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Leading through Complexity

Module description

Effective leadership in contemporary practice requires a sophisticated understanding of complex systems. This module introduces a novel crisis scenario involving communication and engagement with multiple stakeholders. Using innovative approaches (including a structured way of giving positive feedback), you will develop skills in managing complex real-time situations including disaster recovery, reputational repair and crisis response. You will learn to work as a senior team, tasked with navigating a complex organisational challenge and will be assessed on how you evaluate, communicate and respond to the unfolding crisis.

Full module specification

Module title:Leading through Complexity
Module code:PYCM045
Module level:M
Academic year:2019/0
Module lecturers:
  • Professor William Harvey - Convenor
Module credit:30
ECTS value:






Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 3:


Module aims

The main objective of this module is to provide you with an intensive opportunity to explore the multiple complex challenges of leading an organisational response to a real-world crisis scenario. Through a three-day immersive and intensive experience you will develop invaluable decision-making and communication skills, which you can take back to your workplace. A range of assessment approaches will help you to learn more about how you give effective feedback and make the right decisions under pressure by working collaboratively and developing trusted relationships with others.

The module introduces you to current research undertaken by module leads, and module content is updated every year to explore topical research areas, such as reputational risk and management. You will learn about the tools required to study such issues, and explore how research can inform leadership theory and practice. The module supports you in developing your skills as a strategic leader by requiring you to respond to a real-world issue in the crisis management simulation.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Implement risk management strategies including disaster recovery, reputational repair and crisis response
  • 2. Build and maintain collaborative relationships in complex systems
  • 3. Demonstrate effective judgement in decision-making and problem-solving

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Operate at a senior level to innovate in complex and uncertain environments
  • 5. Develop high potential talent through communication and feedback

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Demonstrate advanced skills as an imaginative and critical thinker and problem solver
  • 7. Exemplify a range of approaches to leading and effecting change, being empowered to make a responsible and sustainable difference as a future leader

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching27Crisis simulation workshops (3 x 9 hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching3Feedback communication seminar (1 x 3 hours)
Guided Independent Study40Research and preparation for simulation
Guided Independent Study230Independent study and preparation of assignment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Analysis of feedback communication scenariosTen minute oral feedback 2-3, 6Oral and checklist

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Crisis simulation event – presentation of crisis response plan2530 minutes1, 3-4Oral
Crisis simulation event – stakeholder briefings2530 minutes1-4Skills checklist
Crisis simulation event – team role inventory251 hour2-5Peer feedback
Reflective summary 251000 words3, 6-7Written response

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Crisis simulation event – presentation of crisis response planWritten crisis scenario (1000 words)1, 3-4Four weeks after initial feedback
Crisis simulation event – stakeholder briefingsWritten stakeholder briefing (1000 words)1-4Four weeks after initial feedback
Crisis simulation event – team role inventoryWritten team role analysis (1000 words)2-5Four weeks after initial feedback
Reflective summaryReflective summary3, 6-7Four weeks after initial feedback

Re-assessment notes

Four assessments are required for this module. In all cases re-assessment will be the same as the original assessment. Where you have been referred/deferred for any form of assessment detailed above you will have the opportunity to resubmit within four weeks from the date that feedback was provided.

If you pass re-assessments taken as a result of deferral, your re-assessment will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment and the overall module mark will not be capped.

If you pass re-assessments taken as a result of referral (i.e. following initial failure in the assessment), the overall module mark will be capped at 50%.

Syllabus plan

Three day crisis management simulation:

Day 1: Team briefs and scenario introduction. Signature Strengths analysis and Team Role Inventory
Day 2: Stakeholder briefings and Press Conference 1. Feedback communication seminar
Day 3: Presentation of Crisis Response Plan and Press Conference 2.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Badaracco J.L. (2001). We Don’t Need Another Hero. Harvard Business Review, 121-126.
  • Carroll, C. E. (Ed.). (2015). The handbook of communication and corporate reputation (Vol. 49). John Wiley & Sons.
  • Coombs, W. T. (2014). Ongoing crisis communication: Planning, managing, and responding. Sage Publications.
  • Sisson, D. C., Sisson, D. C., Bowen, S. A., & Bowen, S. A. (2017). Reputation management and authenticity: A case study of Starbucks’ UK tax crisis and “#SpreadTheCheer” campaign. Journal of Communication Management21(3), 287-302.
  • Velamuri, R., Harvey, W.S. and Venkataraman, S. (2017). The Costs and Benefits of Being Ethical in Corrupt Environments. Harvard Business Review.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE – All resources will be made available on ELE. This includes additional material covered in the tutorials, the required readings, information about assessment and additional material (e.g., videos).

Origin date


Last revision date