Leading with Impact: How Modern Leaders Can Overcome Complex Challenges

Leading with Impact: How Modern Leaders Can Overcome Complex Challenges


By Howard W. Buffett and Daniel L. Shapiro


September 13, 2019


Today’s leaders must deal with a barrage of organizational challenges that are unique to our modern era—such as managing complex stakeholder conflicts, quelling negative social media campaigns, or building a visionary strategy in an unpredictable policy environment that can fluctuate due to a single tweet.


Given these dynamic circumstances, we have been building new theory, frameworks, and educational programs to equip the “modern leader” with the necessary tools to advance inclusive and accountable decision-making across teams and supply chains—while accounting for the impact on both stakeholders and communities.  How can leaders best advance multi-stakeholder cooperation for the sake of business and society?


Innovative ideas are emerging.  In a recent Business Roundtable announcement, nearly 200 major corporate CEOs argued that companies serve stakeholders well beyond just shareholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, and the communities in which they work.  This announcement has gained significant attention not only in the business community, but from groups across all sectors of the economy.  This redefinition of the role of business in society is a departure from the traditional, firm-focused view that has dominated economic activity for decades, and it provides the modern leader with new challenges—and new opportunities.


But is the modern leader prepared with the necessary frameworks to navigate these new barriers to organizational success—and to capitalize on the call for broader multi-stakeholder cooperation and inclusion?


The Harvard International Negotiation Program believes that leaders are better equipped to succeed when they foster stakeholder engagement, account for the role of identity and emotions in decision making, and develop systems to turn conflict from a problem into an organizational asset for learning and course correction.  These are all important subjects related to how leaders think about the broad context of community and their and their organization’s position within it.


These same principles are at the heart of an emerging program developed collaboratively by scholars at our two institutions.  We have built a new executive education course, Leading with Impact, which aims to deliver a rigorous, cross-disciplinary program to prepare mid- and senior-level career executives with leadership, analytical, communication, and strategy skills to drive better outcomes for their teams and their organizations. 


To prepare the modern leader, the program provides insight into dealing with multiple contemporary leadership challenges, including:


  • Cross-Sector Collaboration:  How can we approach effective multi-organization partnerships across sectors? How can we measure the impact of such efforts?
  • Crisis Leadership:  How can we enhance human performance in times of crisis? How can we inspire our organizations to adapt to extreme events in a network world?
  • Effective Negotiations:  How do we build a culture that promotes cooperation and manages emotions constructively in that process? 
  • Strategic Communications:  What core messages should leaders communicate to their various audiences in this fast-paced world?
  • Policy Influence:  What are tactics for influencing policy discussions and decision makers in complex, dynamic conditions complicated by technology and global interconnectedness?

The Leading with Impact program will help the modern leader address the problems posed above.  We have integrated critical theories and concrete tools to help leaders adapt to complex decision-making environments and inspire others into action.  The program is designed to enhance participants’ ability to appreciate the complexity of managing large-scale organizations and politically complex situations, not only from an operational viewpoint, but also from a policy and strategic perspective.


If you are interested in learning more about this program, please click here.  Stay tuned, too, for new research reports and blog posts on this subject.  Our hope is to provide the modern leader with knowledge and frameworks to reach new levels of success for their business and for society.




Howard W. Buffett is an Associate Professor and Research Scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and Chairs the Advisory Council for the Harvard International Negotiation Program.


Daniel L. Shapiro, Ph.D. is founder of the Harvard International Negotiation Program, Associate Professor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School, and on the faculty at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation.