contextualised to the contemporary environment and consisting of online, face-to-face (classroom) and experiential components. The course content covers three thematic areas: Understanding the Environment (anchored on Complex Adaptive Systems theory), Understanding the Medium (how groups form and work) and Understanding the Art (historical and contemporary leadership theories). In order to prepare you to put these theories into practice, we will also cover tools and techniques for applied leadership.

Teaching Times and Locations

Please note that teaching times and locations are subject to change. Students are strongly advised to refer to the Class Timetable website for the most up-to-date teaching times and locations.

View course timetable

Course Policies & Support

Course Aims and Relationship to Other Courses

It is understood that you may have covered some of these leadership principles in other courses, for example Managing People and Organisations. Wherever possible, we have sought to include theories and concepts not previously covered. However in order to ensure a consistent baseline of understanding, some overlap may occur.

Additonal Course Details

The Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) are what you should be able to demonstrate by the end of this course, if you participate fully in learning activities and successfully complete the assessment items.

CLOs also contribute to your achievement of the Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs), which are developed across the duration of a program for all coursework students in the Business School. More information on PLOs is available under Policies and Support. PLOs are, in turn, directly linked to UNSW graduate capabilities and the aspiration to develop globally focussed graduates who are rigorous scholars, capable of leadership and professional practice in an international community.

3. Staff Contact Details

Position Name Email Location Phone Consultation Times
Course CoordinatorBenjamin Pronk
06 2688111

The role of your Class Facilitator is to support the learning process by encouraging interaction among participants, providing direction in understanding the course content, assessing participant progress through the course and providing feedback on work submitted. Class Facilitators comprise academics and industry practitioners with relevant backgrounds.

4. Learning and Teaching Activities

Approach to Learning and Teaching in the Course

Use this course as an opportunity to refresh key concepts in your mind, and to start thinking deeply about how they might actually be applied in the real world. With the theoretical component completed, you will then be immersed into an experiential component.

You will be taken to a rural environment for three days, where you will undertake a series of short-duration leadership and decision-making tasks. These tasks encompass a range of scenarios and involve a degree of time and physical pressure. They will give you the opportunity not only to apply the theory and tools that you have studied, but also to experience first-hand the capabilities and limitations of these concepts in real-life, high-pressure situations. As an added benefit, this experiential component tends to serve as a crucible moment for many students, allowing you the opportunity to conquer a daunting and, at times, seemingly impossible task.

You will walk away from this experience with an increased understanding of, and confidence in, your own abilities and leadership capacity.

Learning Activities and Teaching Strategies

Course Structure

Unit 1: Understanding the Environment - Complex adaptive systems
This Unit provides an overview of complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory, which provides an excellent lens through which we can view the way that people, as individuals and groups, interact with one another.

Unit 2: Understanding the Environment - Leader video interviews
This Unit provides the opportunity to gather thoughts on leadership from a variety of different perspectives, including through an interview with a leader personally known to you.

Unit 3: Understanding the Environment - Diagnosing the situation
In this Unit we explore the concept that different situations require different leadership styles and decision-making processes. We will do this primarily through examination of the Cynefin framework.

Unit 4: Understanding the Medium - How groups form and work
Having looked at the environment in which leadership occurs, in this Unit we look at some of the key ideas from social psychology to gain insight into the manner in which groups of people bond together and are motivated towards a goal.

Unit 5: Understanding the Medium - Leading virtual teams
For most of human history, leadership has involved influence through personal interaction with subordinates, either directly or through intermediaries. This Unit explores how we can lead teams that we might never even physically meet - using your CAL workgroups as a testbed!

Unit 6: Understanding the Art - The evolution of leadership theories
This Unit focuses on the concept of power and the evolution of leadership theories from historical times to the present day.

Unit 7: Understanding the Art - Authentic leadership
Authentic leadership theory offers that effective leadership comes from understanding who you are. During this Unit, you will explore your own life story and values with a view to incorporating these into your leadership style.

Unit 8: Understanding the Art - Command presence
This Unit will examine the key components of command presence - a military term referring to the unmistakable understanding that an individual is in charge and is capable of successfully leading their organisation towards its objective.

Unit 9: Experiential Activity - Applied leadership
Over the course, you will have studied a number of conceptual models to explain how the world around us works, how groups of people form and work, and how these groups can be led towards goals. In the residential component of this course, you will see how these theories work in real life.

6. Course Resources

Learning resources

You have four major resources to help you learn.

  1. The course materials, comprising the study Units with readings, references, insights, and commentary. You will do much of your learning outside the classroom by working through the course materials, and by completing the exercises as they arise.
  2. The residential and experiential component. The facilitator and additional staff are tasked to guide your learning by conducting class discussion, answering questions that might arise, providing insights from their practical experience and understanding of theory, providing you with feedback on your assignments, and directing discussions and debates that will occur between you and your co-participants. In addition, they will provide instruction in any specific skill requirements needed for the experiential phase and be responsible for safety throughout.
  3. Your co-participants. Your colleagues are an invaluable potential source of learning for you. Their work and life, and their willingness to question and argue with the course materials, the facilitator and your views, represent a great learning opportunity. They bring much valuable insight to the learning experience.
  4. In addition to course-based resources, please also refer to the AGSM Learning Toolkit (available in Moodle) for tutorials and guides that will help you learn more about effective study practices and techniques.

Other resources


BusinessThink is UNSW's free, online business publication. It is a platform for business research, analysis, and opinion. If you would like to subscribe to BusinessThink, and receive the free monthly e-newsletter with the latest in research, opinion, and business then go to the following link

7. Course Evaluation & Development

Continual Course Improvement

AGSM courses are revised each time they run, with updated course outlines and assessment tasks developed. Changes relating to any industry developments will also be included.

Additionally, the AGSM surveys students each time a course is offered. The data collected provides anonymous feedback from students on the quality of course content and materials, class facilitation, student support services and the program in general. This student feedback is considered during all course revisions.

Student Response

Students requested that the team identities be developed earlier, including introducing students to one another earlier.

Response to Student Feedback

  • We note the requests to develop the team identities and introduce students to one another earlier and will incorporate this for the next iteration
  • We have modified a number of the activities in the experiential phase to more explicitly link to the learning points covered during the previous phases and to highlight the applicability of the activity to a business environment
  • Voluntary sharing of all leader interviews will be included in the next iteration

8. Course Schedule

Week Activity Topic Detail/Engagement Assessment Task
Week 1 Complete Unit 1Understanding the Environment - Complex adaptive systems
Week 2 Complete Unit 2Understanding the Environment - Leader video interviews
Week 3 Work on leader video interviews
Assessment 1 - Video interview and report : Task 1 - Leader video interview
Week 4 Complete Unit 3Understanding the Environment - Diagnosing the situation
Week 5 Complete Unit 4, Assessment 1: Task 1Understanding the Medium - How groups form and work
Assessment 1 - Video interview and report : Task 1 - Leader video interview
Week 6 Complete Unit 5, Assessment 1: Task 2Understanding the Medium - Leading virtual teams
Assessment 1 - Video interview and report : Task 2 - Review peer videos
Week 7 Complete Unit 6Understanding the Art - The evolution of leadership theories
Week 8 Work on Assessment 1: Task 3
Assessment 1 - Video interview and report : Task 3 - Individual report
Week 9 Complete Unit 7Understanding the Art - Authentic leadership
Week 10 Complete Unit 8Understanding the Art - Command presence
Week 11 Complete Unit 9, Residential (Assessment 2)Experiential Activity - Applied leadership
Week 12 Work on Assessment 3: Reflective journal
Assessment 3 - Reflective journal : Reflective journal

9. Policies and Support

Information about UNSW Business School protocols, University policies, student responsibilities and education quality and support.

Program Learning Outcomes

The Business School places knowledge and capabilities at the core of its curriculum via seven Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs). These PLOs are systematically embedded and developed across the duration of all coursework programs in the Business School.

PLOs embody the knowledge, skills and capabilities that are taught, practised and assessed within each Business School program. They articulate what you should know and be able to do upon successful completion of your degree.

Upon graduation, you should have a high level of specialised business knowledge and capacity for responsible business thinking, underpinned by ethical professional practice. You should be able to harness, manage and communicate business information effectively and work collaboratively with others. You should be an experienced problem-solver and critical thinker, with a global perspective, cultural competence and the potential for innovative leadership.

All UNSW programs and courses are designed to assess the attainment of program and/or course level learning outcomes, as required by the UNSW Assessment Design Procedure. It is important that you become familiar with the Business School PLOs, as they constitute the framework which informs and shapes the components and assessments of the courses within your program of study.

PLO 1: Business knowledge

Students will make informed and effective selection and application of knowledge in a discipline or profession, in the contexts of local and global business.

PLO 2: Problem solving

Students will define and address business problems, and propose effective evidence-based solutions, through the application of rigorous analysis and critical thinking.

PLO 3: Business communication

Students will harness, manage and communicate business information effectively using multiple forms of communication across different channels.

PLO 4: Teamwork

Students will interact and collaborate effectively with others to achieve a common business purpose or fulfil a common business project, and reflect critically on the process and the outcomes.

PLO 5: Responsible business practice

Students will develop and be committed to responsible business thinking and approaches, which are underpinned by ethical professional practice and sustainability considerations.

PLO 6: Global and cultural competence

Students will be aware of business systems in the wider world and actively committed to recognise and respect the cultural norms, beliefs and values of others, and will apply this knowledge to interact, communicate and work effectively in diverse environments.

PLO 7: Leadership development

Students will develop the capacity to take initiative, encourage forward thinking and bring about innovation, while effectively influencing others to achieve desired results.

These PLOs relate to undergraduate and postgraduate coursework programs.  Separate PLOs for honours and postgraduate research programs are included under 'Related Documents'.

Business School course outlines provide detailed information for students on how the course learning outcomes, learning activities, and assessment/s contribute to the development of Program Learning Outcomes.



UNSW Graduate Capabilities

The Business School PLOs also incorporate UNSW graduate capabilities, a set of generic abilities and skills that all students are expected to achieve by graduation. These capabilities articulate the University’s institutional values, as well as future employer expectations.

UNSW Graduate CapabilitiesBusiness School PLOs
Scholars capable of independent and collaborative enquiry, rigorous in their analysis, critique and reflection, and able to innovate by applying their knowledge and skills to the solution of novel as well as routine problems.
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 4: Teamwork
  • PLO 7: Leadership development

Entrepreneurial leaders capable of initiating and embracing innovation and change, as well as engaging and enabling others to contribute to change
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 4: Teamwork
  • PLO 6: Global and cultural competence
  • PLO 7: Leadership development

Professionals capable of ethical, self-directed practice and independent lifelong learning
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 5: Responsible business practice

Global citizens who are culturally adept and capable of respecting diversity and acting in a socially just and responsible way.
  • PLO 1: Business knowledge
  • PLO 2: Problem solving
  • PLO 3: Business communication
  • PLO 4: Teamwork
  • PLO 5: Responsible business practice
  • PLO 6: Global and cultural competence

While our programs are designed to provide coverage of all PLOs and graduate capabilities, they also provide you with a great deal of choice and flexibility.  The Business School strongly advises you to choose a range of courses that assist your development against the seven PLOs and four graduate capabilities, and to keep a record of your achievements as part of your portfolio. You can use a portfolio as evidence in employment applications as well as a reference for work or further study. For support with selecting your courses contact the UNSW Business School Student Centre.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

Academic Integrity is honest and responsible scholarship. This form of ethical scholarship is highly valued at UNSW. Terms like Academic Integrity, misconduct, referencing, conventions, plagiarism, academic practices, citations and evidence based learning are all considered basic concepts that successful university students understand. Learning how to communicate original ideas, refer sources, work independently, and report results accurately and honestly are skills that you will be able to carry beyond your studies.

The definition of academic misconduct is broad. It covers practices such as cheating, copying and using another person’s work without appropriate acknowledgement. Incidents of academic misconduct may have serious consequences for students.


UNSW regards plagiarism as a form of academic misconduct. UNSW has very strict rules regarding plagiarism. Plagiarism at UNSW is using the words or ideas of others and passing them off as your own. All Schools in the Business School have a Student Ethics Officer who will investigate incidents of plagiarism and may result in a student’s name being placed on the Plagiarism and Student Misconduct Registers.

Below are examples of plagiarism including self-plagiarism:

Copying: Using the same or very similar words to the original text or idea without acknowledging the source or using quotation marks. This includes copying materials, ideas or concepts from a book, article, report or other written document, presentation, composition, artwork, design, drawing, circuitry, computer program or software, website, internet, other electronic resource, or another person's assignment, without appropriate acknowledgement of authorship.

Inappropriate Paraphrasing: Changing a few words and phrases while mostly retaining the original structure and/or progression of ideas of the original, and information without acknowledgement. This also applies in presentations where someone paraphrases another’s ideas or words without credit and to piecing together quotes and paraphrases into a new whole, without appropriate referencing.

Collusion: Presenting work as independent work when it has been produced in whole or part in collusion with other people. Collusion includes:

  • Students providing their work to another student before the due date, or for the purpose of them plagiarising at any time
  • Paying another person to perform an academic task and passing it off as your own
  • Stealing or acquiring another person’s academic work and copying it
  • Offering to complete another person’s work or seeking payment for completing academic work

Collusion should not be confused with academic collaboration (i.e., shared contribution towards a group task).

Inappropriate Citation: Citing sources which have not been read, without acknowledging the 'secondary' source from which knowledge of them has been obtained.

Self-Plagiarism: ‘Self-plagiarism’ occurs where an author republishes their own previously written work and presents it as new findings without referencing the earlier work, either in its entirety or partially. Self-plagiarism is also referred to as 'recycling', 'duplication', or 'multiple submissions of research findings' without disclosure. In the student context, self-plagiarism includes re-using parts of, or all of, a body of work that has already been submitted for assessment without proper citation.

To see if you understand plagiarism, do this short quiz:


The University also regards cheating as a form of academic misconduct. Cheating is knowingly submitting the work of others as their own and includes contract cheating (work produced by an external agent or third party that is submitted under the pretences of being a student’s original piece of work). Cheating is not acceptable at UNSW.

If you need to revise or clarify any terms associated with academic integrity you should explore the 'Working with Academic Integrity' self-paced lessons available at:

For UNSW policies, penalties, and information to help you avoid plagiarism see: as well as the guidelines in the online ELISE tutorials for all new UNSW students: For information on student conduct see:

For information on how to acknowledge your sources and reference correctly, see: If you are unsure what referencing style to use in this course, you should ask the lecturer in charge.

Student Responsibilities and Conduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to university policies in relation to class attendance and general conduct and behaviour, including maintaining a safe, respectful environment; and to understand their obligations in relation to workload, assessment and keeping informed.

Information and policies on these topics can be found on the 'Managing your Program' website.


It is expected that you will spend at least ten to twelve hours per week studying for a course except for Summer Term courses which have a minimum weekly workload of twenty to twenty four hours. This time should be made up of reading, research, working on exercises and problems, online activities and attending classes. In periods where you need to complete assignments or prepare for examinations, the workload may be greater. Over-commitment has been a cause of failure for many students. You should take the required workload into account when planning how to balance study with employment and other activities.

We strongly encourage you to connect with your Moodle course websites in the first week of semester. Local and international research indicates that students who engage early and often with their course website are more likely to pass their course.

View more information on expected workload


Your regular and punctual attendance at lectures and seminars or in online learning activities is expected in this course. The Business School reserves the right to refuse final assessment to those students who attend less than 80% of scheduled classes where attendance and participation is required as part of the learning process (e.g., tutorials, flipped classroom sessions, seminars, labs, etc.).

View more information on attendance

General Conduct and Behaviour

You are expected to conduct yourself with consideration and respect for the needs of your fellow students and teaching staff. Conduct which unduly disrupts or interferes with a class, such as ringing or talking on mobile phones, is not acceptable and students may be asked to leave the class.

View more information on student conduct

Health and Safety

UNSW Policy requires each person to work safely and responsibly, in order to avoid personal injury and to protect the safety of others.

View more information on Health and Safety

Keeping Informed

You should take note of all announcements made in lectures, tutorials or on the course web site. From time to time, the University will send important announcements to your university e-mail address without providing you with a paper copy. You will be deemed to have received this information. It is also your responsibility to keep the University informed of all changes to your contact details.

Student Support and Resources

The University and the Business School provide a wide range of support services and resources for students, including:

Business School EQS Consultation Program
The Consultation Program offers academic writing, literacy and numeracy consultations, study skills, exam preparation for Business students. Services include workshops, online resources, individual and group consultations.
Level 1, Room 1035, Quadrangle Building.
02 9385 4508

Business School Student Centre
The Business School Student Centre provides advice and direction on all aspects of admission, enrolment and graduation.
Level 1, Room 1028 in the Quadrangle Building
02 9385 3189

UNSW Learning Centre
The UNSW Learning Centre provides academic skills support services, including workshops and resources, for all UNSW students. See their website for details.
Lower Ground Floor, North Wing Chancellery Building.
02 9385 2060

Educational Support Service
Educational Support Advisors work with all students to promote the development of skills needed to succeed at university, whilst also providing personal support throughout the process. Check their website to request an appointment or to register in the Academic Success Program.
John Goodsell Building, Ground Floor.
02 9385 4734

Library services and facilities for students
The UNSW Library offers a range of collections, services and facilities both on-campus and online.
Main Library, F21.
02 9385 2650

Moodle eLearning Support
Moodle is the University’s learning management system. You should ensure that you log into Moodle regularly.
02 9385 3331

UNSW IT provides support and services for students such as password access, email services, wireless services and technical support.
UNSW Library Annexe (Ground floor).
02 9385 1333

Disability Support Services
UNSW Disability Support Services provides assistance to students who are trying to manage the demands of university as well as a health condition, learning disability or who have personal circumstances that are having an impact on their studies. Disability Advisers can arrange to put in place services and educational adjustments to make things more manageable so that students are able to complete their course requirements. To receive educational adjustments for disability support, students must first register with Disability Services.
Ground Floor, John Goodsell Building.
02 9385 4734

UNSW Counselling and Psychological Services
Provides support and services if you need help with your personal life, getting your academic life back on track or just want to know how to stay safe, including free, confidential counselling.
Level 2, East Wing, Quadrangle Building.
02 9385 5418

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